DI: NCIS is not mine. Just havin' fun........
SU: An off-centre look at the strangely wonderful friendship of DiNozzo and McGee.
McGee barely waited for the car to stop before he was throwing open the door of the Charger and tearing up the stone pathway, whipping around the curves towards fraternity row. Gibbs and Ziva were maybe five seconds behind him, Palmer and Ducky at their heels. He could hear Abby clomping along quickly at the tail end of their whip.
He would never forgive himself. He hadn't realized his cell had fallen out of his pocket and onto the floor beneath his chair until the waitress in the bar had pointed it out to him. When he'd seen the multiple missed calls and voicemails icon blinking at him, he'd immediately tried to call Sarah but she hadn't answered. When he listened to her messages, each more frantic than the last, horror had threatened to drag him into its undertow.
"Tim, I need you to come get me. I'm at this party -."
"Tim, where are you, I really need you to come get me."
"Timmy! He won't let me leave! He's -! Timmy please where are you I need you help me please!"
God, what would his parents say to him if something had happened to Sarah.
Gibbs had taken one look at Tim's face and had thrown a random amount of bills onto the table before following a panic-stricken McGee out the door of the bar. The others were on his heels as he caught up to McGee at the car. Gibbs had taken the keys from the quaking McGee and had floored it the second the last door to the Charger had shut. When McGee babbled out what had happened so quickly, Gibbs wasn't sure that he'd caught all the details but from the creeping sense of horror twisting his gut he knew he had.
For the sake of his youngest agent, he could only pray they weren't too late.
Rounding the last corner, McGee stopped dead in shocked disbelief at the sight of an entire frat house on the lawn with lots of co-eds, all milling about. The scene was illuminated by the red flashers of multiple police cars.
Spotting a lone ambulance, McGee sprinted towards it hoping it was empty, that Sarah wasn't there.
Before he even got near the vehicle, he heard her voice calling out to him from one of the squad cars near the ambulance. He veered off, loping across the lawn towards Sarah, relief spreading through his muscles.
Ducky stepped forward and gently extricated a slightly battered Sarah McGee from her half-hysterical older brother's arms, quickly yet tenderly examining her bruised face. "My dear girl, how are you? We were all so very worried when we heard about your messages!"
"I'm okay," she rasped, shakily pushing the sleeves of the oversized garment past her hands before tugging the jacket around her shoulders closer. Ducky started slightly as he realized what the insignia on the garment meant and chanced a quick look about.
"That's Tony's OSU jacket. Why are you wearing it?" Abby interjected before he could inquire about it and before anyone else could ask any further questions about what had happened.
Sarah's hands clenched reflexively along the sleeves of the coat, as Tim pulled her close again. "I've been seeing this guy, Brent McAlpine, at the library a few times a week. He seemed really nice and he invited me to this party. He was fine at first but then he started getting weird. I went to the bathroom and when I came out, he kept trying to make me lie down on the bed." Tim choked out a moan before clutching his sister closer.
Sarah smoothed her hand over Tim's neck repeatedly, calming him and herself with the contact. "I did what you showed me, Tim, but he's really big and I couldn't get to the door of his room! He kept trying to grab me, he punched me and he tore my blouse open and I couldn't get past him! I locked myself the bathroom and braced myself against the door when he started trying to force the door open. I tried yelling for help but nobody came upstairs!" Sarah started to cry, burying herself into Tim's body, as he tried futilely to make it better.
Ducky saw Gibbs move away, heading towards the nearest officer, and didn't feel the slightest bit of sorrow for what was heading towards this Brent's way. He used the momentary silence to look about, searching for the senior field agent, wondering why he hadn't appeared yet. Ziva and Palmer were speaking quietly to Abby, keeping her from hugging the life out of the McGees while they took solace from each other.
By the time Gibbs returned, a strange look on his face, Sarah was ready to continue. "When I couldn't reach Tim, I called Tony. He told me to stay put, stay on the line and to stay against the door. He would be here within ten minutes. I did what he said. Tony kept telling me where he was, how soon he'd be here. Then Brent hit the door really hard. I sort of.....bounced forward, I guess. I was able to keep the door shut but the phone went into the toilet. I just kept pushing against the tub with my feet to help keep the door shut until I heard Tony yelling from downstairs and then I just started screaming. I heard him kick down the door, Brent scream something and then Tony's voice before there was this loud whump sound. I got up when Tony told me to come out. Brent was over by the bed, but Campus Police was there and they hustled me out after Tony gave me his jacket."
All were silent as they processed the near-disaster that had been averted. "How did you have Tony's number?" Timothy suddenly blurted, a queer mixture of rage and relief warring across his normally cheery face.
Sarah smiled mistily. "He gave it to me after the murder investigation. Tony said that if I ever needed help and couldn't reach you, I was under direct orders to call him." Tim looked as though he didn't know whether to cheer or shoot Tony to keep him away from Sarah.
"DiNozzo's rule number 1," Palmer said quietly, shaking his head as he smiled slightly at the look of confusion Gibbs shot him. "He doesn't stand on the sidelines when his people are in trouble. Sarah is McGee's people, ergo she is Tony's people."
McGee shook himself slightly before looking around for the older agent. "But if Tony helped you -?"
"I don't know where he is, I haven't seen him since they brought me down."
Gibbs cut off any further questions with a jerk of his chin. "DiNozzo's busy with the police. McGee, the police have her statement. Take your sister home. Abby, Palmer, go with them." Gibbs shook his head firmly. "No buts. Officer McClintock," Gibbs nodded towards the woman standing slightly behind and to his left, "will drive you all home. Now. Go!"
Gibbs waited until McGee and Sarah (Abby trailing along after them somewhat forlornly) were well away from them before turning back to Ducky and Ziva, a fatigued slump to his shoulders. "Let's go."
"Jethro?" Ducky felt a ball dread begin to claw its way out of his stomach.
"McAlpine's dead, Duck. They had to arrest DiNozzo."
Leon Vance had never expected to spend his friday night in the conference room of a metro police station, but at the same time there was not one other place he would consider being at this particular moment. He was by no means a fan of DiNozzo; his squadroom antics were something he just couldn't stomach. But the man was a damn good agent (Vance was a big enough man to at least admit to himself that he was wrong about the younger man) and there was no way he was about to stand by and let the man swing in the wind over what he personally thought was a service to humanity.
Besides, there was no way that Mallard alone could keep Gibbs and David from annihilating what was left of the good relationship between Metro and NCIS since the death of that damn grave-robbing blogger. His arrival had at the very least gotten them out of the general waiting area as a professional courtesy. Sharing with Metro's chief the fact that the intended victim of the dead man's crime was a federal agent's baby sister also gave them a little leeway.
A low, angry growl drew him out of his thoughts. "I do not understand! He was attempting to rape a woman yet the one who rescued her is punished?" Ziva ranted, an angry flush transforming her from fallen angel to avenging fury. Vance shifted against the wall as he tuned her out again, letting Dr. Mallard try to soothe her. Leon had never seen the soon-to-be-minted American vibrate with hot rage before; it told him more about the nature of the most fractious partnership at NCIS than anything else could have.
He had never understood how David had been able to stand DiNozzo's abrasive, angry and embittered personality but now he did. He mentally shook his head. They were more alike than he had ever realized. Difference was that DiNozzo, as broken and damaged as he was by his past, refused to give into it. Oh, he would brood, turn mean and slightly sadistic with the pranks and get into black-dog moods that had everyone in the bullpen treading carefully around their resident wild card. But he made an effort to not dwell on his own personal hells. He acted happy-go-lucky in the hope it would make him happy.
As a result, he'd discounted DiNozzo too easily in the past; it had taken him a very long time to see the man Gibbs, Shepherd and Morrow had relied upon for so many years. The news that Eli had knowingly sent her to her death, that her survival was due to her own skill and DiNozzo's ability to spike the wheels of fate had torn away the civilized mask of affability that the younger man wore like armour. It had been the final nail in the coffin for Vance's belief in the 'DiNozzo is an Idiot-Savant' theory that bounced around MTAC occasionally.
In its place, he'd seen for the first time what he suspected was the real Anthony DiNozzo - a very angry, manipulative, extremely cunning man who was downright vicious when provoked. At that moment, Leon Vance had been very thankful for 6,000 miles of water and desolate sand (a feeling he was sure the State Department would have shared if they'd been read in).
Truly, there were no shades of gray in either of these agents' worlds. You were either friend or enemy, team or prey. Attack one, fear the other. A healthy relationship it was not. The level of dependency each had on the other for everything from companionship to emotional validation was dangerous; he didn't know what would happen if one ever truly lost the other, but he was sure chaos and mayhem would play a starring role.
Gibbs intercepted a flushed, angry Abby, a flustered Palmer and two scathing McGees before they could barrel down the corridor towards the conference room. "No!" He felt rather than saw Ducky stop Abby before she could shove her way past the slightly stunned sergeant. They milled about, clogging the hallway without remorse or concern for the disruption they were causing.
"Vance is here, Coleman is on her way. Ziva will see Tony shortly. Tony will be fine. He won't be fine if he sees all of you acting like a rampaging mob." A brutal slash of his flattened hand silenced the rising voices of protest. "I. Said. No." His voice lowered and gentled and compassion softened his normally stolid features. "He didn't want you to know, and he certainly didn't want either of you," he gestured towards the McGees, "here tonight after what happened. Go on home now. I will call you as soon as we have news."
Gibbs walked back towards the conference room, stopping only when he felt himself get pulled back around by a frustrated McGee.
"No, McGee!" Gibbs growled before grabbing the younger agent and pulling him into an alcove. "Everything from here on in has to go by the book if DiNozzo is going to be allowed to keep his badge. That means he cannot have contact with you or your sister, or anybody else."
"Then why is Ziva allowed to see him? She was at the bar with us!" The petulant naivete in McGee's voice left Gibbs shaking his head. No wonder DiNozzo still called him Probie!
"Ziva would never be called as a witness against Tony; they're too close. No one would dare try to put her on the stand against Tony."
"Sir, I assure you, Agent DiNozzo simply went to extricate Agent McGee's sister from an increasingly ugly situation. He called the Campus Police from his landline before leaving his home for the university grounds, intending for them to get Miss McGee out of the house so that he could take her home. He did not instigate the physical altercation with the deceased."
Vance stood up and began to pace as he listened to SecNav rant down the phone at him. "Agent DiNozzo used the appropriate level of force. It was a fluke, sir. We just need the medical report to confirm what the medical examiner suspected at the scene."
Vance winced at the explosion of noise that burst out of SecNav. "It does seem unlucky, sir, to have two accidental deaths on your hands in less than a year but I am fully confident that Special Agent DiNozzo will be fully exonerated before the night is over."
Vance suppressed a sigh. He rolled his eyes at David, hoping she of all people would understand the meaning of the dance he was leading right now."I agree, Mr. Secretary, he never should have entered the house. But he didn't go in there in an official capacity so we are clear in that respect."
He could feel David's eyes on him as he listened to SecNav continue ranting about DiNozzo's actions earlier. "I will keep you apprised. Goodnight, sir."
Vance silently groaned as he looked at David. Inhaling deeply, he shoved his blackberry back into his pocket, deciding to try and defuse the explosion he could see building. "Tell me, can your partner get out of bed without causing problems, Agent David?"
Brown eyes looked at him coolly from where she leaned against the wall. Her eyes screamed menace, as if determining what bone to snap first. "Agent DiNozzo does not cause problems. He solves them."
Leon shook himself slightly as he realized David had no intention of willingly engaging in any form of conversation with him. He snorted slightly; he could see her father in her when she was like this (not that he'd ever tell her that, he wasn't stupid!). "To be perfectly candid, David, you and DiNozzo are enough to drive a man to drink. Why do I always end up negotiating for your and/or DiNozzo's release from some form of incarceration?"
Vance saw something flash through David's eyes before a contemptuous twist pulled at her lips. "Since we are clearly speaking off the page, I will be equally candid: Anthony DiNozzo is a better man than you could ever hope to be, if you think he would ever have stood by and let something happen to any of his people."
"That is *not* what I meant, Agent David!" Vance swallowed a sigh as he stretched slightly, longing for a stress-relieving toothpick - a habit which had increased tenfold since coming to Washington. The major crimes agents in San Diego were so much more normal than their counterparts here in D.C. "The fact remains that every single thing he did this evening is going to be scrutinized, especially the fact that a federal agent killed a college kid with one punch! If he had left it to the Campus Police, Miss McGee would have been rescued less than five minutes later than she was. It was not our jurisdiction, nor was it his responsibility!"
The way she took one step towards him, the shift in her aura with that one little movement was enough to send a twitch down his spine. "As far as Tony is concerned, Sarah McGee is his responsibility. He would no more have stood outside that house than he would have stood by and watched as someone hurt McGee."
Vance realized things must have progressed much further between his two not-quite-rogue agents since David had been rescued and repatriated from Somalia. There was no frigid pragmatism left in the woman before him, just passion and a driving need for her partner to be at her side. "The man should never have entered that frat house. He should have waited for the campus police," Vance reiterated tiredly.
"I don't stand on the sidelines when my people are in trouble." Despite years of Mossad training, Ziva David couldn't hide the flash of joy she was feeling at the sound of their wayward agent's voice. She swung round and Vance watched as her face turned pale. She immediately rushed over to Tony. A thump of concern hit Vance as he focused on his wayward agent. Blood stained his skin from the hastily bandaged cut on his temple, ice pack held in a bandaged hand against the back of his head.
"Tony!" Ziva was halfway across the room before Vance could stop her.
DiNozzo's quickly raised hand stopped her in her tracks before the two officers at either side of DiNozzo could intercept her. "Relax, Ziva. I'm okay." Vance watched, mildly bemused as the former Mossad operative followed the pointed finger to one of the chairs on the other side of the long conference table.
"But -," she began weakly before stopping. Her eyes darted around the room, obviously cataloguing its weak points. Vance suppressed a shiver as he realized one way or another, DiNozzo would not be spending the night in a Metro cell.
"It's going to be okay," DiNozzo soothed, settling into the seat opposite them.
The dark-haired woman rocketed to her feet from her chair, hands flailing in the air. "Tony, they arrested you for protecting Sarah McGee from a rapist! I refuse to allow -!"
"Ziva!" DiNozzo's voice was suddenly hard and commanding, a cracked whip that brooked no disobedience. Vance was surprised as he watched David subside immediately, backing off and thumping back into her chair. He even felt himself straightening slightly at the sound. Vance realized that this was the DiNozzo that Shepherd had offered Rota to, had relied upon as a de facto second-in-command here in DC, surprisingly even after Gibbs' return.
Had it been Gibbs in the room the frames on the walls would have been shaking, yet DiNozzo had never raised his voice at all, just changed the tone of his inflection to exert control over those in the room. "I'll be fine. I already spoke to Faith Coleman, who is on her way to meet with the D.A. and the medical examiner. The charges were a formality, a necessary evil. They're dropping them once they get the final confirmation that it was a drug overdose and not me."
They stared at each other, some *thing* between them ratcheting up the tension and static in the room until it became really uncomfortable to be in the room with them.
Finally, David smiled, a cool quirk of her lips calling a twist of satisfaction to DiNozzo's. They leaned towards each other until only a few inches separated them. Ziva smirked slightly. "I will bake you a cake." She bit the side of her lip as she grinned in what could only be described as sexualized delight.
DiNozzo leaned closed, a slow and lazy grin slowly stretching across his unshaven face. "4 layers of Chocolate?"
"Naturalmente, benno," she half-whispered, an unfamiliar lilt in her voice as she looked at DiNozzo with what Vance could only be described as a possessive caress.
DiNozzo barked with laughter as he leaned back against the old chair, the smirk that made Vance's palms itch stretching across his face. "Siete bella come siete mortale, bella." DiNozzo's chortle evolved into a full-out belly laugh as Ziva David's cheeks took on an ever-so-faint blush.
Gibbs put the peanut butter back in the cupboard as he finished tidying his kitchen. He knew DiNozzo would be hungry when he got out but also knew that much as before, he wouldn't be able to handle anything rich or complicated.
"I didn't beat on him, I hit him once and he went down." The non-sequitur that broke the silence drew the attention of everyone in the room.
"What?" Gibbs turned and leaned against the counter, beer resting against his hip as he looked as his protege. DiNozzo looked exhausted and unhappy and desperate to talk. Gibbs waited, letting the younger man gather his scattered thoughts.
Patience had never been one of his virtues but for Tony he would make time for.
Tony peeled the label off the bottle as he spoke almost as an afterthought. "I kicked the door open. McAlpine charged, I dodged. He grabbed an empty beer bottle, smashed the bottom off on his desk and charged again. I dodged him and punched him - once and only once. He went down and he didn't get back up. I thought he was down for the count. I didn't touch him. I got Sarah out of the room via the campus police." DiNozzo's throat convulsed as he took a long pull of the icy beer Gibbs had handed him as he'd walked through the front door, Vance and Ziva at his heels. "Next thing I knew, they were slapping cuffs on me and hauling me down the stairs."
Gibbs couldn't help but wonder why these things always happened to DiNozzo.
"You saved my sister."
Tony turned and looked at a still-pale McGee. "Well, yeah." He grabbed one of the towels off the rail and dried his face before leaning against the sink. He idly wondered why his deep conversations with his friends always seemed to take place in bathrooms.
McGee looked really poleaxed for a second before his frustration got the better of him. "Tony, stop. Just - ." McGee threw his hands up before sighing in exasperation and confusion. "You didn't even think twice. You didn't leave it for the cops. You could've been in real trouble if it hadn't been for that ME. He was raging on LSD and cocaine, Tony! He could have really hurt you!"
Tony nodded. "Yup."
"Why? You've met her once. Why would you drop everything when you already knew the campus police was on their way?" McGee was totally frazzled as he nearly pleaded with Tony for an explanation that would fit into his worldview.
Tony repressed a shudder of pure, ugly frustation. Why did everyone always assume the worst about him, ignore everything he did to show them he cared? Sure, his way of showing he cared was a little unique but he always had their sixes, no matter what!
Maybe he should have been an actor if people bought into the crap he spewed half the time.
Forcing the irritation away, he straightened before gently clapping McGee on the shoulder as he left the bathroom.
"She's my best friend's little sister, Tim. That's why."