A/N: Okay, I wasn't going to continue but you guys gave such a nice response I decided to do another chapter. This is also a pre-series one-shot and not strictly linked to the other but it does follow broadly similar themes. This time it is an old partner that see's Tony. Hope this doesn't disappoint.

I've always said one day he'll go too far. That he'll push too hard and get himself killed. And as I watch him as he once again finds himself on the wrong end of a pistol, I wonder if today is the day.

It started this morning when we caught a suspect in our latest case. We all knew the guy was guilty; it had been written all over his face and laced in every word he spoke. We knew he was guilty but we couldn't prove it; I knew it, Tony knew it and he knew it. He could have gotten away with it too, if it weren't for Tony.

Tony had seen a crack, seen a way in; it was tiny and almost unnoticeable but that was all he had needed. So Tony had done what Tony did best, he had charmed him, lulled him into a false sense of security and then he had struck. Winding him up, needling him, twisting him up in his own words; wrapping them around him until he choked.

Tony likes to play the 'dumb card' but the kid's as sharp as a knife. Everyone underestimates him. He can become anyone. When he was undercover last it was hard to even recognise him; like he had simply loaned his face out to someone else. It was disconcerting, so disconcerting I often wonder if I know him at all; I'd like to think I do but maybe I'm being naive.

The thing I find most odd about him though, is the fact that even though he could fit in anywhere he wanted to, around the precinct he just... clashes. He pisses people off, he winds them up and he goofs off, then out of nowhere he comes out with ideas even the veteran cops hadn't thought of and they resent him for it. And he's reckless too; not with other people safety of course, no he is reckless with his own safety. Other guys in the squad think he's overconfident, like he thinks he's invincible but that isn't it at all. It's something else entirely; it's almost as if his own health is somehow inconsequential in comparison to everyone else's.

If he wanted to he could get away with it all and yet... he doesn't even try. It would be so easy for him but he won't; it's as if he wants people to punish him. He has this odd contradiction within himself; he wants to be liked but he needs to feel loathed, like it's some kind of safety blanket. I wonder whose past actions he is trying to justify; I figure it's a parent but I hope I'm wrong.

People read his finely coiffed hair and expensive suits as the mark of a narcissist but really it was just the mask he showed the world. It was like a sign that read, 'look at me, this is who I am' and nearly everyone just accepted the facade, the lie. Because people tended not to look deeper and DiNozzo was the king of convincing people not to. He came from money, he dresses well... he acts bold and brash and never takes anything seriously. People see the veneer and make judgements and draw conclusions; but they're wrong, completely wrong.

If I'm really honest I was one of those people for a while. I saw the big obvious things and missed the fine print, the details; the truth. That was until I saw him at his most vulnerable; when he got called to a child lying dead on the road. Killed by a suspect fleeing in a stolen SUV, so desperate to avoid punishment he hadn't even stopped when he hit her. It wasn't like he hadn't seen her either; she had hit the windshield.

We hadn't been involved in the chase but we had been called in afterward. The look on Tony's face as he stared down at the corpse, it was an expression I had never seen him wear before. There were no dramatics from him either; no sobbing or punching walls, just this look. Maybe the saddest look I've ever seen; a look of understanding so profound I wondered if maybe he'd lost a child himself at some point. I didn't ask him though, I couldn't bring myself to.

He had hunted the child's killer down with a determination that flattened everything in its wake. After it was all over I had found him drinking in a bar, and he was drinking hard liquor too; none of that sweet sugary rubbish most young people seem to love.

Turned out he hadn't had enough money for a cab after he'd paid his bar tab and he sure as hell wasn't getting his keys back so I had been his last hope since he was too far from his apartment to walk. He seemed almost surprised I'd turned up at all when I got there and I understood why; I hadn't exactly been the greatest partner to him up until then. I sat down next to him knowing he needed to talk, he didn't say much in the end but it was enough. He told me that he wanted to kill the guy; that he wanted to beat him to death with his bare hands. He said it with such quiet intensity I'd known he was dead serious and that he had the capacity to actually do it and I had been shocked. Because despite what people say in macho rages, it is a rare thing to meet someone who genuinely has such a capacity. Then, with me still stunned he had laughed and said, 'well you gotta laugh, cos really, that's the alternative.'

Then he had gotten up and walked out towards my car. It took me a minute to follow because even though he hadn't meant me to understand everything he had said to me, I had. I had suddenly understood that the man he was talking about wasn't the guy who had killed that girl at all. No, he was talking about a different man, a man from his past, the man who had broken him so badly in the first place.

So it was then I started to look a little deeper, watch a little more closely and I'm glad I did because it turns out he's brilliant. So good in fact I know he'll be gone soon, yes, he'll leave and go somewhere he truly appreciated. Somewhere that people understand that he is brilliant, somewhere that they'll understand him; at least as much as any man could.

That is of course if he survives. Because the man pointing the pistol at him wants to kill him, wants to watch him die and the only thing stopping him is that if he takes that shot he'll be dead too. With one trigger comes two deaths. Because there is a gun pointed at his head too, a lot of them in fact.

Because he was in the middle of the precinct. Because when Tony had well and truly had the guy he had been walking out the station. The man had decided it wasn't fun to taunt the police anymore when Tony had started to get to him in a way he knew he couldn't pull back from. So since he wasn't under arrest he decided to leave. Tony had followed and had finally yelled the words that had got him to snap and confess something he shouldn't have known. He had known it was over the second the words had left his mouth; that everything had fallen apart. So he had done something no-one had seen coming; he'd pulled a gun from a uniformed officer who was standing behind him totally oblivious and slammed it into Tony's head. He had then wrapped his forearm round Tony's neck and used him as both a shield and a hostage.

And so here we are; me a just few feet away, gun in hand and yet completely useless.

"You just couldn't let it go could you?" the guy fumes. "Well look where it's got you now, asshole."

"Guess I could say the same to you." Tony replies glibly.

"Do you have to antagonise the guy with the gun Tony?" I say exasperated, trying to get him to shut up. I can feel sweat dripping down my back unpleasantly as my mind starts running horrible scenarios that I hope to God won't come true.

"Well he started it." Tony says petulantly but with a wide smile. What the hell is he playing at?

"I have a gun to your head, you idiot. So how bout you beg me for your life now?" No response. "Beg me, now!"

"Fuck you." He replies voice as hard as steel before he reverts back to a light tone again, "So, here's what's gonna happen, I'm gonna give you three seconds to put down your gun."

As he's saying it he subtly waves his right hand at me and then hold out two fingers clearly to me.

"Is that clear he says; three seconds," Tony's words are meant for me and he flashes his message at me again to be sure; 'TWO seconds'. I give him a subtle nod so he knows I understand. "One. Two."

And bang, Tony goes limp throwing the gunman off enough that he lets go and the moment he does I put a bullet in his head. It's all over in a matter of seconds and guys dead before he hits the floor.

Tony just stands up; blood running down his face from being pistol whipped, and walks out of the building. No reaction on his face at all. The whole precinct seems to be in shock; like they can't believe that just happened in their own house. I hand my gun to the nearest cop and follow him out. I find him sitting on the steps outside the precinct.

"Tony?" I say putting a hand on his shoulder. "Are you okay?"

He smiles, "Well, my heads looked prettier but yeah, I'm fine."

"Bullshitting as always, eh Tony?" I say returning the smile.

"Maybe." He says with a laugh, then he looks at me and says seriously, "How about you, are you okay?"


"Come on, man. You just shot a man dead and we both know you hate that you had to do that. I'm sorry Ray."

"Don't you apologise," I say my voice rising, "The guy was going to kill you! Don't you think for one second I regret what I did, d'you hear me!"

Tony looks away from me. "I made a decision that meant you had no choice. I could have let someone at least try to talk him down."

"No-one could have talked him down. He was likely going to get the needle for what he did and he knew it. I could see him getting ready to die and he was going to take you with him. So no; he made the decision not you."

Tony says nothing in reply. Instead he shifts topics. "So, uh, Ray I need to tell you something, I made a decision..."

"You're leaving, right?" I say knowingly. Tony looks shocked but quickly covers it with a smile.

"Yeah," he replies quietly, "It's not because of you though, you know that right. You're the best partner I've ever had."

"I know; I am an incredible partner." I say cockily as though I am thinking wistfully of my own excellence. Joking is the DiNozzo default reaction so I might as well join in. I can see the appreciation at my acceptance all over his face. "Promise me you'll keep in touch."

"Of course." he says with that beaming smile of his.

Then he gets up and walks away and this time, this time I don't follow.