Title: Undercover Cover-up - 1/2 (revisit to my ' Post Traumatic Stress' universe)

Author: BuffyAngel68

Rating: FRT - Language, descriptions

Summary: Tony's loss of control worries Gibbs and after a disconcerting private talk with the younger man, Jethro makes a call.

A.N. : Tony losing it with his captor near the end of "Under Covers" made me wonder. I don't think it was the bad guy he was yelling at. This is what I took away from those few moments...

Disclaimer: Don't own them, never will, not making money. If he *was* mine to care for, I would have had Tony in counseling long ago.

AN: This was begun before ' Frame-up ' aired, so it doesn't encompass that. Should have waited, but now it doesn't feel right to make significant changes.
-

Gibbs waited a week. He held off for seven full days while Tony recovered from the beating he had taken and slowly got back to being his normal, sweet, slightly irritating self. In truth, he thought he'd probably waited too long to confront his top agent on what had gone down in the hotel room. No matter what he said or did now, Gibbs was afraid he wouldn't get an honest response out of the younger man without a battle of wills. He comforted himself with the fact that if the struggle had to happen, at least Tony would be physically up to it.

Sighing quietly, Gibbs rose from his desk and moved to stand by Tony's, waiting silently. The other man looked up, his eyes showing confusion.

"Yeah, boss? Something you need?"

"It's time." Gibbs replied, inclining his head slightly toward the rear of the office.

"Uhhhh... okay. Time for what?"

"We're not doing this in front of everybody else, Tony."

Tony blanched, but managed to keep his composure and maintain his fa ade of being utterly clueless, despite knowing he was an open book to the man standing above him.

"Seriously, I don't know what you want, boss..."

"Get up, Dinozzo."

The words struck Tony as a clear command this time. Reluctant and a little angry, he held his place for another few seconds, but eventually he surrendered and stood.

"Where are we going?"

"Room two."

"Wait... *interrogation* room two? You can't be serious..." Tony protested, though he kept his voice pitched low so the others would be less likely to hear. When Gibbs, who had been staring at the floor, finally raised his eyes and locked gazes with Tony, much of the young agent's resistance melted away. Fiercely, he held that iron stare for a long moment, but he knew he couldn't win and moved off ahead of his boss without Gibbs having to say another word.

Once they reached the observation corridor, Gibbs secured the door leading back into the office, assuring that noone could casually walk in and see or hear what was about to happen. Still silent, he gestured and Tony moved inside the small room, leaning against the wall. Gibbs followed, closing the door. He waited patiently for a minute or two, but Tony remained where he was, so an order was issued.

"Sit."

"Yeah... don't think so."

"That wasn't a request."

"Didn't think it was, boss. I'm still not doing it." Tony shot back irritably.

"Special Agent Dinozzo. Sit your ass down. Now."

"I'm not a suspect, Gibbs. I did nothing wrong and I resent you treating me like I did."

"Nice try. You're not getting me off track. We are going to talk about this, Tony."

"Not in this lifetime we're not."

"Tony... you know damn well I can't send you undercover again until we get this straight. You're one of the best I've ever seen at that kind of role-playing and I need you available to work. Please... sit."

The soft appeal, and the atypical touch of sadness and concern Tony heard in it, reached the distressed young man as nothing else would have. Head down, he pushed away from the wall, moved to the table and dropped into the chair normally occupied by suspects and interviewees. Gibbs sat down across from him and folded his hands on the table.

"Okay. Talk to me."

"About what? I'm fine. I got knocked around a little, but everything's healed. I'm completely fit for duty."

"Your body is. Your mind I'm not so sure about."

Tony flinched slightly and turned sideways in the chair, arms crossed over his chest and defiance radiating from his expression.

"I said I'm fine. Believe it or don't."

"The guy you attacked is barely out of the hospital. You pretty much beat the hell out of him."

Tony smiled cynically and responded in a childish tone.

"He hit me first."

"I was there. I saw your face... heard what you were saying. That kind of rage doesn't come out of a sore gut and a bloody lip from a stranger, no matter how much of an asshole he is."

"Fine. Next time I'm kidnapped I'll pat the guy on the head and we'll have milk and cookies before he shoots me."

"Enough, Tony! Okay? No more games, no more smart mouth. Put that version of yourself on the back burner, drop the mask for a while and talk to me."

"I... what is it you want from me, exactly?"

"I need to know what was really going through your head back at that hotel when you were kicking the shit outta that guy."

"Nothing... except maybe keeping him down so he wouldn't dissect me with that big-ass knife."

"Uh-uh. No way. You're a pro, Tony. Not once in four years have I ever seen you cover a downed suspect by beating him and screaming at him."

Tony gazed over at Gibbs, his jaw tight and his expression closed off.

"That's not the way I remember it."

"I was there. So was Ziva. You want me to get her in here so she can refresh your memory?"

"I told you what I was thinking. There's nothing more to say. Can I get back to work now?"

Gibbs grinned and shook his head, a gesture Tony had seen too often not to understand what it meant; he wasn't going anywhere until the master interrogator was satisfied.

"How many times have you watched me in here, Dinozzo? You know how it goes. You give up the info I'm lookin' for... then you can go."

Tony's face lost all semblance of color and his expression shut down completely. A moment later he rose and began to pace the back wall of the interrogation room. Gibbs jumped on the obvious change in attitude. "What? What'd I say?"

"Nothing."

"Bull. You look like I just told you you've got two months to live."

Hands tightly fisted at his sides, Tony finally stopped and turned to face the other man.

"Why are you doing this? So I lost it for a few seconds. It was one time. It won't happen again, I swear."

"And it's my job to make sure of that. So? Convince me."

"You don't understand..."

"I'm trying. You've gotta meet me halfway."

Tony glared briefly at Gibbs and resumed his pacing. "You hate shrinks, Tony, and the new guy upstairs... I haven't heard a single good word about him. I want another option, but you need to give it to me."

"No! No shrink! Never..."

"Then talk to me. Am I asking that much? Is it that bad?"

Tony refused to answer this time, but his pacing became erratic, interspersed with sotto voce mumbling and occasional kicks at a wall or table. Gibbs also noticed the young man had begun to shake. Slowly sitting forward, the former Marine spoke quietly, hoping he'd managed to keep his sudden worry out of his tone.

"Tony... what's going on with you right now?"

Tony paced to within a few inches of the far wall and leaned into it with both hands, shaking his head. After one savage punch to the plaster, he collapsed slowly to his knees, his whole body now visibly shuddering.

Crouching by the spot where Tony had curled up against the wall, Gibbs stretched out a hand to touch the back of the younger man's head, but stopped himself at the last minute. He was all too aware that if he offered release and comfort too soon, the story Tony needed so desperately to tell might not come out. In lieu of that touch, he reached out to the violently trembling form in front of him with soft words.

"Just tell me. Let it go, Tony. What is it?"

"Everything... nothing." Tony finally responded, his voice sounding as if the words had been wrenched from his throat. "Hell, I don't know... Kate, Ari, the damn plague. I try not to think about all the shit that's happened, but sometimes... it's like I'm walking through a wall of mud. I can't see, can't breathe, can't fight back... but I can't give in, either. There's work to do, cases to solve... so I keep going, keep being the Tony everyone wants to see... and the wall just gets thicker... and I don't have the slightest idea which way is out. I'm so tired, boss..."

At last, Jethro extended a hand and stroked Tony's hair.

"I know. It's okay. I'm gonna make it better. Guaranteed. C'mon." he said lifting Tony to his feet again.

"Right. Back to the grindstone. Show must go on and all that..."

"Wrong. I'm driving you home."

"Boss..."

"Just for today. I can make it an order."

"Don't bother. I surrender."

"I thought you would."

GIBBS' CAR: ONE HOUR LATER

"Hello?"

"Adm... A.J."

"Jethro. I wondered if I'd be hearing from you."

"You know about the hotel."

"The whole Washington gossip circuit knows by now. I take it this is serious?"

"He's gone through so damn much the past few months."

"You all have."

"Yeah, well... he's gotten more than his share. It's wearing him down. He needs to regain control."

"We can handle that."

"We? Last I heard Clay was out of town. For a long time, maybe."

"I've got a new apprentice I'm working with. He could do with seeing how this kind of session is conducted. I'll bring him along."

"Whatever you say. I trust your judgment."

"By now? You damn well better. See you tonight."

TBConcluded...