A/N: Round 2 entry to NCIS:LFWS 4 on . The prompt was a character study beginning with "I am the one who…"

Superiority

By Lizabeth S. Tucker

I am the one who almost destroyed a friendship that had grown slowly over the years. I began to think I was better than Tony. After all, I had two Masters degrees in highly intellectual fields. My thesis paper had been on string theory. There was little that I couldn't do on a computer. Numbers were my friends. How could a lowly ex-cop with a Bachelors degree possibly compete with me?

I'd like to tell you that it was due to our newest Director's acknowledgment of my skills, but that would be a lie. Looking back, I'm not even certain when it happened or why. When Kate died? When Gibbs left? When my book was published? Maybe all or none.

When I first met Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, I was a little in awe of him. He was bigger than life, a living example of everything I had ever wanted to be. He was tall, dark and handsome. The hero of a romance novel brought to life. Tony had an easy way of making friends. He could flirt so easily with women. Everything seemed to come so easily to him. He was just so confident and content in his skin. I forgot the old adage to never judge a book by its cover.

When Tony immediately began to tease me, it was no more than I expected. Guys like him always picked on guys like me. When I went to the Navy Yard on temporary assignment, I was intimidated. Special Agent Gibbs was scary. I haven't stammered and stuttered that bad since junior high school. The man seemed to be everywhere and knew everything. Special Agent Kate Todd was relatively new herself, but came from the Secret Service. I admit that I might have had a bit of a crush on her. On occasion she would defend me, other times it was be her and Tony ganging up on me.

Once I was a part of the team, I was really at Tony's mercy. It was Probie this and Probie that. He would make up some awful names for me like Probie Wan Kenobi and McClueless and Probilicious. I hated it, particularly after I had been there for years. I considered myself a seasoned agent, experienced and knowledgeable. Why couldn't Tony ever see that?

I always considered myself a good judge of character. After all, it was my job as both an investigator and an author. You have to be able to understand people, see past the mask they show the world. And sometimes I could see past that with Tony. I grew to understand that he wasn't the suave, confident man I saw. But as soon as I realized that, Tony would do something to annoy me and I would fall for the fake persona once again.

It's funny. We should've bonded after Kate was killed. I don't know why we didn't. We were all grieving, all in our separate worlds. Then Gibbs left. Another opportunity to grow closer to the man left in charge of our team. Instead I constantly challenged his authority. I look back on that time with mixed feelings. I should've been more supportive. Maybe if I had been, Tony might've confided his undercover assignment with us.

It wasn't until Ziva was left in Israel that we really began to become friends. We stumbled into weekly dinners where we simply talked. About movies, my writing, Tony's continuing dry spell, sports, our NCIS family. Anything and everything.

And then he chose me to come along with him to Somalia. I might have fussed about it, but deep inside I was honored. Tony trusted me enough to go into one of the most dangerous places in Africa, he trusted me to have his six.

You'd think that would be the end of the story, wouldn't you? We would stay close buddies, friends and all that. But then Anthony DiNozzo Senior arrived and suddenly I'm back to lording it over my friend, my partner, my brother once again. Knowing as much as I did about his fractured relationship with his father, I just couldn't help falling back into that superiority once again. I enjoyed Tony's discomfort and made no bones about it.

I have some serious groveling to do if I want to save this relationship. I'm not too worried. The thing to know about Tony is that he really is a good guy. Despite everything, I know he'll forgive me. He always does. I just wish I deserved it.

February 2010