AN: Just a little post-scene to the episode. For those of you reading my other stories, I'm going through a bit of a dry spell and nothing is coming out the way I want it to. I'm really sorry and hope you can bear with me. Hopefully, I can get through it soon. I really appreciate your patience. Thanks so much :)
Tony rubbed his forehead with his fingertips, trying to massage away the dull throbbing pain that seemed to be constantly lingering there as of late. His head was resting against the top of his sofa and he was trying hard to drift off to sleep when he heard the loud knocking against his front door. He figured it was Ziva, doubting that Probie had the nerve to just show up unannounced. Ziva would certainly have no reservations about doing so. Whoever it was, he had no desire to see them and didn't budge from his position on the sofa, trying to wish the unwelcome visitor away.
"DiNozzo open the damn door."
It was Gibbs. Tony sighed heavily as he tried to muster up the energy to get up from the couch to open the door. As luck turned out, he didn't have to though. The door opened of its own accord and Gibbs came traipsing through it, into his living room. "Why didn't you answer me?" Gibbs asked, putting the pizza box he was carrying down on the coffee table.
"Does it matter? You didn't seem to have a problem getting in."
Gibbs stared back at Tony as he pocketed the key to the younger man's apartment. "I just wanted to make sure you were okay."
"I 'm fine, was just trying to sleep, boss. No great mystery."
"At seven o'clock?" Gibbs asked with evident concern in his eyes as he took a seat next to his agent.
"I have a headache," Tony said matter-of-factly.
Gibbs nodded. "Maybe it would help if you ate something."
"I appreciate you bringing the pizza, boss, but I'm actually not all that hungry." 'Now, will you please leave,' he added silently.
Gibbs sat silently then, deciding he would wait Tony out. The strategy worked as Tony rolled his eyes, unable to let the silence hover over them for long. "What is everyone so worried about?" he asked.
"I don't know, DiNozzo. Why don't you tell me?"
"There's nothing to tell."
Gibbs said nothing for a few long moments, then finally spoke. "You've done some superb work this week, Tony."
"As opposed to my usual crappy work?" Tony retorted with a glare.
"I didn't say that," Gibbs replied calmly.
"Well that's certainly the impression I'm getting from everyone," Tony said, shaking his head. "You'd think I never did a speck of work before now."
"Nobody said that..its just, even you have to admit the way you're approaching your work is a departure from the norm."
"A guy acts a little more seriously than normal and everyone goes nuts over it. I don't get it, boss...I really don't.. Besides, maybe you didn't hear about it, but I played a prank on Ziva and McGee today."
"Oh I heard about it," Gibbs stated. "Did it have the desired effect?"
"What's that supposed to mean? I was having fun, boss. Just the way I always do. Ziva and McGee are calmed down now. Everybody's happy..."
"So...your little production did what you wanted it to."
"What do you mean, production?" Tony asked suspiciously.
"I'm not stupid, DiNozzo and neither are you. You figured out how to get Ziva and McGee off your back and pulled it off nicely. I don't buy it though."
"I don't know what you're talking about," Tony stared back at Gibbs, his jaw set stubbornly.
"Ziva told you?" He couldn't hide his look of surprise.
"I didn't say that."
"Well, she must have..."
"Does it really matter how I found out, DiNozzo?"
"I just don't get why you're here, boss. You already know everything, so what's the point?"
"The point is, I don't think that's all of it...I'd like to help."
Tony leaned his head back and stared up at the ceiling. "I don't need any help. There isn't anything else and I'm perfectly okay."
"I don't believe you."
"Well then I really don't know what to tell you," Tony said shrugging. He hoped Gibbs would just get tired of this game and leave, but the other man just sat there, watching him. Tony suddenly became aware of the sound of the ticking of the clock on the wall. He spoke again, basically just wanting to stop himself from focusing on the loud tick tocks. "You know...my father told me what you once said...that I like to hide behind the face of a clown. Well, if that's true, then maybe I just decided to stop hiding..."
"Did he tell you the rest of what I said?" Gibbs asked. "I told him you were the best young agent I had ever worked with...so much for your theory that I think you do crappy work."
Tony gazed back at Gibbs skeptically and Gibbs cursed Senior silently. He instinctively knew that Senior likely wouldn't have told Tony anything good that Gibbs had said about him. He was pretty sure there was a bit of jealousy festering over his and DiNozzo's relationship. "I did say it...ask him if you don't believe me."
"I don't need to ask him," Tony said quietly.
At this point, the conversation was so off track that Gibbs didn't even know how to get back to the subject at hand. He finally decided the direct approach was the best. "What happened to Brenda Bittner...its wasn't your fault..."
"I know that, boss..." Tony said. "At least I hope it isn't my fault, but it just got me to thinking anyway..."
"About what?" Gibbs asked softly.
"About how fragile people really are...about the fact that anything I say could really get to someone and I wouldn''t have any idea of the effect it had. How an off-hand remark could just cause someone to go over the edge. How breaking up with someone or not calling them could really screw with someone's mind. I just...I don't want to be the cause of something like that..."
"I don't think you need to be worrying yourself about this...Most people are not that fragile, DiNozzo."
"But how do you know that, boss?" Tony asked, looking back at Gibbs. "How do you really know? You don't. You can't know that, not for sure...you never really know about people. Everyone has a breaking point..you just never know when someone is going to reach it..."
"Who exactly are you talking about here?" Gibbs asked, his eyes growing more concerned as the conversation went on. "You're not planning on wrapping your car around a telephone pole, are you?"
"Me?" Tony shook his head and let out a humorless chuckle. "No, not me, boss...at least not now anyway, but it does make you wonder, doesn't it? Makes you think about just how far you can be pushed before you would reach that point..."
"You're a long way from that point, Tony...a really long way," Gibbs said. "You're a hell of a lot stronger than that."
"Am I?" Tony asked quietly, almost to himself. "I hope so...this isn't exactly the way I pictured how my life would be. You always kind of think when you've reached this age that you'd have the whole wife, kids and white picket fence thing going on, you know? I'm a pretty long way from that and I don't know if I ever see it happening. I love my job, boss. I really do but...sometimes I wonder if its enough..."
"Its not too late for any of those things if that's what you really want. You just have to decide if it is."
"Even if I decide it is...still doesn't mean its going to happen."
Doesn't mean it won't either."
"Yeah...yeah...I guess so..." Tony met Gibbs' eyes then with a faint smile touching the corners of his lips. "Bet you're sorry you came over here now, boss. That's what you get for pushing me to talk."
"You can always talk to me, Tony...you know that, don't you?" Gibbs knew he wasn't the most approachable guy in the world, but he wanted his team to know he was there for them whenever they needed him.
Tony nodded slowly. "I do know that, boss. That's why I find myself at your house unexpectedly sometimes."
"I thought it was my cowboy-style steak," Gibbs smirked.
"Well, yeah... that too," Tony laughed. "But pizza isn't a bad substitute."
"You feel like eating some now?" Gibbs asked.
"Yeah, I think I can manage to get down a slice or two," Tony said as he reached for the box and opened it. He passed the box to Gibbs who took a slice and then took one himself. "Basketball game's on...you feel like watching it?"
"Sure, sounds good," Gibbs said as he settled back on the sofa to relax, watching as Tony got up and went into the kitchen, returning with plates and a couple of beers, one of which he handed to Gibbs.
Tony then sat down and turned on the television. He was now glad that Gibbs had come over. He had to admit sometimes he forgot that people cared about him...it was nice to be reminded.