God is just a kid with an ant farm.
Never had a single statement hit home quite as much to me as it did today.
DiNozzo had quoted it to me, I think. Probably one of the many, many movie lines he'd spouted throughout the years. I liked to let on that I never listened to the steady stream of verbal diarrhea that often came out of his mouth, but I did.
Most thought that DiNozzo irritated the hell out of me, but that wasn't the truth. Wouldn't have kept him around so long if that had been the case. Tony was Tony, an acquired taste; but we'd gelled pretty much from the first moment we'd met all those years ago in Baltimore. We were as different as chalk and cheese to most, but that also wasn't true. Tony was me twenty years ago and it felt good to have someone around to remind me of that fact.
And he was smart; smarter than anyone gave him credit for.
Often his seemingly nonsensical words were prophetic and very apt to the situations we found ourselves in, and Tony's somewhat screwed philosophy on the world had proved to be spot on again and again.
God was just a kid with an ant farm, and today he'd proved it.
It had been a long few weeks and we were all on our knees and looking forward to finally having a weekend off.
It was so close I think we could all smell it.
I worked my team hard but I knew when to draw the line and had demanded to be taken off rotation. A weekend free and clear of work was needed by all of us.
Forty-eight hours of pure rest and relaxation after what had seemed like months of back-to-back cases. I'd already had the two days mapped out with nothing more strenuous than wearing sweats, working on my boat, and drinking the odd jar of bourbon. McGee was going to a convention somewhere, and seeing as Tony had spent the entire week calling him 'Elf Lord' and every variant thereof, I figured it was something to do with the computer game thing he played. Ziva was going to a spa with Abby to be pampered.
And Tony, well, according to Tony he was apparently going to spend the entire weekend indulging in carnal pleasures with someone called Lucinda, an airhostess with a double D bust and a mouth like a vacuum cleaner. I had to stifle many smiles when the tales of her abilities grew as the week wore on: she was an ex-gymnast who could bend her legs clean around her head, she had no gag reflex due to a tragic but most fortuitous error during a routine tonsillectomy, and apparently she gave the Energizer Bunny a run for its money. If there was one thing you could rely on, it was DiNozzo's ability to entertain with his many embellished stories. Although all based on the truth, he had a knack for making the most mundane seem like a trip to the circus.
So needless to say we were all looking forward to some time off, but when the call had come in that a dog walker had found a body -which the local LEO's had identified as one PFC Marc Sinclair- hanging from a tree in the woods next to the state highway, we knew we could probably kiss goodbye to our long awaited free weekend. If we caught an active case then all leave was canned.
It had been a freezing cold day and by the time we'd made our way to the scene the mud from the previous night's rain had frozen solid, creating a steep and lethal ski-slope down to the body. As a crime scene, it had to be the worst we'd been called to for a long time. The site had been made practically inaccessible by the extreme weather conditions, and that was without all the gear we had to lug with us each time we went to a scene.
We all had slipped and slid down the steep path with Ducky regaling us with tales of frigid Christmas vacations in the Highlands as a boy.
How someone the size of DiNozzo had managed to look quite like Bambi as he tried to keep on his feet I'll never know, but somehow he managed it. And of course Tony had made the most fuss, yelping wildly, flailing his arms, playing the fool. I barked at him to quit messing around even though I'd actually found it funny. It didn't do to encourage him, so I let DiNozzo think that he was irritating me. Ziva and McGee had looked smug, smiling at each other as they always did when I put DiNozzo down, but the man himself just grinned at me, not in the least bit worried by the reprimand. That's what I'd always liked about DiNozzo; he rarely took my moods personally. But as much as I liked it when he lightened the mood, if I gave DiNozzo an inch he'd take a mile. He'd definitely needed to be kept on a tight rein.
The stupid thing was Tony hadn't actually been dicking around when he lost his footing. He'd been helping Palmer awkwardly maneuver the gurney down the slope when his feet had hit a sheet of ice and disappeared right out from under him. I'd watched as he all but cart-wheeled down the slope, he'd even managed to knock Ziva onto her ass on the way down, and all I could do was wince when he eventually crashed headfirst into a tree.
Tony looked stunned for a second. Then he'd shaken his head and blinked several times in shock before he eventually unfolded his body from around the base of the sycamore. He then stood up and gave several exaggerated bows. Everybody laughed, except me. Not because I wasn't amused, but sometimes, like a class of unruly children, they all needed reminding we had work to do.
It had all been straightforward once we got to the scene. I had never liked to jump to conclusions, but everything seemed pretty cut and dry for a suicide. The neatly folded clothes and the detailed and suitably sad and rambling note were a bit of a giveaway. Of course we'd do all the checks and make sure nothing had been missed, but it had looked like a shoo-in for a quick resolution, thank God.
It looked like we'd get our weekend off after all.
DiNozzo managed to stay on his feet on the way back to the car, but McGee slipped and managed to sprain his ankle. I did have to join in on the laughter that time, mainly because the expression on McGee's face when he'd landed had been so pitiful, but also because I could almost taste the bourbon and smell the sawdust in my basement.
We all piled into the truck, cold and tired. McGee was in the back already moaning about his ankle, Ziva had sat next to me, and Tony was by the window.
The drive back had been tedious but relaxed. Tony and Ziva had been bickering about how a woman wanted to be treated on a first date, DiNozzo's ideas being very different from Ziva's. I'd grinned because I could tell that Tony was deliberately baiting his partner and she was falling for it hook, line and sinker. She coped more with the DiNozzo sense of mischief than Kate ever did, but he still managed to rile her when he wanted to.
Thirty minutes in and it had gone quiet. Ziva chuckled to herself and I looked across to see what was up. Tony was sound asleep with his head resting against the window, his chin low to his chest. Ziva made a comment about him preserving his energy for the weekend ahead and McGee had quit bitching about his ankle long enough to snort with amusement from the back.
The drive had been slow as we hit rush hour, two lanes of slow moving traffic and no shortcuts for me to take, but as long as we were on the road we wouldn't get called out again so I hadn't cared much.
As we sat in the traffic an odd, tight feeling had settled in my chest but no matter how hard I tried I wasn't able to identify the cause. I'd long since learnt that although my gut did often signal impending disaster, it also had a habit of heralding nothing more ominous than an awkward call from one of my ex-wives or a missed meeting, so I put the feeling to the back of my mind.
Soft snores had started to echo around the inside of the truck.
I looked across at Ziva, she sat with her head back and her eyes shut. Tony was still sound asleep, he looked relaxed and his head had bobbed against the window with every bounce of the truck, and from the silence from the back I deduced that McGee had been catching a nap too. I was tempted to swerve the truck violently to wake them all up but decided against it. I guess the thought of a weekend off mellowed me. Instead, I'd just shaken my head, feeling like I was a designated driver to a bunch of teenagers who'd burnt out too quickly on a field trip.
Forty minutes later and we'd made it back to the Navy Yard.
The sound of the gates opening and the noise of the guards greeting us woke Ziva. She'd stretched and yawned as I parked the truck in its designated spot. I sarcastically asked if she'd slept well and she looked sheepishly at me. Then she looked over at DiNozzo and saw her salvation. She elbowed him in the ribs and made a comment that at least she was awake unlike some.
The tight feeling in my gut returned with all the speed of a runaway freight train.
I knew something was wrong immediately, something about the picture in front of me wasn't right and I'd known it for a while, but I suppose I hadn't wanted to acknowledge it.
I barked at DiNozzo to look sharp, but still he didn't move.
Ziva shook him and her voice took on a frantic tone as she started to call his name.
I was out and moving before I'd even processed the thoughts that had been going through my mind. McGee appeared at my shoulder from the back of the truck, he looked as alarmed as I'd started to feel. He knew as I did that DiNozzo didn't sleep that soundly, certainly not to the extent that you could slam car doors or call his name repeatedly without him waking. I yanked open the door and gently eased his head back. His neck was cold to the touch and I think I knew then before I'd even pressed my fingers against his artery. He was too pale and had a blue tinge to his lips that I'd seen before but still I'd refused to acknowledge the truth.
I yelled at Ziva to call an ambulance as McGee helped me get DiNozzo out of the cab and onto the floor. I started CPR immediately as Ziva and McGee had looked on.
Several security guards had materialized as I continued to compress DiNozzo's chest again and again. With each downward lunge DiNozzo's body had jerked like a broken marionette, arms twitching, head moving with false animation.
I started an angry mantra in my head, yelling at him to breathe.
Just fucking breathe.
More and more people had appeared in my peripheral vision as I worked. Most were agents, some were admin; the news had spread as it always did in the Navy yard, and although the parking bay was becoming crowded not one word was spoken and the silence was deafening.
Still, I carried on. I'd still carried on even though my watch face mocked me.
Twenty minutes, on and on until my arms had started to ache, not wanting to give up even though I knew it had been a futile exercise from the start. Eventually Ziva and McGee had tried to pull me away. Both pleaded with me to stop, both telling me he'd gone but still I refused to stop the chest compressions.
Then Ziva had sworn in Hebrew and punched me hard on the back. I looked up at her and saw the unshed tears in her eyes. She had shaken her head sadly at me, she continued to speak softly and somehow her words got through to me even though I didn't understand the language.
He was gone.
I sat back on my heels and stared.
Just stared at the still form in front of me.
Ziva had started to cry softly and she slid down the side of the truck and wrapped her arms around her legs. McGee just stood like he'd been turned to stone.
None of us moved.
Then the morgue van pulled into its spot and I turned to watch as Ducky and Jimmy got out, both looking apprehensive and confused at the scene in front of them.
I wanted to warn them, say something, anything, but no words had come out.
Ducky had rushed over and knelt next to DiNozzo, and I think I must have phased out at that point because the next thing I remembered was hearing Duck calling my name over and over and seeing that someone, probably him or Palmer, had laid a blanket over DiNozzo's body.
For once Ducky was silent. The ME suddenly looked every one of his years and seemed as much at a loss as to how to process what had happened as the rest of us.
I got up and walked over to where McGee stood and gripped his shoulder, then I knelt down next to Ziva and whispered a few words in her ear, but I couldn't for the life of me remember what I'd said as I walked slowly back towards the offices.
Shock was something that happened to other people. I was always the one in control but as I'd walked past the subdued crowd that had gathered the only emotion I felt was one of complete and utter numbness.
So I started my first weekend off in months by getting blind, stinking drunk on bourbon and continued that way.
It didn't help that Ducky said that death would have been quick; that a simple tear in his brain had bled out whilst he'd slept.
That didn't help me one bit.
People like DiNozzo didn't die this way.
They died a heroic death.
They went out in a blaze of glory.
He deserved better than to slip away in a truck full of friends who hadn't even noticed that he'd died.
I'd watched DiNozzo cheat death countless times. Each time he'd scared us shitless yet each time he'd managed flip the bird to the Grim Reaper and send him on his way.
That's what DiNozzo did. He beat the odds and came up smiling.
It just seemed damn senseless to die from something as stupid as hitting his head on a damn tree.
It seemed like DiNozzo, the man who'd loved to play the clown had played the ultimate joke on us all.
The more I thought about it the more it made sense, but that could just be the bourbon talking.
It had to be a huge cosmic joke being played on us all because I really couldn't see how else I could cope with the knowledge that Tony DiNozzo really was dead.
The Ant farm quote was from 'Constantine' if anyone is interested. Thanks for reading and reviews are always welcome. xx