This is a SongFic based on Michael Weatherly's own son, Bitter and Blue. It was a character study of Tony that kind of mutated into a canon character study/AU one-shot. Enjoy, and as always, reviews, in all shapes and sizes, are greatly appreciated!
I don't own Tony. Unfortunately. Or the rest of NCIS, I'm just borrowing them for a moment!
Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo sat at his comfortably cluttered desk, eating his lukewarm breakfast burrito, compliments of the NCIS microwave. His black suit and white dress shirt wrapped snugly around his broad chest and his brown hair fell into controlled chaos above his bright, observant eyes. On the surface, everything about him seemed quite normal; underneath, it was anything but.
"I've got a query, so I'll riddle you,
You and your theories divine false and true…"
Into the bullpen roared, there is no other way to describe it, Lead Special Agent Leroy Jethro Gibbs, clutching a coffee cup in one hand, number 3 or 4, with his left hand and retrieving his SIG with his right.
"Grab your gear! We gotta body."
All confidence and honesty, with his stare and his gut, you'd think the Boss had never been unsure about anything in his life, like a God-given gift.
"But what about the gnawing doubt inside?
Here's mud in your eyes…"
But Tony had seen the doubt and the guilt, growing in frequency and intensity since the whole Mexico fiasco.
He had lied to everyone.
To Abby and Ducky, to McGee and Ziva, to him. He killed… sniped… Pedro Hernandez in cold blood, and stood up in front of the whole agency, putting murderers away every day. Tony knew that the guy was a ruthless drug dealer that was responsible for Shannon and Kelly's deaths, not even factoring in the deaths of many others, and the world was better off without the scumbag. He also could guess if he was in the business of being honest with himself, that he would do exactly the same thing in Gibbs' situation.
Except that he would get close enough to watch him die.
Maybe that's what bothered him about it, that they were so similar. That he could do the same thing and feel justified. That he could go for years without revealing it to even the people he trusted with his life on a daily basis. He could be just like Gibbs. And right now, it scared him.
Gibbs was waiting on his Senior Field Agent with characteristic impatience, but didn't say anything as he walked in the elevator avoiding his boss' eyes. The older man knew he was treading on paper-thin ice with each and every one of them, since Paloma had been killed in a carefully crafted accident and Alejandro was put on trial for her murder. Legally, the lid had been closed on the Hernandez investigation, but it hadn't been forgotten on Team Gibbs. Tony could see that it bothered his old friend, hurt him, to see the questioning stares and somewhat cautious approaches, but he just didn't have the strength to care yet.
At some point, the MCRT had made it to the crime scene, Rock Creek Park. Again. Once more the normalcy of the surroundings caught Agent DiNozzo off guard while securing the scene, and he, really for the first time that day, noticed his partner and probie, Tim McGee.
"And, oh, the beholder, so steadfast and true,
Observing the wreckage from his point of view…"
This young agent tried the hardest to go back to normal, endeavoring to pretend that Mexico hadn't happened, much like the last time Gibbs high-tailed it South-of-the-Border. It was almost as if he doubled his faith in the silver haired investigator to make up for any possible shift in the rest of the group.
Tim was still so young in so many ways, yet he had grown up more than anyone had realized. It wasn't a secret that he tried to hold everyone together in any way he could think of- letting Ziva interview witnesses, calling her "Agent", and trying not to make her angry; he listened to Ducky's stories longer than he would have; constantly suggested team gatherings at the pub with everyone from Jimmy to, shockingly, Vance. Even with Tony, he made sure to take the "Probie" work, let the part time comedian make up any nicknames he saw fit, and deferred to the older agent whenever he could, while still an independent, confident investigator. The thought made Tony want to try and help the man who'd become his best friend, though he'd never tell the gun-toting computer nerd, but he also knew that the quiet writer would perceive Tony's sympathy and concern as a sign of Tim's personal weakness.
"In revolt of long lost hope, oh yeah,
Here's mud in your eyes…"
And of course he'd been taking care of Abby more than anyone. Everyone loved their favorite Goth, but none more or deeper than Timothy McGee. He'd been the one to hold her as Gibbs left to try and undo what had begun many years before, the one to try and convince her she'd done the right thing, letting her stay at his place and taking the couch when she was afraid that Paloma may come after her and the extra security provided no comfort. He's been with her through it all, and is still with her, convincing her that everything is alright again.
Tony knows it is because McGee still loves her. McGee's love life had been spotty at best since they went splitsville, and Tim's last "serious dating relationship" tried to kill him at point blank range. This was not for lack of interested women. Even the older agent would admit that with Tim's now much slimmer figure; chic apparel, at Tony's urging, of course; and the young man's pleasant and genuine attitude, there was no shortage of young women knocking on his door.
Yet, Tim was still single and very much in love with Abby. But, Tony could also see that the young man had given up hope of this love ever being requited again. The one time Tony had asked him about it, a few weeks back while he was still freezing his butt off in Canada, Tim muttered something about "Eric from the L.A. Office" between a string of defeated, yet colorful words/ If Tim had not been blind to the situation, he would have noticed that Abby broke off that tenuous fling almost as soon as Gibbs had left for Mexico and had been spending most of her time under McGee's careful attentions.
Running down leads on this John Doe had proved more challenging than any of them had foreseen, and night found them sitting in the bullpen, all four eating dinner out of the vending machines, pouring over crime scene photos and calling prospective leads. When Tony couldn't keep his eyes fixed on the small print any longer, he looked up and glanced around the squadroom from a tentative agent with creases of worry being etched into his forehead, to a stoic ex-marine exchanging information with a genial medical examiner, and finally settling on Ziva.
"So give me an answer, a place and a time.
A way to advance, a cosmic sign;
And I'll show you my point of view, oh yeah…"
She was hunched over her papers, hair frizzing, and pencil in her mouth, with dark circles lining her eyes from long nights in the bullpen and concentration-creases in her forehead. But she'd never looked more beautiful to his shining, tired eyes than right at that precise moment. If things were different, he'd like to jump over his desk to hers, lift her up from her desk chair, and kiss every inch of her lips. But, sadly, that would be impossible, not only because the size of his desk and numerous injuries deter him from voluntarily jumping anywhere, but also because of the fact that he and the exotic beauty were barely speaking.
Things were tense after he himself was sent to Mexico, with much protesting, under Director Vance's orders to "observe" the male Reynosa, forcing him to miss Ziva's citizenship ceremony. He had promised, again and again, and while he knew she understood, he couldn't help feel like she was holding it against him. It had gotten better since then; it had been months, after all, but Tony was looking for more than their sexual tension-charged back and forth interaction. He was finally looking for a relationship. With her. But, if she won't let that happen, he thought, he'd settle for a real friendship, like how things used to be. Before Michael, before Jenny, before Jeanne.
Sometimes when they glanced at each other from across the bullpen she would look annoyed or downright pissed and sometimes she had the smolder of desire in her dark chocolate eyes.
Talk about mixed signals.
Tony was confused to say the least. After that thought, a chunk of the sultry beauty's curly hair fell out of the large banana clip that restricted it, into the former Israeli's face. Ziva swore in one of her many languages and Tony chuckled, thinking of how she could swear in even more languages than she spoke, but got up and strode towards the men's room to avoid her penetrating eyes. Eyes that have always seen straight through him.
"I haven't been happy in such a long time,
Cloudy and grey skies, instead of sunshine;
I guess that's how I'm looking now, so pale,
Like I'm in disguise…"
He didn't actually have to go to the bathroom, so he just washed his hands and made to leave, but caught himself in the mirror before he had made it out the door. The investigator studied his own features and concluded one thing.
He looked like crap.
Yes, his suit was long-wrinkled, and his hair had lost most of this morning's flair, but that was understandable. His body was still a prime physical specimen; actually, his 6-pack hadn't looked this good in years. What surprised the Italian Stallion was his face. Long nights and little sleep had made him pale and bags traced his expressive eyes. A lifetime of overwhelming happiness and devastation, each in turn, had bestowed wrinkles on his chiseled features. Was this the Very Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo that he had come to know? In short, no.
"I'm thoughtful and I'm gloomy and,
Bitter and blue…"
The man in front of him was older, weathered, more experienced, though not nessecarily wiser. He thought about the mistakes he'd made, the big ones at least. They happened over and over again- playing the idiot when he should be fessing up; blatantly ignoring signs, which lost Jenny; not being fast enough, which lost him Kate and Paula; not owning up to emotions that could change everything, which almost cost him Ziva so many times and in so many ways.
Tony was thinking about those mistakes, and so many others he had made, staring into the mirror all the while, when McGee called his phone to meet them in autopsy. Thankful for the distraction from the sudden train of thought, he exited his makeshift office without a backward glance.
When he'd arrived in Autopsy-land without sight of the rest of the MCRT, he figured, rightly so, that some case-related information had detained them, so he just walked in, with no Ducky to be seen, and decided to wait with Mr. Doe, rather than begin the veritable wild-goose-chase which would happen if he went searching. At least it was quiet.
"Agent DiNozzo!" Jimmy entered from storage and caught sight of the man, startled by the unexpected company.
"Autopsy Gremlin!" Tony countered with a good natured chuckle. Their friendship was slow-forming, unpublicized, and unexpected, but ever since Gibbs' first Mexican vacation, the agent began to rely on the nerdy assistant in times of distress. He thought of him almost like playing the "Ducky" to his "Bossman". "Weren't expecting any of the living down here, were ya, Jimster?"
"Not quite, but glad and surprised to see you with them another day, Tony." Jimmy teased back, peeling away a thin layer of his nervous shell.
They passes the next few minutes in companionable silence, with Jimmy filing reports and the green-eyed investigator looking at the John Doe laying out on the cold table, surprisingly affected by the idea of yet another life stolen.
"If it's precious, then why's it so cheap?"
Again. DiNozzo's overactive mind began to swim with these thoughts of transience and the one's he had been mulling over all day. He was the one to finally break the silence of the room.
"Jim, what's going on?"
Jimmy knew his friend wasn't asking about his day, or his work, or anything that related specifically to this moment, but of what has been happening to their team, with the unspoken addition of, "And how am I going to deal with this?"
The curly haired assistant paused, took a breath and walked up to Tony in a very quiet manner. He pondered a moment what to say, wanting to get it right, and decided that simple advice can sometimes be the best.
"Just talk to them, Tony."
The older man was taken aback for a moment. That was exactly what he'd needed to hear someone say. The creases in his forehead began to smooth and glimmers of his DiNozzo-spark entered his eyes for the first time that day, because now he had a plan. He clapped his friend on the back, thanking him.
"You're not bad at this whole advice thing, Palmer." he added as he exited the Autopsy doors to find his side-tracked teammates, leaving a grinning Jimmy in his wake.
He rounded the corner with increasing speed and nearly clocked Tim McGee in the nose, almost a reversal of a similar encounter during his reign as lead agent.
"McGoo!" Tony greeted his dazed and confused probie with a 100-watt grin on his face. "How have you been doin', man?" as he grabbed his shoulders in friendly camaraderie. Tim just kind of shot the man a confused look that read, "What in the world had gotten into you?"
"Um… I'm fine DiNozzo… how are you?"
He earnestly smiled, while the younger agent had been contemplating the thought that his friend had finally snapped.
"I'm doing better!"
Tony took this moment to realize that the entire reason he was running into Tim, quite literally, is that there was a break in the case.
"Whaddaya got for me, Probie?"
The agent gave one last amusedly confused look at Tony and began to walk towards the elevator as he reported.
"Abby got a print off the little plastic thingy on the guy's shoelace which our guy conveniently, for us, forgot to wipe. Apparently, the man was Ensign William Garret. He was in the area working on a DOD security program. Boss wants you to take Ziva and check it out."
The Italian took a deep breath of preparation when he heard that. If he was going to take Jimmy's advice and talk this thing out with everyone, this would be his chance to do it, while his courage was still there and the feelings still fresh in his mind. He just wished he had a bit more time. The familiar ding of the elevator gave the signal that they had arrived in the bullpen and the new American beauty immediately began to get her gear and head towards the approaching men. Her eyes were unexpressive as she turned to DiNozzo and addressed him.
"Are you ready to go, Tony?"
Checking- he had his gun, badge, keys and phone.
"Oh so ready, Agent David," as he added her favorite smile, or what he liked to believe to be her favorite smile, at the end to gauge her reaction. She gave none.
"Let us go then."
They had begun driving in the "non-descript" federal vehicle for about 20 minutes in silence before Tony had the courage to speak. Ziva had told him once that he would never fear a bullet or a bomb, but when it came to emotions he was as scared as they come. She was pretty much dead on then, but now he hoped he'd be strong enough to have this conversation and prove her wrong. When he spoke, his voice was low and honest.
"How are you doing, Ziva?"
"I am fine, Tony. How are you?"
"No, Ziva. How are you doing?" His voice betrayed a bit more emotion on the second uttering, but he felt like, if there ever was a time to show emotion, this would probably be it.
She concentrated even more on the steering wheel and the D.C. traffic whizzing by her windshield.
'I am fine, Tony."
He took one last deep breath before plunging ahead. "No, Zee. I know you. Probably better than anyone else knows you. And you're. not. fine. Maybe you're better than before, but there's still something holding you back. Stopping you from being Ziva. Stopping us from being what we were, the team," A pause, and he continued, "And you and me."
"There is no problem between you and I, Tony. We are still partners."
He had begun to grow exasperated with her seeming lack of concern for the state of their relationship, especially when it was bothering him so much. His voice rose slightly and there was no wall to keep the emotion in his voice chained up any longer.
"But we're not friends! We're not what we should be…" Tony, even under this distress, couldn't bring himself to tell her how much he wanted her. This admission shocked the sultry female agent slightly. She couldn't remember the last time Tony had been this open with her. Actually, she could. It was Somalia, while he was under the influence of… that terrorist's... truth serum, the day he had rescued her. They were all there, yes, but Ziva had since learned from McGee that it had been solely Tony's plan. He had orchestrated the whole revenge mission, with little hope of returning himself. She also realized; before, during, or since, how little she was truly honest with him, while she expected exactly that from the man beside her. She worked so hard at pushing through, trying to forget, that she had built up a fortress around herself, even to the people… person… she cared for most in this world. She decided to pull the slightest bit of her wall down, for the moment, and let him act like her own personal brand of truth serum.
"You are right, Tony. We are not what we should be… And I am not fine."
He looked at her face, stony and impassive. Any other man in Ziva's life would have taken it as a sign to leave her alone, but Tony saw her eyes and the pain she held there, and knew what she needed him to tell her. What she couldn't say to herself.
"You can't keep letting him hurt you, Ziva," his voice a gravel-like whisper.
Her automatic defense of fire and anger kicked in, and she yelled at him, "Who, Tony? Who! Salim? My Father? Gibbs?"
He simply looked into her eyes and uttered one word.
He had always been able to see through her mask, that much she knew, but she thought he'd given up trying long ago.
"And what about us, Ziva? How are we going to fix us?"
He thought she'd brush him off, or give him some inane platitude and they would recede to their previous limbo, but she pursed her lips, took a breath and answered him, truthfully, the only way she knew how to fix them.
"By breaking, Tony."
He looked at her with a questioning eye and the shadows of a smile traced her face as she clarified.
"By breaking rules, Tony."
And she gunned the gas pedal as only she knew how.
"Rule #12 is shit, Boss."
The case was over, they'd solved it rather quickly once they'd found out who the guy was, so that night found Tony approaching his Boss' basement with some heavy issues to hash out and coffee to make sure he wasn't fired-on-sight.
As Tony made his declaration and descended the stairs, Gibbs looked up from his boat rather shocked. That wasn't quite what he was expecting. Tony walked over calmly, and Gibbs smelled no stench of alcohol on his breath as the younger agent set the coffee before the graying man.
He said again, "Rule #12 is shit, Boss, and you know it."
The look he received was one that said "go on, I dare ya", so being a man with relatively no self-preservation, he continued, approaching forbidden territory, fast.
"The only reason that rule exists is because Jenny left you. You were hurt and you made up that stupid rule and you have been too damn stubborn to say it's wrong." All the response Gibbs gave his charge was, "So?"
"So, Boss, others shouldn't be made to suffer just because you and Jen screwed things up over a decade ago. You can't get all high and mighty and know-it-all about it, because no one is the same. I'm not you, and Ziva isn't Jenny. We want different things out of life than you did. Your rules are screwing up what could be a great thing, and I'm not going to let it happen anymore. I don't care what the consequences are for me; I will not back down on this, Gibbs."
Gibbs looked a little surprised by the fact that it was coming out now and like this, though keeping his blank-faced perfection, but honestly, he had been expecting it for much longer than they'd realized. Tony seemed to be calming down and Gibbs was trying to figure out best what to say to his friend and agent when Tony caught his second wind. Gibbs should have suspected it, but he didn't think this would be addressed with the issue of rule twelve also on the table. But, since when had Tony been an easy ride.
"And another thing! What the hell happened in Mexico…? What you did… I understand. That's the thing boss. I understand why you did it in the first place. I get it; the man was a monster and didn't deserve to live. What I don't understand is why you didn't tell us, Boss. I would have thought we've all had enough of half-truths and unanswered questions in the last couple years. You preach everyday about how we need to come to you with problems like that. You remember when McGee's sister got framed; you told him he should have brought it to you before he got in so deep. You've done the same with all of us. Why not you? Don't you trust us? We would have supported you, helped you. We'd never turn our backs on you. Why couldn't you let me have your six, Boss?"
When Tony finally finished, he was facing the wall with his hands in his pockets, a dead giveaway that he was feeling unsure of himself, while Gibbs was still sitting at his boat, trying to find the right words to start making this mess better.
"Tony…" he had to pause for a moment before he continued, "That rule is there for the weak and the scared. No one has ever had balls enough to challenge it before. And, yeah, I was hurting when I made it and I push it on you guys because I want to keep you from getting burned like that too. And maybe I have been too stubborn about it, but no one has ever fought me on it till now. I would never intentionally stop you and Ziver from pursuing this if it's the real deal. You hurt her and I'll kick your ass to hell and back, twice; and keep it out of the office, but outside of the office… to tell ya the truth, I'm relieved."
Tony was glad to hear this, not only because he had the blessing of the man he considered a surrogate father, whatever the state of their relationship, but also because he and Ziva were able to do this without fear of getting fired. But there was still an elephant in the room. Tony was afraid what his speech on Gibbs' Mexican debacle would do to them, although the silver fox hadn't shot him yet, which was a good sign.
Gibbs was actually the one who broke the somewhat awkward silence by addressing that issue. He took a deep breath in and hoped he'd get the words out right, not caring much for words himself.
"Tony, I didn't tell you because… I knew you'd support me. I knew all of you would be behind me. I was afraid if and when I got taken down, by Paloma or the law, you all would fall with me. Especially you. I'm not proud of what I did, back then or now. I know you feel like I lied to you all those years, but it was just something I had to do on my own."
Gibbs had stood up by this time, and Tony had turned around so they could see each other. Anyone could tell that the younger swashbuckling agent was still unsure if his Boss really meant what he said, and that the older man was searching for the right thing to say to him. Gibbs wasn't one for showing any sign of outward emotion, but he knew he had to bite the bullet and let Tony know how much he still needed them, all of them.
He crossed over to where DiNozzo stood and put a fatherly hand on his shoulder, "I trust you with my life Tony, all of you. But more importantly, I trust you with each others' lives, because you're the ones it would kill me to lose. And for what it's worth, I'm sorry."
That was the most emotional his Boss had ever been with him, and he was completely shocked. Suddenly though, it was made clear that the motives behind his actions, though maybe twisted slightly, came from a place of great protectiveness. Tony's face began to grow with a smile, as did the lead agent's, and he made to leave, knowing everything that needed to be said between the two of them had been said, and that the boss and the team would mend slowly but surely.
As he approached the bottom of the stairs, he turned around again to face his mentor drinking his gift of coffee, and spoke, with Jimmy's advice still in his head, "Hey, Boss, I'm sorry for blowing up at you like that, but I'm glad we talked it out. Thanks."
Gibbs remembered the words Mike had said not so long before, and thought they had special meaning in this case.
"You do what you have to for family, DiNozzo."
Tony walked up the steps and out of the house, texting McGee to meet him at his apartment for pizza and beer later that night to talk about everything that had been going on in his Probie's life. ...And also kind of to tell Tim about him and his crazy little ninja... And Tony was a smart cookie, he knew it wasn't over. There would be really tough days ahead and it wouldn't all be easy. But as he walked out to his car, some or the wrinkles in his face smoothed, some of the tension in his broad shoulders eased, and if he'd stopped to think about it, Tony DiNozzo wasn't feeling quiet so bitter, or quite so blue tonight.