Title: Personal Demons
Disclaimer: See chapter 10
Note: I apologize for taking so long on this chapter. The end was more difficult to write than I had planned. I hope everyone has enjoyed reading, thank you for sticking with me!
Fornell and his team gathered all the perpetrators together and escorted them back to the J. Edgar Hoover Building. Vance had an agreement with the Director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, to turn the case over after the blueprints were found and Leah was returned to her mother.
"It saves us the paperwork," Gibbs argued when Tony had questioned the decision.
Because the case had initially involved the CIA and their undercover operation, Tony had no doubt the whole thing would have turned into a turf war between all involved agencies. As he watched the four black FBI vehicles pull away, he couldn't help but feel somewhat relieved that it was almost over.
"You planning on spending the night here, DiNozzo?" Gibbs voice broke through his thoughts. Gibbs and Ziva were already in the car, waiting.
"Where's McGee?" he asked, looking around for the last member of the team.
"He drove Jeanne and Leah back to NCIS," Ziva answered as Tony swung the door open and dove into the backseat. Gibbs had already let his foot off the break, and Tony barely had the door shut before they were turning out of the parking lot.
"Ducky's checking her out," Gibbs added.
Tony nodded and leaned his head back, exhausted. He watched the dark streets fly by, illuminated only by streetlights.
Jeanne didn't want to put Leah down for a second; she knew the past few days would haunt her forever. She and Dr. Mallard looked at her daughter from hair to toenails. Other than a few scratches and mild dehydration, Leah appeared to be in perfect condition. Thinking about how her only child had spent the past forty-eight hours made her physically ill.
"This has been a terrible ordeal for both of you," Dr. Mallard said gently, "but, we have things to be thankful for. Leah is unharmed and does not appear to be in any psychological distress."
Jeanne nodded as she rubbed Leah's back. Tears fell down her cheeks as she felt her warm little body relax in her arms. She hoped that he was right; Leah was tired and clingy, but did not seem to be emotionally distraught. She took a tissue from the box Dr. Mallard held out to her.
"Thank you," she said earnestly.
"It's my pleasure," he said with a small smile. "You should get her home."
She nodded and picked up Leah's diaper bag from the table. She was glad she had extra clothes and diapers stashed in her car for emergencies. She stepped into the elevator and decided at the last minute to make a quick detour before leaving the NCIS building for the last time.
The note was sitting on his desk when he arrived back at the NCIS headquarters.
He remembered the last time he had received a note from Jeanne. The circumstances were so different, yet the handwriting left him with a feeling of déjà-vu. He was almost afraid to open it; afraid that it would change the sense of closure he now had. Two days ago, all Tony wanted was to survive the case without losing his mind. He took a deep breath and slipped his finger under the tape and opened it.
I have rewritten this note about four times and still cannot adequately describe the feeling of peace I now have. Thank you.
Oddly enough, it was how he felt as well. He remembered how long it took to stop thinking of her every day, how much his heart had ached to hold her, how many times he started to dial her number out of habit, only to remember that she was gone. It was as if all those feelings had never really gone away. The past few days had opened Pandora's box and released all the contents. In retrospect, it was probably the only way he would ever truly get over it. He reread the letter a few times before placing it in the top drawer of his desk.
Tony looked across the small pathway to where Ziva was sitting, cleaning her gun. "Did you even shoot that?" he asked, raising an eyebrow at her.
"No," she replied, carefully cleaning the barrel with the brush before twisting it back out. She held the open gun up to her eye to ensure she hadn't left any particles inside. After snapping it back into place, she looked up at Tony and smiled. "Always be prepared!"
Tony couldn't help but grin back. Ziva had some strange habits when it came to weapon cleanliness.
"Is she gone?" she asked.
He feigned confusion, shooting her an innocent smile. "Is who gone?"
She rolled her eyes and made a show of reloading her weapon, shoving the clip back in and laying it in front of her on the desk. She smiled sadistically.
Tony let out a short laugh, "Oh, you mean Jeanne," he said, as if he had already forgotten the ordeal. "Yeah, she's gone."
"And you are… feeling okay, yes?"
"Just peachy," he said, a sarcastic note creeping into his voice.
"Tony, it is alright to feel…."
"Ziva!" he interrupted.
"When I feel something, you'll be the first to know," he said. He leaned forward and grabbed his backpack from underneath the desk.
"Technically, I will be the second," she said, watching him clear his desk and shove his weapon back into his holster. "You will know first."
"Know what?" McGee asked as he rounded the corner, carrying an evidence box and a stack of new case files.
"If Tony is feeling okay," she answered primly, glancing toward him with her eyebrows raised.
"I didn't realize he was sick," McGee said, feigning confusion. "You sick?"
Tony shrugged and shook his head, smiling, "Feel fine." Normally, McGee would jump on the chance to make him uncomfortable; the fact that he passed on the opportunity meant Tony was currently appearing more pathetic and in need of assistance than usual. Oh well, I'll take what I can get, he thought to himself.
"You look fine," Gibbs said dryly as he rounded the corner, briskly moving toward his desk.
"Seems to be the consensus," Tony replied, shooting a smirk toward Ziva, who rolled her eyes.
The four agents finished locking their drawers and packing up their gear in silence. The office was empty, which Tony was grateful for. News of the case had spread like wildfire. Jeanne's sudden presence at the NCIS headquarters a few days earlier had only added fuel to the flames. He heard the hushed conversation over the water cooler and had been subjected to a few awkwardly silent elevator rides. Tony had no doubt that the gossip would die down after a few days.
McGee's voice broke through Tony's thoughts momentarily, "Ducky said Leah looked okay…"
Tony had tuned out the conversation his associates were having in the elevator, and now tried to piece together what he could.
The foursome stepped out of the elevator and headed toward the employee exit. Tony caught snippets of the conversation. From what he gathered, Leah appeared to be okay, Jeanne and Ducky discussed using a child psychologist, and mother and daughter were headed back to France shortly.
Tony hit the unlock button on his key ring and his vehicle chirped in response. Ziva and Gibbs broke off toward their respective cars, leaving Tony with McGee, who was parked directly behind him. He pulled the driver's side door open and tossed his bag inside unceremoniously. He didn't need to turn around to feel McGee's stare.
"I'm fine." Tony leaned against his car and shoved a hand through his hair. Across the parking lot, Ziva was climbing into her mini cooper. He saluted her as she squealed her tires and fled the darkened lot.
"I didn't say anything!" McGee protested, not skipping a beat.
"Then why do I feel like you're burning a hole through the back of my head?" he asked, finally turning to face McGee.
"It's just…." McGee trailed off, tapping his fingers on the roof of his car nervously. When he finally spoke again, his voice was patient. "Nobody expects you to be fine, Tony."
"So I've been told," he responded, a sarcastic note creeping into his voice.
They stood in silence for a few beats, staring.
"Well, if you ever don't feel fine…." McGee trailed off again.
"Yeah, yeah, I know where to find you." He rolled his eyes and turned away, ready to slide into the front seat and hyper-drive himself away from NCIS.
McGee let the words hang between them for a few seconds. "Or Gibbs," he added.
"Anyway," he continued without pausing, "Have a great weekend."
Tony watched as McGee climbed into his car and turned the ignition on. "Hey, McGee," he called over the sound of the engine turning over.
"Yeah?" McGee poked his head back out.
"I don't—know what you said to Jeanne earlier," he started, not knowing where he was going.
After a few seconds, McGee nodded. "Don't mention it," he replied with a small smile.
As Tony watched him pull away, he couldn't help but wonder when the two of them had moved from coworkers to friends.
Ziva sat on the hood of her car and leaned back against the windshield, staring at the night sky. She had made it from work to Tony's apartment in eight minutes—a new record. The cool breeze made her shiver, and she pulled her jacket tighter around her shoulders.
A few minutes went by before she heard the sound of Tony's car pulling into the next parking space.
"Hey," he said as he got out of the car. His voice was controlled, even.
"Hey," she repeated, still gazing up at the sky.
A few seconds later, he pushed himself onto the hood of her car, and leaned back against the window next to her. She stole a glance in his direction; he looked calm, staring into the night sky.
"It's cold," he said after a few seconds of silence.
She smiled, thinking of their night in Paris. Tony's inability to handle cold climate was what had started their relationship.
"It is April, Tony."
"April is Spring," he replied, "Spring should be warm."
She turned her head toward him. His eyes looked tired, his hair was mussed and blowing in the soft breeze. Seeing him vulnerable scared her. He finally turned his head to face her and wrapped his cold fingers around hers, offering a small smile. She felt her face turn pink, thankful that it was hidden by the dark sky.
"I am fine, you know."
"I know," she returned softly.
"She's is gone."
Ziva nodded, "I know."
"I…" Tony trailed off for a second, "am really really cold."
Tony let go of her hand and rolled onto his side, cupping her face. Ziva's breath caught in her throat as she felt his thumbs rub her jaw line. He brought his lips down to meet hers, kissing her softly. Instinctively, her free hand knotted into his hair, massaging his scalp and pushing his lips toward hers. He deepened the kiss, moving a hand to her back, arching her closer. Tony shifted his weight, pushing her back into the cold metal of the car. She shivered.
He ran a hand down her side to her thigh, squeezing lightly. She fought the urge to groan as Tony pulled her knee up, allowing their bodies to mold together. Letting him have control was difficult, something that did not come easily to her. In the past, she would have insisted on being on top. The difference, however was that she trusted Tony. She had not always trusted others.
A few minutes later, Ziva broke off the kiss and dropped her head down onto the windshield.
Tony exhaled and turned to look at his apartment building briefly. "We're giving my neighbors quite the show," he said, catching his breath.
Ziva noticed there were still a few lights on in different apartments, despite the early hour.
Tony turned her face toward his, his gentle eyes locked with hers. "Come upstairs."
She swallowed. She did not need to ask what he was implying. Ziva had been in his apartment many times; she had spent the night many times, but this was going to be different. Tony's idea of 'taking it slow' was the complete absence of sex, not normally his style. Ziva had respected it, nonetheless. He had broke when he hurt Jeanne, there was no denying it. Three years later, every relationship-related decision still revolved around the end of his one long-term romance.
She tried to think of a reason it was a bad idea, coming up with nothing. Her brain was shouting a hundred different reasons she should not follow him upstairs, but she and her brain both knew what her answer would be.
She took the hand he held out to her, allowing him to help her off the hood of the car. Together, they climbed the stairs toward Tony's apartment.
Five days later.
Tony tapped the edge of his pencil against his chin and half-listened to Abby's description of the molecular makeup of calcified vomit.
Vomit, he thought.
Across the room, McGee was nodding enthusiastically about her analysis, occasionally adding a nerdy tidbit.
Her head shot up at Gibbs' bark. "Sorry… my point is, I think he had Moo Shu pork for dinner."
"Are you sure it was Moo Shu?" McGee asked. "Some different types of Asian sauces can…"
After a few beats of silence, Abby added, "I'm 94.3% sure. Moo Shu pork."
"McGee, call Ziva and ask her to get a sample of every Moo-whatever sauce in the two-mile walking radius around our dead Naval officer. Tell her to bring it to Abby."
"Right, boss." McGee nodded and headed toward the doors, pulling his phone out as he walked.
"Tony, with me." He motioned Tony to follow after setting Abby's Caf-Pow on the table.
"Actually, Gibbs…" she said, stopping him before he reached the double doors. "Um… can I borrow Tony for a second?"
Gibbs looked at her suspiciously, raising an eyebrow. After a few beats, he nodded. "I'll be upstairs waiting. Make it fast, Abbs."
Tony watched as Gibbs disappeared around the corner, the doors hissing shut behind him. He turned back toward Abby, a questioning look on his face.
She slipped off her lab stool and opened the drawer under the table, pulling out a slim manila envelope. She shut the drawer again and set it on the table in front of him.
"I don't want you to be mad."
Tony furrowed his brow, "be mad about what, Abby?"
She sighed and motioned toward the envelope. "That."
"That…?" He picked it up and turned it over in his hands. "Cryptic much?"
"That… is the result of the paternity test I ran on Leah Benoit."
Tony felt all the blood run out of his face. "Did you…."
"Read it?" she finished. "No."
Tony stared at the envelope, deciding.
"You don't have to open it here," Abby said.
Tony thought about it. Truthfully, he didn't think he could wait until he got home to look at the contents. Tony closed his eyes for a second before running his finger under the seal, tearing it open. Reaching inside, he pulled the folded printer paper out. He took a deep breath before he read.
Anthony DiNozzo: Negative DNA match
Every pore of his body breathed a sigh of relief. He pulled a stool out from under the table, and collapsed onto it.
Abby was trying hard to contain herself. "It's negative, isn't it! Thank goodness." She leapt off the stool and threw her arms around Tony's shoulders.
He grunted as she squeezed him. "Thanks, Abby." His eyes went to the next line on the paper. "What does this mean?"
Jeanne Benoit: 26% DNA match
"That's weird." Abby glanced at the paper and tipped her head, "it means, Jeanne wasn't being completely honest."
"Leah is her daughter?" Tony asked, feeling a slight twinge of anger.
Abby took the form out of his hands and studied it for a minute. "No… 26% isn't high enough to be her parent."
"They're related somehow—maybe sisters, or cousins—I couldn't tell you for sure without DNA samples from other family members."
Abby turned to face him, leaning on the table, "Not lied, exactly. She just didn't tell the whole truth. Maybe there was a reason she couldn't tell you. We've seen how dangerous her family can be."
Tony nodded, still staring at the paper in Abby's hands. He shook his head, clearing his thoughts. "I'd better get back upstairs," he said. "Gibbs is waiting."
Abby put a hand on his shoulder, "I'm glad she wasn't lying about you being Leah's father, Tony."
Tony nodded and stood up. He rubbed the wrinkles from his pants. "Abby… thank you," he smiled at her.
"You're welcome," she said, offering a small smile.
He grabbed the paper off the table, crumpling it as he turned to leave. Just before exiting the lab, he made a show of slam dunking the wad into the rolling trash can. "And DiNozzo scores the winning basket!" he shouted, raising his arms above his head and jogging through the doors.
Abby turned toward Colonel Mass Spec and rolled her eyes. "Looks like the old Tony's back," she said with a grin.