A/N: Because someone asked, this is another little snippet from the universe of my previous one-shot "You Are A Runner..." From now on, any other stories that have Ben at all will be described as the Ben!Verse. Because I like titles for everything and I'm really not all that creative. :) And Ben is only mentioned but the next story I have in mind dives a bit more into Tony's past.
Disclaimer: I do not own anything, except Ben.
A/N2: One last note. This was written in my music appreciation class. You will see how this becomes relevant shortly.
"This was not in my job description," Tony mumbled as he fiddled with his bow tie. Man, did he despise these things. Not bow ties in particular, but ties in general. They were too tight around his throat and ever since he'd gotten the plague, he had been squeamish of anything that even marginally constricted his throat or hindered his breathing.
"Tony stop complaining," McGee said as he adjusted his own bow tie, "It's not like we have to do anything other than serve people for a few hours. Hopefully our officer will be one of the first to arrive. And if we're right, he'll be bringing along a certain someone."
Tony scowled slightly, before twisting his neck and flexing his jaw, opening to stretch the uniform just a few millimeters more.
McGee glared at him, "Tony, cut it out. You keep doing that and someone's gonna get suspicious," McGee rolled his shoulders and looked in the mirror once more to make sure his bow tie was straight, "Besides, aren't you suppose to be a decent undercover agent? How can you blend in when you act like that?"
Tony bit the inside of his mouth to hold in the retort he wanted yell at McGee about how it felt to gasp and drown on dry land and how a certain piece of cloth was just a tad bit too close to his windpipe.
His fiddling had nothing to do with him being nervous. He wasn't green enough to let that kind of emotion show.
He was a decent undercover agent-and in moments when his ego was bigger than it should be, Tony knew he was a pretty damn good undercover agent.
"Working undercover doesn't always mean you want to blend in McGee," Tony said instead, rolling his shoulders and giving the collar one final tug, "If you were worth anything in undercover work, you would know that."
"Tony I didn't mean," McGee started to apologize, perhaps realizing he had gone too far.
But Tony smirked at him and walked out of the dressing rooms leaving a puzzled and a tad bit flustered McGee in his wake.
"Ready Boss," Tony said a few moments later into his mike, "McGee's almost done."
"We have a change in plans," Gibbs' voice crackled through the small earpiece that was in Tony's ear, "Seems the manager wasn't telling the whole truth. He had two opens spots for tonight's ball but only one is a waiter."
"What else is there? A cook?" Tony joked slightly, knowing that Gibbs was probably pissed on the other end.
"No," Gibbs said, "Seems he cleared McGee for the waiter position and Ziva's in for greeting and signing people in. I'll still be right outside the main doors. Fornell's got two people in there two. "
McGee chose that moment to walk out and by the smug look on his face, Tony guessed that he had had his earpiece in the whole time.
"What is Tony's position then?" Ziva's voice came out of the earpiece, "Is he going to stand this one out?"
"Sit," Tony couldn't resist correcting the new Probie on the team and based on the huff of frustration that he heard seconds later, Tony knew he had succeeded in ruffling her feathers a bit.
"Well," Gibbs' voice held a spark of frustration, "How well can you sing Tony?"
"What?" a chorus of three flabbergasted voices went through the line at once.
Tony looked out at the crowd, a spark of fear going through his veins. Why did he always end up in situations like these?
"The manager easily programmed the piano to play the classical songs for tonight, and by the time the more upbeat songs come on, we should have our officer in custody. You probably won't even have to break a sweat, just pretend that you are actually playing. The other guy up there is with Fornell, and he's a decent musician, if all goes to hell. But like I said, you shouldn't need any help. Just pretend to play and watch Tim's six."
"I don't know Boss-"
"Wasn't asking you DiNozzo. Now get in there before people start arriving."
Somewhere down the line, Tony had messed with the wrong people. Or maybe it was all those years of harassing the new guys coming back to bite him in the ass. But that wasn't really his fault. His first partner had treated him the same way and it was treatment like that that had kept him alive those first two years working at Peoria. If Tony was honest with himself, the truth was that he didn't know how else to treat the new guys. He didn't want them to die- no matter how fun it was watching them trip and stumble all over themselves, and if he didn't want them to die, he had to toughen them up and toughen them up fast.
Look at McGee. He was still alive and kicking.
"They're waiting DiNozzo," Gibbs voice cut through the lines, "Just sit down and the manager will start the program for the piano to start playing."
Tony sighed and rolled his shoulders, something he had always done right before he played-even if he technically wasn't going to play now. It had driven his first instructor "up the hull" as Ziva would say. But in the end, it had been Tony's refusal to play anything other than Jazz that had driven her to throw the piano book at him.
It was 2200-the time when the live musical performance was set to begin. Of course, their bad dude just couldn't have come in before that time. That would be too easy.
"You are going to blow your cover Tony," Ziva voice, slightly annoyed but plenty worried entered Tony's ear, "Please sit down."
Taking a quick glance out into the audience, Tony could see everyone was in fact waiting. Even McGee, who had laughed for a good three minutes at the thought of Tony singing and pretending to play the piano, was now swallowing every other second.
Tony smiled at that. He loved playing poker with McGee. Even years on NCIS hadn't done much to give Tony's Probie a good poker face and even know the man still had so many tells-
"DiNozzo," Gibbs' voice came in loud and clear and was just enough to send all Tony's butterflies flying out of his heart and into his stomach.
Tony cringed slightly before taking a small bow. Then as quickly as he could, Tony flexed his fingers and found middle C.
He hadn't done this since Baltimore. His partner at the time had gotten a kick out of Tony's piano playing.
Right after that his partner had died.
Tony had buried his partner and his secret all on the same day.
"Here we go," Tony muttered to himself.
Tony could see the manager from where he was sitting, and the manager had a horrified look on his face.
Suddenly, McGee's voiced crackled through, "Manager says they must have switched out the piano. This one can't play anything by itself. Boss, what do we do?"
Tony's heart fluttered in chest before he took another deep breath, rolled his shoulders and flipped open the piano book in front of him. He remembered the basics- he had had the basics drilled into his brain-and muscle memory would take care of the rest.
Before Gibbs could offer a reply, Mozart's Sonata in A major was slowly filling the ball room and Tony could briefly here his team's comments.
But he couldn't focus on them long. He had music to play.
"Can you keep playing Tony?"
He'd run out of classical music to play, having gone through all the songs in the book, and now he had to rely solely on what he remembered. Hopefully, they wouldn't get too mad when he started playing some jazz.
He would start off….with some Miles Davis. And no singing.
Moments later, the first chords of "So What" were heard in the dance hall. Because the song sounded good, no matter if it was played on the trumpet or the piano.
Tony played a few more slow paced songs but at the end of his third one, he had glanced up and seen a few couples itching to come on the dance floor.
Racking his brain, Tony hoped he still knew enough of Swing to carry a tune. Tony signaled to the FBI agent who had been sitting patiently in the shadows.
"Swing?" Tony whispered.
"As in the music?" the young faced agent asked, edging forward in his seat.
The agent's face brightened and he nodded, "I can follow."
"Alright," Tony said, waiting for a few moments for the man to grab a pair of drum brushes.
"What was that DiNozzo?" Gibbs voice came through the line.
"Nothing Boss," Tony smiled and laughed for the first time all night, "Just listen."
The best part about swing, Tony realized, was that you could improvise hours worth…
If you were good enough.
Starting, Tony listened as the young drummer joined in and before long, Tony was so immersed in the music that he didn't even notice McGee and Ziva apprehend the officer who they had been waiting all night for.
He was playing, for the first time in a long time, and Tony didn't want the night to end.
Tony played for awhile more, ending with his version of Ray Charles' "I Got a Woman" and "Hit the Road Jack" before finish it off with a small solo.
His earpiece had gone silent a couple hours ago, or was it minutes because Tony had lost all track of time, and Tony stood and bowed, enjoying the applause before going to shake the hand of his drummer.
"Nice chops kid," Tony patting him good naturedly on the back before hurrying towards the exit doors.
Gibbs was waiting right by the exits, an unreadable expression on his face.
"Where'd you learn to play like that DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked and try as he might, Tony couldn't figure out if the emotions flashing through Gibbs' eyes were those of frustration or…something else.
"Taught myself the jazz, had a teacher for the other classical stuff," Tony pulled at his collar before reaching up and quickly undoing the bowtie and button. Funny, he hadn't noticed it while he had been playing.
"You want to know the time?" Gibbs said, still not moving from his relaxed position.
"Um," Tony glanced around to see if by chance there would be a clock hanging anywhere. Not seeing one, Tony tried to remember how long he was scheduled to perform.
"2330?" Tony guessed, remembering Gibbs telling him he would only have to be on stage for an hour.
"Try 0100," Gibbs let a small smile appear on his face, "Everyone's been waiting for you."
Tony's eyes widen, "Boss, I didn't-I mean, I thought we were waiting for-"
"Officer Armstrong walked in at 2230," Gibbs looked at Tony with something that reminded Tony of a glare that had been treated with a softener, "Tried to signal you but I figured you'd wait till your hour was up. Didn't expect for you to play so long."
"Boss, I didn't even realize," Tony fiddled with the bow tie in his hands, "What about our officer?"
"Confessed the moment after we read him his rights," Gibbs smirked, "Couldn't take the pressure I guess."
Tony huffed, "Well, that just never happens."
This time Gibbs did smile, a full one that Tony rarely saw on his Boss' face, "Well, it had to happen at least once."
Finding his Boss' smile contagious, Tony nodded in agreement before glancing around, "So uh, Ziva and McGee are?"
"Right here," the last two members of the team joined them right outside the hall's exit.
"Um, guys, sorry to keep you waiting," Tony started but stopped when he felt a sharp pain on the back of his head.
"What I tell you about apologizing?" Gibbs said good-naturedly.
Tony shrugged and turned to his teammates, surprised to see smiles instead of mocking glances.
"Tony," McGee sounded like a star struck kid, "I didn't know you could play like that. I mean, why didn't you tell us?"
Tony bit his lip, "Just never came up I guess."
"Well," Ziva said, glaring at McGee when he had the audacity to open his mouth as if to interrupt her, "I believe you played wonderfully. Though I will get you back for making me teach you lessons that you apparently did not need."
"Thank you," Tony's smile was hesitant, as if he couldn't believe they had actually enjoyed waiting for him, "You guys didn't mind waiting?"
"Are you kidding?" McGee said, "I filmed the whole thing. Just wait till Abby sees this, she'll never believe me…" McGee voiced trailed off as both he and Ziva walked towards the entrance where their officer and accomplice had been waiting for them.
"So," Gibbs spoke quietly, not wanting the other two to overhear, "Is this what your Captain at Baltimore meant when he said you'd lost your swing after your partner Ben Goodman-"
"Yeah," Tony interrupted Gibbs, not wanting to hear the words. It had been close to a decade-would be in three months-since it had happened but Tony still didn't like to hear the words, "I guess so."
"Well," Gibbs said looking towards the lobby where McGee and Ziva were waiting, "Maybe," and Tony knew that Gibbs wouldn't finish that statement because some feelings, like songs, didn't need words.
A/N: So. For those who are looking for the next chapter on "The Unknown Song", rest assured that it will be up before the weekend is through! :) Oh, and please remember this sage advice: Reviews make a author happy.