Disclaimer: NCIS doesn't belong to me, I only play with them to spread the love
A/N: Sorry, everyone who's disappointed, but this is not yet the third part of the 'The Day' series but a little one-shot I thought of when I hit writers block for the sequel to TDIB. 'The Day after The Day' is still being written. It's coming along quite nicely, if you want to follow the progress visit my livejournal account (see my profile) - that will be the place where I'll rant about anything and nothing from now on.
This is a Jimmy/Tony friendship fic because I adore them and there are not nearly enough of those out there. See the end of the chapter for the reasons and ideas behind this story, cause I don't want to spoiler you.
This was beta'd by the amazing AZGirl who is my own personal savior when things get rough! Thanks a lot!
On with the story...
Of Owners and Servants
For the first time in his life, Anthony DiNozzo didn't know what to do with the late-night visitor in his living room.
She sat on his couch, her big green eyes searching the room with an intensity that made him slightly uncomfortable. He hadn't cleaned his apartment for quite some time, after all. Seconds later he scolded himself for that thought. It wasn't like he'd invited her in.
To tell the truth, she had more or less barged in - making him stumble in her haste - before he could stop her. He had tried to throw her out but she hadn't budged from her spot on the couch, just staring at him and occasionally tensing as if ready to attack him. It had been kind of scary, but Tony hadn't been willing to be afraid in his own home so he'd just crossed his arms and stared right back for five full minutes until she got bored and began to inspect her surroundings.
Now Tony let himself fall on the cushions as well, near enough and with enough force to make her wobble dangerously. She shot him an accusing glare, but still wouldn't leave. Tony just sighed and popped the beer he'd gotten from his fridge. He had just gotten home from a very tiring day at work. Actually it had been more like a very tiring week and he couldn't wait to enjoy his free weekend. Gibbs had been more grumpy than usual, McGee more smug and Ziva... well, Ziva had been just Ziva.
Bad enough, Tony thought with an affectionate smile.
His guest shifted closer and Tony had to fight the urge to reach out and stroke her back.
Usually he liked having company, but he didn't know what to say or do about her. She had practically stalked him from the moment they'd met in front of that Italian place where he'd had some dinner. Her eyes had focused on him and he'd given her a tentative smile. A mistake as it now seemed, since she had followed him home, ignoring his attempts to send her on her way.
„What do you want?" he asked, not really expecting an answer. She had been awfully quiet the whole time, only staring, staring, staring….
She stared now too and tilted her head to the side. He looked at her a bit closer and noticed that she was awfully thin but her green eyes were all the more radiant. She was pretty small too, almost fragile, and Tony barely dared to touch her. She had to be young, and Tony wondered if someone was looking for her. Someone had to miss her, right?
„What am I supposed to do with you?" he mumbled into the silent room. She didn't answer that either but now they were both staring into each other's eyes and Tony suddenly understood that she wouldn't simply leave. Something in her eyes told him that she wanted something and wouldn't leave before she got it.
Now he just had to figure out what it was.
They sat side by side some time in, as Tony thought, companionable silence, before it suddenly hit him.
There was one person who he knew could help him. One person who had experience with those kinds of things.
He looked at the watch on his wrist and frowned. It was pretty late but he couldn't leave this until morning. He could only hope that this person wouldn't be too angry with him.
Suddenly, Tony smirked. That person and angry? Somehow he had trouble imagining that.
He fished in his pocket for his cellphone and hit speed dial. He listened to the ringing for what seemed like an eternity, before a sleepy and confused voice answered.
Tony felt almost bad for calling this late, but the matter couldn't wait. Those green eyes were seriously starting to creep him out. No way was he going to bed with her still in the living room. Who knew what she would do to him while he slept.
No, this really couldn't wait.
„Hey, it's me. Could you come over, I think I need your help."
Jimmy Palmer rubbed his eyes and yawned for the fifth time that night. He couldn't believe that he was really in front of Agent DiNozzo's – Tony, he reminded himself, outside of work it's Tony – door just past midnight, waiting for the man to finally let him in. He should be home sleeping but Tony had sounded almost desperate on the phone. He didn't want to disappoint the only true friend he'd had for a long time, so he'd rolled himself out of bed and taken a cab to get there as fast as possible.
Jimmy blushed a little. Friend. Who would have thought that the Autopsy Gremlin and the Agent, the geek and the womanizer, the winner and the loser (Jimmy could go on and on like that, but decided that he shouldn't damage his self-worth more than it already was) would become pretty good friends? Jimmy sure as hell hadn't.
The beginning of their unusual friendship had been nerve-racking, to say the least. They had ridden the elevator together, not looking at, let alone speaking with each other, when it suddenly got stuck. Tony had been enviably relaxed about it, had simply sat down and proclaimed that this was pretty cool since it was like an additional break and that he would maybe take a nap until help arrived.
'Wake me, would you Palmer?' Tony had asked, but he could have just as well spoken to a wall.
Because Jimmy had screamed inside. He didn't like small spaces. He wouldn't exactly call it a phobia – he knew that the specialists would disagree – but getting stuck in an elevator, with Agent DiNozzo of all people, had to be the most dreadful thing that could have happened to him. At least he was convinced of that fact back then.
The medical assistant had paced up and down as much as possible and broken into cold sweat when he'd realized that this could take hours. It had been harder and harder to stay calm and soon he'd been on edge, scratching his arms in a nervous manner and hyperventilating. And then, when he thought that he was about to pass out, Tony was suddenly by his side, laughter and nonchalance forgotten. The man had taken his hand and told him to take deep breaths, that everything would be okay. If Jimmy would have had the courage to look him in the eyes he have seen the open concern on the Italians face.
Tony had spent the next two hours trying to calm the skittish young man down and Jimmy had been incredibly embarrassed when the doors finally opened to reveal two technicians and almost everyone of Team Gibbs. He had jumped up from his crouched position on the floor, all too aware of his beet-red cheeks, and made a break for it. Tony had called after him but he had been too mortified to face the Agent after his breakdown. He'd been convinced that the man would now believed him to be even more of a wimp.
Now, as Palmer stood in front of DiNozzo's door in the middle of the night, he smiled sheepishly. He should have known that the Italian wouldn't back off. The man was too stubborn for his own good after all. He had practically hunted the medical assistant down and after a few awkward encounters they had formed a tentative friendship. A friendship that had grown a lot closer during Gibbs' hiatus to Mexico. Jimmy didn't know why Tony was so adamant about being friends, why he tried to cheer him up occasionally or walked with him when he decided to take the stairs but he had decided to enjoy the attention as long as it would last. Which wouldn't be long anyway, he'd thought. Except that six months had passed since the incident with the elevator and Tony still wanted to spend time with him and Jimmy had soon started to think of him as his best friend.
The thought left him a bit insecure. He wasn't sure whether Tony thought the same. Jimmy bit his lip and stared at his feet. Probably not, he decided. Someone like Agent DiNozzo must have dozens of friends, all of them much cooler and more compatible with the Italian than himself. He'd become more relaxed around the other Agents and Dr. Mallard, but most of the time he still felt like the outsider looking in. Sometimes he wondered if Tony just pitied him.
The door finally opened and he stood face to face with an exasperated Tony DiNozzo.
"There you are. Took you long enough."
Jimmy sniffed angrily but it was halfhearted at best. At first Tony's honest and outspoken attitude had confused him, but by now he knew that it wasn't meant to be hurtful. You got used to it, really.
"I'm here, aren't I? Now, what is this emergency?" Jimmy suddenly grinned, remembering another time Tony had come rushing into Autopsy in near panic. "Another paper cut?"
Tony glared and motioned him through the door. "Hey, I was bleeding to death there, you know? And no, it's not a paper cut." He closed the door and pointed to the couch. "It's that!"
Jimmy had to blink a few times to make sure that he was seeing right. Right there, on Tony's expensive leather couch, slouched a small cat. It was a light brown with white specks here and there. Its deep green eyes seemed to study him carefully and Jimmy did the same, immediately noticing that it appeared awfully thin.
Old forgotten instincts came back to life as the medical assistant slowly and carefully approached the coach. He saw the cat's muscles tense and its tail began to whip up and down. Jimmy reconsidered and made a small detour to the kitchen where he found a lonely can of tuna. He went back to the living room and carefully opened the can and watched for some kind of reaction from the small fur ball. He knew that he'd made the right choice when it lifted its head and sniffed the air. This time the animal didn't tense when he drew closer. He knelt in front of the cat and gave it time to adjust to the proximity. When it leaned closer to him – and the tuna of course – he tried to feed it the treat. He was pleasantly surprised when it actually took the fish from his fingers, considering how coy it had seemed at first. It took a few minutes but when the can was empty Jimmy lifted himself to the couch and the small animal immediately climbed on his lap, where it lay with its eyes closed and purred.
Jimmy smiled and ran his hand over its back. The best way to claim a cat's heart was through food. His Sir Toby had been just like that.
Only then did he notice the unnatural silence in the room and looked up to see Tony staring at him with a mix of admiration and disbelief on his face.
"How did you do that?" Jimmy couldn't help the little snicker when Tony whispered and made no attempt to come closer. It was almost as if he was afraid of the little thing. "You are- Man, you are like the cat whisperer or something. When I tried to throw her out she nearly scratched my eyes out, and here she's cuddling with you."
Jimmy shrugged his shoulders, trying hard not to blush. He wasn't used to praise. "I guessed that she was hungry, that's all." He paused, puzzled. "Wait, how do you know its a 'she'?"
Tony grinned lewdly "I don't really know, but everything that follows me home is usually female. Why should it be different with the flea bag."
Jimmy looked down again and rolled his eyes. Tony's ego was in a class by itself.
The Italian shifted on his feet. "Okay, now that you two are best buds and everything, could you please carry her outside or take her to the animal shelter or something?"
"You just called me so I could throw her out for you?"
"Well, you told me you had a cat once, so I thought if someone knew how to deal with her, it would be you. And I was right." he added proudly.
Jimmy tried to hide his surprise. He had mentioned Sir Toby, his old cat back home, only once in passing. He wouldn't have thought that Tony remembered.
The little cat rolled onto her back and presented her belly to him and he immediately complied to her wishes and scratched it for her. She reminded him more and more of Sir Toby. He'd loved getting his belly scratched as well. A tide of sadness washed over him. He missed the little guy. A car had killed him shortly after Jimmy had left for DC. He had planned to get him as soon as he got situated in his new surroundings but it apparently wasn't meant to be.
"You sure you don't wanna keep her?" he asked quietly. It didn't sit right with him to bring her to the animal shelter. Maybe someone missed her and searched for her but he doubted it. She didn't wear a collar and it looked like she had been on the streets for a long time.
Tony snorted and finally took a few steps closer. He still kept his distance, though. "Hell no. I'm not a cat person and who knows what kind of diseases she has." At Jimmy's dejected expression he added more softly. "It's not like I don't want a pet, but with my job it's just not possible. Sometimes I'm gone for days at a time and then she would be alone. It wouldn't be fair."
Jimmy understood, but it made him sad nonetheless. In his personal opinion Tony really needed a pet, something that waited for him to come home and that he could care for. The Italian had never said anything like that to him, but sometimes Palmer thought that he seemed pretty lonely.
Tony finally sat down besides Jimmy and watched the cat dozing on his friends lap with something akin to grudging fondness. "And I heard that cats can be pretty bossy. I have someone like that at work; I don't need it at home as well."
Jimmy realized that Tony was trying to cheer him up and was once again amazed that he'd found such a good friend in the Agent. "Well, you know what they say: Cats don't have owners. They have servants."
"Definitely not my pet then." Tony drawled. He observed the pair on his couch and saw the bond that was already forming and suddenly had an idea. "Why don't you keep her?"
Jimmy paused in his scratching, eliciting a displeased meow from his little friend. "Me?" He looked down at the feline, who looked up and stared at him until he started rubbing his fingers behind her ears. "I- I don't know."
He had thought about getting a new cat after Sir Toby died but it had never gotten farther than that. He had been too afraid that he wouldn't be able to love the new kitten as much as he'd loved Sir Toby and over time the idea had become less and less prominent on his mind.
But now he realized that he missed this more than he'd thought. Having a little weight on his lap or in his arms, the reassuring purr and feel of soft fur between his fingers suddenly brought back the old longing.
And he had to admit that he would like to come home to someone after work just as much as Tony. Maybe even more.
Yet he still hesitated. It was all happening really fast. "But she followed you home."
Tony raised an eyebrow and reached out as if to touch the kitten. She mustered him suspiciously and just before his fingers could touch her she began to growl softly. Not really threatening but enough to cause Tony to yank his hand back. He growled right back before shooting Jimmy a wry smile. "I think she might have discovered her gusto for the nerdy type."
Jimmy was too sidetracked by the kitten's reaction to mind the insult. It certainly looked like she had no desire to stay with the Agent. It would be so easy to clutch her to his chest and take her home. But on the other hand there was too much to consider and not for the first time Jimmy cursed his inability to be a little bit more spontaneous.
"Woah," Tony suddenly exclaimed. "I can practically see your thoughts swirling in that head of yours, I'm getting dizzy. What's up? Don't you want her?"
"Of course I do." And he realized that that was the truth. "But cats need a lot of stuff. A litter box, cat litter, food, a cat tree and lots of other things. Which I have none of at home. And I can't take her home without a carrier. She would flip as soon as we got into the cab. And I doubt any cab driver would take us with him like that anyway and-"
"Stop!" Tony commanded and Jimmy snapped his mouth shut. When he was nervous he began to babble. The Agent stared at the cat and seconds later heaved a heavy sigh. It sounded kinda pained and resigned. "So it's a problem of transportation, huh? Okay, here's the deal. You and the little fur ball will take the couch tonight and first thing tomorrow you go and get all that stuff and then get her out of here as soon as possible, okay?"
Jimmy was speechless for a moment before he realized what he was being offered. In typical Palmer manner he immediately refused. "Oh no, I don't want to intrude-"
"Nonsense! We have the day off tomorrow, right?" Jimmy nodded. "Okay then, you stay here and tomorrow you'll get everything you need." He looked at his watch and yawned. "It's getting pretty late anyway. See it as a thank you for coming over this late."
"You called me this late to save you from this cute kitten and now you invite us both to stay over?" Jimmy couldn't hide his amusement.
Tony seemed to realize the stupidity of it as well because he grimaced and scowled at the man and animal. "Just make sure you keep her away from me, buddy. Should I find one teeny tiny cat hair on my suits it's your ass I'm gonna roast." He stood and went into his bedroom to get some sheets. When he came back he pointed a threatening finger at the cat, which she totally missed since she was already deep asleep on Palmer's lap. DiNozzo groaned one last time and threw his arms into the air as if to ask 'Why me?' before he wished Jimmy a good night and moved back to his own room.
"Tony?" Jimmy's timid voice stopped him and he turned around to see the medical assistant look everywhere but at him. "Thanks."
Tony looked surprised but pleased. "Hey, what are best friends for, huh?"
He entered his room and closed the door which is why he didn't see the brilliant smile on his guest's face.
What he did see the next morning, was his best friend on his back, sprawled on the couch, with a sleeping cat curled up on his stomach. The sight made him smile and he wondered whether Jimmy would mind if he visited his furry, little stalker from time to time.
Maybe he was a cat person after all.
A/N: So, I think I already mentioned it sometime, but I went to the animal shelter some weeks ago and brought home two lovely cats and I just had to write a story with a cat, couldn't help myself. If you want to see the two cutest kitten on earth visit my website (see profile) - I uploaded some pictures.
For now I'll post this as completed but there are many amusing situations Jimmy, Tony and the still nameless cat can find themselves in, so maybe, if the response is good, I'll come back to this in the future. But first, tell me what you think! Reviews make the author a happy cookie.