Keep Marching On
Senior field agent Anthony DiNozzo had a bad feeling as he walked into NCIS headquarters on Monday morning, though he hid it well behind those masks he wore so exceptionally well each day. Even after so many years, it still amazed him no one saw through them – well, Gibbs probably did, but then again, what didn't Gibbs know – saw the real him. Today, he needed his masks more than on normal days, he could just feel it in his gut that something was happening, something bad, he just didn't know what.
"Good morning, McGoogle, Zee-va!" He exclaimed happily as he walked into the bullpen, showing nothing of his troubling thought. Sometimes he really thought he should have gone into acting; he was just too good at it.
"Tony," They both acknowledged him with a brief nod his direction before going back to whatever paperwork they were doing that day. It had been oddly calm that week – only one murder-case and they'd solved it in less than a day – like the calm before the storm.
"Gibbs not in yet?" He asked, only to be hit on the hit from behind; he groaned, more out of habit than anything else.
"You're late, DiNozzo."
By 10am, Tony was feeling more and more restless, and it was getting harder by the minute to hide his agitation from the team. Finally, he stood up.
"Where do you think you're going, DiNozzo?" Gibbs questioned.
"The head, boss," Tony replied instantly as he began to walk towards the facilities, but he wasn't even halfway there when the ding of the elevator halted his movements for reasons unknown to him. He felt it was important to know whoever was in the elevator.
As they stepped out, it didn't take a genius to figure out that the 3 men were FBI, especially since one of them was Fornell. Gibbs stood up and made his way toward Fornell, Tony watching their every move, as were Ziva and McGee.
"Got lost, Fornell?" Gibbs asked, taking a sip of his coffee, not even bothering to look at the two other agents, rookies, from the looks of it.
"I'm here on official business, Gibbs," Fornell replied, wearing that same smug smirk on his face as he usually had when confronted with Gibbs. Tony would swear that they were secretly friends and the whole hating each other deal was purely for show. He often wondered if the others saw through their charade as well.
"Really, and what official business might that be?" Gibbs countered.
"I'm here to talk to DiNuzzo," Fornell said, saying Tony's name in that usual way that made Tony want to rip his head off. However, he hardly registered that at the time, all he could think about was how the FBI wanted to talk to him, again. Were they here to accuse him of murder… again?
Tony put on his famous DiNozzo charm and stepped forward, "FBI just can't get enough of me, huh. It's okay, I understand, I know I am simply irresistible, impossible to stay away from, too goo-" He was cut off from his ranting by another Gibbs slap.
"Thank you, boss," He grunted.
"You think you have an interrogation room free for us, Gibbs?" Fornell turned to Gibbs, pointedly ignoring all that Tony had just said, as well as the curious stares from McGee and Ziva who had stepped behind Gibbs to hear the conversation better. Tony was bothered by the fact that they wanted to conduct an official interview, but didn't let them see it.
"Not unless you tell me what this is about, Tobias," Gibbs said.
"You'll just have to wait and see, Jethro. Now, how about that room?"
"What do they think Tony did this time, boss?" McGee asked as he stared through the glass at his friend and colleague, looking relaxed as ever as he sat in the interrogation room on the suspects side. Fornell had agreed to let them watch from the observation room, but wouldn't tell them anything else.
Gibbs didn't reply; he just shared a look with both Ziva and McGee, making them realize that something in Gibbs' gut didn't sit right with this. Fornell walked in, and they knew that they could only watch, for now.
For a while, Fornell and Tony simply stared at each other, not saying a word, until Tony broke the silence.
"If you wanted to stare into my pretty little eyes, Fornell, all you had to do was ask." Tony wiggled his eyebrows suggestively toward the FBI agent, who, for all his credit, didn't even blink.
"Always the joker, DiNuzzo," Fornell said in reply, Tony shrugged. Something in Tony's posture must have shown he wasn't as comfortable as he pretended to be, because when Fornell spoke next, he kind of caught Tony off guard.
"Relax, Tony, you're not in any trouble."
Tony sat up straight, eyes hard, his 'joker' routine forgotten for the moment as he contemplated that statement.
"Then why am I here?" Tony asked.
Fornell placed a photograph on the table and as much as Tony tried to keep his body from reacting, his muscles tensed up, his jaw clenched and his eyes darkened.
"You know him, DiNuzzo?" Fornell asked casually, as if he hadn't been observing Tony's reaction.
"He seems… vaguely familiar," Tony said; which was quite the understatement. The man – if he could even be called that – was a permanent fixture in Tony's nightmares every other night.
"Only vaguely? He was your piano teacher from when you were 4 until you were 12, was he not?" Tony didn't reply, so Fornell continued. "I'd say that's a bit more than vaguely familiar, DiNuzzo." Tony still didn't reply, fearing he'd say the wrong thing and blow his secret through the roof if he did.
"Your former piano teacher, Andrew Harper, was, up until three weeks ago, imprisoned at the federal penitentiary of DC, until he escaped." Tony clenched his fists, but still didn't speak. The only thing going through his head was that this was not happening; it couldn't be happening.
"I do not like this, Gibbs," Ziva said from behind the observation glass. They could all see how stiff Tony sat, how tense he became when Fornell placed the photograph on the table for Tony to see.
Gibbs merely grunted, too fixated on his senior field agent to reply. He knew little of Tony's past, but from the small comments he'd heard during the years, he'd surmised it hadn't been a picnic. He was worried about what was happening, and what it would do to his surrogate son. He doubted it'd be any good.
"Aren't you in the least bit interested why the man who worked with you on a daily bases for 8 years was serving a life sentence in prison?" Fornell asked; truthfully, he regretted having to do this, having to break the agent before him in order to get him to help, but the order had come from high up, he had no choice but to follow it through. The only reason he was allowing Gibbs and the two other agents to help was because he hoped they'd be able to fix what he'd break. That is, if he was able to break him.
"No." The answer was short and to the point, as well as laced with anger, fear and disgust. No, Tony didn't want to know, because he knew whatever the reason was, it happened because of him and the secret he'd kept for all these years. It happened because he was silent when he should have been loud.
"I see. You know what, I'll tell you anyway," Fornell started, then proceeded by laying a photograph of a 12 year old Anthony DiNozzo on the table; Tony frowned but still said nothing, not even when Fornell placed another picture of a young boy bearing a huge resemblance to a young Tony on the table.
"Looks like you, doesn't he? His name was Anton DiMarro, Tony to his friends. He was 11 years old."
"He's dead?" Tony finally asked after swallowing the lump in his throat.
"Yes, died 13 years ago. Murdered, actually. Any guesses who killed him?" Fornell looked up at Tony, but Tony's eyes were fixed on the picture of himself and the boy who looked so much like him, who's name was so similar to his own.
"13 years ago, Andrew Harper kidnapped this boy on his way home from school. He tortured and raped little Anton DiMarro for 3 weeks and in the end, he bashed his head in. Turns out, he was the boy's piano teacher, had been for several months before he snapped. We caught him and in the end he was sentenced to life in prison. Case closed. Now, he's escaped, probably waiting to strike again…"
Tony finally looked up at Fornell, his eyes showing no emotion whatsoever. "I don't see what this has to do with me."
"Now we both know that's a lie, DiNuzzo. How long are you going to keep quiet about what happened? How many more deaths do there have to be for you to tell the truth?" Fornell knew he was acting like a jackass, but also knew he had no choice. He could see he was getting to the agent, cruelty was key in this case, it seemed.
"He… I didn't… this wasn't my fault," Tony sounded so defeated and it was clear that he didn't believe the words he was speaking.
"Wasn't it? Are you telling me there was nothing you could have done to prevent this little boy's death? Nothing you could have told?"
"No," Tony choked out, his eyes watering, but refusing to let any tears fall, to show any weakness.
"I don't believe you, DiNuzzo. You let that boy die, you might as well have killed him yourself."
"No," Tony moaned, his head in his hands.
"Your silence killed this boy and you know it. No one knew, you never said anything, never asked for help. Did you even want it to stop? Did you enjoy what Harper did to you?" Fornell pushed and pushed, until finally Tony snapped.
Tony slammed his fist into the table, eyes raging and out of focus, mind lost in the past as he shouted at Fornell, "I did tell, you bastard! My father! My doctor! Hell, even the fucking housekeep! They all knew! They didn't fucking care! They killed that boy! Their silence, not mine!"
Tony's eyes were wide with shock, sadness, anger, fear and many other emotions as he realized what he'd said, what he'd admitted too. But then he realized he didn't reveal a damn thing, Fornell already knew, he just wanted Tony to admit to it.
"You already knew," Tony whispered, his voice sounded as broken as he appeared to be.
"Yes, I knew. When Harper escaped, we combed over every inch of his past, trying to determine if what he did to Anton DiMarro was a one time occurrence or if it'd happened before. Turns out, DiMarro was simply the first he'd kidnapped and killed. Before him, he'd raped 5 other boys in different part of the country, repeatedly, over a period of months, before disappearing when he feared the boys might crack and talk. All the boys had in common was that they were between 10 and 12 years old, they all bore the same appearance to DiMarro and that they were all dubbed the nickname Tony."
"I think I'm gonna be sick," Tony muttered, unaware that Fornell, as well as those observing behind the glass, had heard the comment. Fornell sighed, but continued his mission nonetheless.
"We went through every inch of Harper's life, and eventually, we found out where he started, whom he started with. It was easy for him, wasn't it? He needn't worry about anyone finding out, or you telling anyone, because they didn't care or they were paid to turn a blind eye, maybe even threatened."
"I smashed everything in the house. My father was so damn angry he did what he'd always threatened to do and sent me off to military school in a fit of blind rage. Never realized it was what I'd been aiming for, the bastard," Tony said, speaking more to himself than to Fornell. He was in his own world now, a world filled with nothing but terror and pain.
"You got away. You were smart." Fornell felt he had to compliment the agent, tell him something that wasn't designed to hurt him; it seemed as if Tony didn't hear, or simply ignored the statement.
"Why are you doing this to me?" Tony's voice sounded so small, so child like and innocent that Fornell couldn't help but shiver.
"Because we need your help."
Behind the glass, Ziva, McGee and Gibbs watched in shock, unaware that the secret Tony had been hiding all these years was so big, so destructive, so heartbreaking. He'd always hidden his true self, his pain, so well behind those masks he always wore. They'd never suspected that the past he'd buried so deeply within himself was something like this. It just didn't seem possible.
When Tony admitted what happened – even if he didn't say so in exact wording, it was as much of admitting as could be at the time – Gibbs had felt his heart break. When Tony asked Fornell why he was doing this to him, his voice so small, so broken; he'd felt his heart shatter into a thousand little pieces. And he knew that this was only the beginning, that he'd feel his heart break and shatter several more times before the day was over.
TO BE CONTINUED