Usually it takes a strong person to handle the things he has. He is a strong person, but it doesn't mean that he doesn't have the right to stop for a moment. It doesn't mean that he can't break down and need help, even if it is just for a moment. A moment long enough for a teardrop to fall down the cheek, the smile to fade and a person to breathe without being afraid of losing control – it already has been lost. Even if it is for a brief moment lasting 20 seconds in the corner of a highly secured building. And then everything will be like it was – the silly smile, the movie quotes and practical jokes. No-one will know what happens in the secret corner once in awhile – no-one needs to know.
With a bright smile Anthony DiNozzo walks to the bullpen after his return from his secret place.
"Where were you ?" His partner asks.
"It's none of your business, Katie," he snaps at the ex-secret-service-agent.
"Where's Gibbs ?" Tony asks.
"With Ducky," Kate replies, this time her eyes won't leave the screen.
Tony nods and opens the case report on his table. His full focus is on the words he has written some time ago and nothing could pull him into the reality, except...
And a grumble
Gibbs' hand collapses with the back of Tony's head.
"What are you doing DiNozzo ?" the team leader asks.
"Reading a case report," Tony replies innocently.
"You don't need to do that now. The case is closed, help Kate with the current one. Start calling Petty officer Smith's friends and family," Gibbs orders.
"On it boss," Tony says and starts working on something he doesn't care about.
Something is off. That's what people should be thinking, not start working. Something is off and it is yet to be discovered.
8-years-old Tony is standing in front of the schoolhouse. It's 2 hours since his lessons ended, but his father hasn't arrived yet. He must have forgotten again, but Tony honestly don't know where to go. Still he starts walking in one direction, hoping to see something familiar. But everything is the same – strange, ugly buildings and busy people rushing past the little boy, who is obviously lost.
Until as strange as it is a teenager stops and looks at Tony.
"Are you lost ?" she asks.
"Yes," Tony replies shyly.
"Do you know your address ?" she asks.
Tony says it after a moment of thinking.
The girl smiles, hails a taxi, she even pays for it and the taxi takes Tony home.
He has never seen that girl again, but it feels like she was the light this little boy needed at the time.
"Go home, get some sleep," says Gibbs as he walks to the elevators.
"Going home ?" Kate asks.
"No, not quite yet ?" Tony replies simply.
" You wanna talk about it ?" Kate asks softly.
For a moment he considers talking to her. Maybe it would be easier if he let everything out. If he shared some facts of the real man inside and stop hiding behind the mask of a clown. Maybe she could help... No, it is a terrible idea. She might slip something and use his weakness against him one day. He could share a secret and then be loser, because of it.
"No," he says. The tone in mixed with anger, determination and a hint of doubt.
"Some other time then," she says simply. The voice is friendly, sweet and caring, that makes him feel bad about the tone he used before.
He looks up to say something nice, but she is already entering the elevator.
"Night..." he says, but it is lost in the empty bullpen around him.
Another case brings back the memories of deception. A case with kid, who is always forgotten, not cared about and the father, who is now dead, was thinking more of women than his son. It wasn't just another case with bad family situation. It's a case of reality. This is basically him, except the name and age and the dead father part. Tony had a feeling about it whole the time, but he never said anything – he might explode.
As they closed the case, Tony left for WC. At least that what others thought. What Tony wanted them to think and trusted them to think that way, but inside he knew that they might not believe it.
Just as he stood there, breathing, while the teardrops fell, he felt someone there.
"Tony," a feminine voice came from behind him – Kate.
"What do you want ?" he asked roughly.
"Are you okay ?" She ignored the rough tone.
Tony wiped the tears and turned around.
"I'm fine," he lied.
"That's what I thought," She said.
They both knew he was lying and they both knew she knew. But they didn't vocalize it – there was no need.
She walked closer and hugged him.
"You can talk. You can cry. I won't tell," she whispered.
"Not yet. One day," he said.
He wiped the last tears and let her be there and comfort him. And she did it pretty good.
He is ready. Ready to talk about himself. Ready to open his old wounds and let them be open. But he was ready to open them to one person – Kate. It must be some kind of irony, that the moment he is ready, she is not here. Yeah, Caitlin Todd is now in better place, wherever it is. But there is a place for them to meet – graveyard.
Tony left a quick note on the table, letting others know that he won't come to work for a couple of days.
He walked between graves. They all looked similar, but they were not. But he only came here for one of the dead. His best friend.
"Hey Kate. I'm ready now. But you weren't there. You are not on my reach anymore. But I won't forget you. The truth is that I miss you, but I probably won't be able to tell it anyone, beside Abby and Ducky perhaps. What I came here to say is that I am not, who you think I am. Half of the pranks I talked about, weren't from me – they were made to me. I am the one some guys bullied and my father was not much of a father, so I fell into depression. At college I found that lying is easier than telling the truth. And then I became, who I wanted to be. Looking back now, it seems silly, but I was silly at the time. Girls like bad-asses better and it makes making friends easier. I became a jerk, I know it.
You made me confess it. And I really would have liked you to know it, because in a way you were always there for me, even if I wasn't nice to you. I wish you you were here now too, because I might need you. For some reasons I could find myself falling in love with someone like you, but not with you, because then I'd hurt you and I wouldn't want to do that. You're my best friend. I want you to know that I'll be here for you too. I will visit you and keep you company. Just so you know, you were very dear to all of us. Even Gibbs was nice, while he was mourning," Tony said.
A blowing wind.
A lost whisper.
Worms moving around.
Maggots eating the flesh.
A man crying over a grave.
And nothing else.
"You were there for me and I wanna return the favor. Just let me know how," He said and walked away.
A tear fell.
He didn't wipe them.
He let them fall down his face.
Abby flew to Tony, when he walked to her lab after 2 days of personal time. She gave him a bone-crushing hug.
As Tony watched the lab, he could swear he saw Kate standing there. She didn't say anything, but he knew what she wanted to say. She wanted him to look after Abby and she was letting him know, that she will always watch over him. She is wherever he is – always there.