AN: This story will have spoilers to episodes prior to, and including 8.05 "Dead Air". I, like many people, was appalled by the actions of certain members of Team Gibbs. That said, I am NOT going to bash those characters. I adore each character in the show.

Tony is very under-appreciated. I truly believe that he is far smarter than he shows people. Bear in mind that it takes an excellent memory to remember all those movie lines, and apply them to cases. Like Tony, I myself have an excellent memory for what I read and hear. I also do my best work when multi-tasking, and while it may seem like I have a short attention span, I am in fact absorbing nearly everything that goes on around me. When I was younger, I would often cook, study for an exam, talk on the phone, and listen to music at the same time. I never burnt the food, did pass the exams, followed the conversation without confusion, and enjoyed the music. In various episodes of NCIS, you will notice that Tony does the same thing. "He does his best work at night," is also very true with those of us who have trouble keeping regular sleeping hours. The eidetic memory is just poetic licence. It is after all a fanFICTION. If I followed the script of the show exactly, this story would be boring.

Before you criticize my characterization of Tony, please bear in mind that there are people with abilities like these. That said, thank you for taking the time to read my work. Reviews are welcome and appreciated.


Would the Real Tony DiNozzo Please Stand Up

It took a lot to get Very Special Agent Tony DiNozzo angry. What made this moment all the more terrifying for anyone who knew him, was the fact that his eyes, the only true sign of his feelings, were showing that he wasn't merely angry…he was livid.

A joke…that's what they'd called it, a joke. The worst part was that Ziva and McGee didn't even realize just what they had done. They were Federal Agents for crying out loud. Their FLETC Training taught them that you NEVER leave your partner without back-up.

The suburbs could hide a multitude of sins, as any beat cop could tell you. The fact that Tony was under-cover in suburbia for no more than four hours had no bearing whatsoever on his needing back-up. Murder could happen in a second; all it would take is one word out of place, an expression on his face changing, or even him seeing the wrong thing and he would be dead.

Tony might joke during their down time, or even on the job to relieve tension as needed, but he had never left a partner without back-up. Not even when he first began to suspect Danny of being dirty did he do that. Besides which, a joke is funny; this was anything but funny.

He knew that they didn't respect him, his position as Senior Field Agent, or even his proven capabilities. He had thought that they at least respected the rules of a Federal Agent in general, and a NCIS Agent in particular, never mind Gibbs' Rules which were a power unto themselves. Apparently, he was mistaken.

Tony walked calmly and silently into NCIS and past Security, McGee and Ziva trailing behind him and looking confused at his silence. He didn't even greet Fred, the security guard, as he usually did.

Fred at least was intelligent enough to realize that Agent DiNozzo, who was the nicest person he ever met, was furious, and didn't want to take his anger out on an innocent victim. Fred simply nodded at the agent, and silently vowed that he would help hide the bodies if necessary. Agent DiNozzo was the only agent who'd bother to bring a lowly security guard a cup of coffee, or soup if he had a cold. He was the only agent to ask about Fred's grandchildren, and he even remembered their names. Yes, he'd help hide a body for that man.

Tony began to walk faster when the elevator came into view, nearly at a jog by the time he reached it. He slapped his hand on the button with more force than was necessary, and slipped between the doors before they were fully opened. He then hit the close button before McGee and Ziva were within six feet of the door. He felt strangely victorious, watching the doors close in their faces.

He rested his aching head against the silver panel by the doors as the elevator began to move. His throat was sore, his head pounding, he was tired and achy. Tony stared into the blurry reflection of his eyes.

When did they cross the line from friends who thought he was a bit dumb, to co-workers who wouldn't care if he died?

He supposed for Ziva it began when he was investigating Michael Rivkin on Gibb's orders. For McGee, he couldn't begin to guess.

While Ziva was missing, he spent a lot of his time off just reconnecting with Tim. He thought they were friends, brothers even. They had played video games, watched movies together, even played basketball. What changed? When?

With a ding the doors slid open revealing Gibbs, coffee in hand. Gibbs arched a brow and said nothing.

"Care to join me, Boss," Tony said, stepping back from the doors.

Gibbs entered the elevator, somehow knowing that he wasn't going to like what was about to happen. He hit the 'door close' button the moment he turned around, and hit the stop button a moment later.

Tony stood beside him, head hanging. He glanced quickly at Gibbs, then dropped his eyes again. "I think I screwed up, Boss."

"Were you made?" Gibbs asked. "Did you get the voice prints?"

"No and Yes," Tony mumbled into the hands he was scrubbing over his face.

"Well what makes you think you screwed up then? Sounds to me like you got the job done," the older man stated, frowning at the lost look on Tony's face.

"I don't know what I did that caused this," he said softly. "But I had to have done something." He looked his boss in the face this time. "Ziva, I get. Things haven't been good between us since Rivkin. Somalia changed nothing. She doesn't know or care what I had to do to stay alive until you could kill Saleem. What I don't get," he paused here, and shook his head, "is why McGee doesn't care whether I live or die."

Gibbs froze at that comment, not that it was much of a difference from a moment before. "What do you mean?" he asked.

"They turned it off, Boss. They turned the sound off." Tony's eyes looked watery, though he didn't cry. "If I'd been made, they never would have heard my call for back-up." He sighed here. "What do I do, Boss? I don't want to cause problems with the team."

"Damn it, DiNozzo! YOU aren't the problem!" Gibbs looked annoyed. "The problem is with them, not you!" This was accompanied by a headslap. Gibbs gripped Tony's chin and stared into his eyes. "Never forget this, because I'm not going to repeat myself…You are the best young agent I have ever worked with, and I'm proud of you." He paused then continued, "Apart from Shannon and Kelly, my relationship with you is the one I have put the most effort into. I will not have my hard work damaged by you blaming yourself for this." He patted Tony's cheek, and turned to face the elevator doors.

"Err, thanks, Boss. I love you too," the last part was said skeptically. "So, what now?"

"Now, we go to Abby's lab to get the recording of McGee and David. Maybe that will give you an answer," Gibbs said.


In Abby's labby…

Zombie Death Apocalypse was blasting out of the speakers, as Abby danced her way from the computer to Major Mass Spec, and back again.

Gibbs grinned at Tony, and the two quietly snuck behind her when she had her back to the door. "Whatcha got for us, Abs," they both said at the same time.

She let out a tiny scream and spun around. "Gibbs! Tony!" she said, punching Tony in the arm.

"What did you do that to me for?" Tony whined, "Gibbs snuck up on you too."

"Yes, but Gibbs is Gibbs," she said matter-of-factly, spinning to face her monitor again, and missing the small flinch Tony gave.

Gibbs, however, did not miss it.

"The comp…" Abby started, before Gibbs interrupted her.

"Hold that thought, Abby," Gibbs said sharply, frowning. "We're borrowing your office." He grabbed Tony's arm gently, pulling the younger man into the office with him, and then shutting the door. "What was that about?" Gibbs asked.

Both men automatically turned their backs to the window, where Abby was shamelessly attempting to read their lips.

"What are you talking about, Gibbs?" Tony asked, genuinely confused.

Gibbs stared at him, and arched a brow, waiting.

"What?" Tony asked again, frustrated.

"Something Abby said upset you. What was it, and why?" Gibbs said, continuing to stare at him.

Tony sighed, and rubbed the back of his head. "She was comparing us."

"What?"

"When you were gone on your…hiatus," Tony said, Gibbs brow arching at the last word, "Everyone, 'cept Ducky and Palmer, kept saying You're not Gibbs, or Gibbs wouldn't do it that way. Abby just punched me, and then said that she wouldn't do it to you because you're you." He paused and continued, "It just brought back some bad memories. Not her fault."

Gibbs looked frustrated. "You will tell me the rest later, Tony." He looked annoyed, "I have a feeling that I won't like it, but I need to know it."

"Yes, Boss," Tony said quietly.

"Come on," Gibbs said, and threw his ever-present cup of coffee in the trash, "Abby's waiting on us, and I'm out of coffee."

"On your six, Boss!" Tony followed him out into the main lab, where Abby was pouting slightly.

"As I was going to say," she said, "The computer is still running the voice prints."

"Not what we need," Gibbs said. "I need you to give DiNozzo a disc-thumb-thing with all the recordings of McGee and David's voices from today."

"Why would you need that?" Abby asked frowning.

"We just need to check it for something, and we need you focused on the voice prints, so I'll take care of this," Tony said, throwing his best grin at her.

Abby's face softened. "Anything for my Italian Stallion, and Silver Fox." Tony blushed, unused to the nickname she had given him when they first met. Back then it had been an insult, but now it was a mark of how far they'd come. "I'll get you the recordings ASAP," she said.

"Thanks, Abs," they said together, and kissed her cheeks at the same time. Abby beamed.

"DiNozzo! With me!"

"Where're we going, Boss?" he asked.

"Coffee," Gibbs said as though it were obvious, which it probably was.


At the diner…

"Speak, DiNozzo," Gibbs said, as they seated themselves in a red vinyl booth.

"You know I'm not a dog, right, Boss? Even if Fornell does call me your Loyal St. Bernard. I don't really think I'm the St. Bernard type, maybe a Labrador. They are loyal, hardworking, smart, and are good looking animals…" Tony rambled.

"Naw, you're more of a boxer…they drool," Gibbs said.

"Hey!" Tony exclaimed, but before he could say anything else the waitress arrived.

"You want your usual coffee, honey," she said to Gibbs.

He nodded and said, "Better bring some blueberry pie with it. We might be here a while."

"I'll just bring a pot then, shall I," she said, not waiting for an answer before turning to Tony, "You want coffee too, handsome?"

"Do you have any hazelnut creamer?" Tony asked. When she shook her head, he looked disappointed and said, "I'll make do with the regular creamer. Oh, and I'll have a piece of apple pie a la mode, please Beatrice," Tony said, checking her nametag, and then grinned up at her.

"Sure thing, Sweetie," she said smiling at him.

"She's probably older than me, DiNozzo," Gibbs said.

"I was just trying to brighten her day, not date her, Boss," Tony said. "I used to wait tables in college. I hated that job, I was always more tired after shift than after football practice and laps put together."

"I know," Gibbs said succinctly.

"You do?"

"Yep. I did a background check on ya' after you arrested me," Gibbs said.

Beatrice arrived just then, and said as she served them their pie and coffee, "I thought you were a Fed, Honey."

"I am," Gibbs replied. "Was undercover."

"Ah-huh. Is that all gentlemen?" she asked.

"Yep." Gibbs turned to Tony, as the waitress walked away. "Eat your pie, and tell me what happened when I was…on hiatus." He grimaced.

"I gotta say, yer confusing me, Boss," Tony said. "Do you want me to eat, or talk? I can talk with my mouth full if you're desperate." Gibbs glared. "Right, your hiatus," Tony said, then sighed. He took a bite of pie while he thought. "You said You'll do. What does that even mean, Boss? Does it mean, 'you're my only option', 'you're barely tolerable', or 'you passed muster and I trust you'?"

Gibbs interrupted here. "It meant that I trust you, I'm proud of you, and you're ready." He sighed. "I was in a bad place, and should've taken the time to tell you properly."

Tony stared at him in shock. "Really?" he asked, sounding a lot like a little boy. "I know. You don't say anything you don't mean." Gibbs nodded in approval. "So, um… I didn't know what you meant, and uh…they didn't either. Ziva thought she could run the team better, and thought I was a joke. She'd ignore orders in the office and the field. I'd have to practically yell at her to get her to do anything." He paused. "McGee began to think he was smarter than me around the same time, after all, I only have a Phys Ed degree." Both men snorted at this.

"I thought I taught him to do his research and never assume," Gibbs said. "If he had, he'd know that you're a genius."

"Not a genius," Tony said blushing. "I have an eidetic memory. That's different."

"Genius is easier for most people to understand. 'Sides, you graduated from RIMA when you were fifteen," Gibbs said.


July 19, 1980 (Tony was twelve years old)

Hotel on Maui…

Tony was watching a James Bond movie with Roger Moore and sighing intermittently. He was SO tired of being stuck in the hotel room instead of being on the beach. He hadn't even been on the beach once since they arrived five days before

His dad left that morning for a business meeting. Yeah right. His dad's business meeting was the beautiful 25 year old brunette daughter of Sam Worthing, oil tycoon. Just because he pretended to ignore his dad's business lectures, doesn't mean that he actually did. He idly wondered if she'd be his next step-mom. His last one, Rhoda, only lasted a year and a half, but at least she liked kids. She actually remembered his birthday, something his Dad didn't even do. Rhoda's gifts to him the past two years were the only ones he'd had since his mom died.

He'd been stuck in here all day, and it was almost eight o'clock at night. His dad had promised to get him for dinner in the hotel's restaurant.

Two hours later, he finally called room service for himself. It was his birthday, he'd just splurge. It could be his dad's birthday gifts for the past four years. So, he got the lobster bisque, surf and turf of lobster and filet mignon, and cherries jubilee for dessert. All the most expensive items on the menu.

It was his bad luck that he had a mild allergic reaction to one of the foods. By morning, he'd developed an itchy rash that covered most of his body.

He continued ordering the most expensive foods on the menu during the next day. Going out in public with a rash was tantamount to breaking one of the Ten Commandments. Thou shalt not be seen in public looking less than flawless, sounded about right.

The third day (second morning) of being alone in the hotel was just as boring, until around 11:00, when his dad showed up.

Their "loving reunion" was anything but loving. The most memorable moments included…

Senior: "Meet your new step-mother. This is Rachel."

Senior: "How could you be so irresponsible and spend this much money, Junior?"

Tony: "How could you be so irresponsible as to forget your kid when you left the state…Senior?"

Senior: "I am your father, and you will address me with respect."

Tony: "What a joke! The butler was more of a father to me than you ever were."

Rachel: "Goodness, what is that horrible blotchy red thing all over you."

Tony: "It's my allergic reaction to my new step-mom."

Rachel: "Children really are disgusting creatures, aren't they."

Tony: "This isn't disgusting. Just wait until I come inside after playing ball, sweaty, muddy, and occasionally bloody too."

Rachel: "Tony, darling, I can't possibly live with such filth. Why don't we send him to boarding school?"

Senior: "An excellent idea, Darling, I'll look into it immediately."

Tony: "Oh, what an excellent father you are! Sending your only kid away for a woman you'll only be married to for two years…no, make that one year. This one has all the brains of a paramecium."

Rachel: "Tony, darling, he just insulted me. You can't let him stand there and insult me."

By the end of the afternoon, Tony was disowned, on a plane for Rhode Island, angrier than he'd ever been before, and with a black eye and matching handprints on his upper arms.


October 31, 1980

Rhode Island Military Academy…

"I just don't get it, Sir. All his school records from before show incompletes, and behavioral problems; but since Anthony DiNozzo has been here, he's been a model student and cadet," the drill instructor said to the Commandant.

The Commandant just sighed. "Once you've been here a while, you'll be used to kids like him. He got no guidance or structure at home. Rewards for good behavior were non-existent. His own father was unreachable when we tried to notify him about Anthony's getting sick after being strung up on the flag pole. The man is a neglectful father at best, if not downright abusive."

"You don't understand, sir. This kid isn't just doing better in school. He's finished all of his class assignments for the next two years!"


May 1984 (Tony was fifteen)

Rhode Island Military Academy…

"DiNozzo, Anthony Jr. Class Valedictorian!"

Tony walked up to receive his diploma, already knowing that the polite clapping that he was hearing wasn't from his father or latest step-mother. The piercing whistle, however, was definitely from his basketball coach.


August 1984

Ohio State University…

"Welcome to Ohio State, Tony!" The Dean said cheerfully. "Are you sure you want to try for a TRIPLE major, after all, most people struggle with a double major."

"I can do it, sir," Tony said eagerly.

"I don't doubt that, son, having seen your record," the Dean said, "I just don't want you to burn yourself out."

"I won't," Tony interjected.

"Very well. What majors were you wanting to take?" the Dean asked.

"Phys Ed., Psychology, and Criminology."

An hour later…

"Sir, is it even possible for a sixteen year old to get three degrees, and still play basketball?" the secretary asked.

"If any sixteen year old can, it would be that one. He's a genius, with determination that I've never seen before," the Dean replied.


Back in the diner…

"Back to McGee and David," Gibbs said, re-directing the conversation, "What else did they do?"

"You mean besides ignoring me, treating me like I'm stupid, not doing their paperwork and leaving me to finish it in addition to my own as Senior Field Agent and Acting Team Leader? They might have also been bad-mouthing me to Abby, other teams, anyone who would listen really. They even insulted me to witnesses and victims a few times," Tony said. "I should have written them up for it really, but I knew they missed you, so let them off with verbal warnings only."

Gibbs glared. "Ya' think, DiNozzo!"

"Anyway," Tony continued, "Abby just missed you, and believed what they told her about me being too hard on them." He smiled a bit. "Palmer and Ducky were great though. Ducky would make me come down for a cup of tea, whenever he saw the stress was getting to me. And Palmer, he just became my best friend while you were gone. He'd talk about the cases with me whenever we hit a roadblock. When we weren't on call, I'd still go in to the office most of the time, but Palmer would make me take some time off by asking me to help him move or be his wingman at a club."

Gibbs let out a small smile. "He did good," Gibbs said. He turned to the waitress at the bar, "Can I get a cup to go, and the tab?"

"Sure thing, Hon. Be right there," she replied.


Gibbs Office, aka the NCIS elevator…

"Go down to Abby and find…" Gibbs began.

"…out if she has a match on the voice print yet," Tony finished for him.

"Then you get…" Gibbs continued.

"…up to the bullpen to update you," Tony said.

"Nooo," Gibbs drew it out, "You get down to Ducky, and get checked out. You sound like Mike Franks."

"Hey!" Tony exclaimed, proving Gibbs' point when it came out as a croak.

"Now, DiNozzo!" Gibbs said, exiting the elevator.

"On it Boss!" Tony half croaked, half squeaked.

The doors closed between them, and Tony hung his head. He still hadn't looked at the files Abby had given him. The files that would show if McGee and Ziva had lied about turning off the radio, or if they really had left him without backup.

He felt nauseous, like he had after Danny admitted to getting kickbacks. With a 'ding' the doors opened, and, bypassing Abby's lab, he dashed into the men's room, leant over a toilet was sick. He didn't think he could take another betrayal like that.

Tony finally left the bathroom, still feeling a bit ill and shaky.

"Hey, Abs," he said hoarsely, walking into her lab. He gave her a tremulous smile.

Abby spun to face him. "Tony, where's my Caf-pow?" she said then froze, noticing how pale he was. "Tony, you don't look so good. Are you okay?"

"I'm fine, Abby. Have you got a match on the voice print?"

"Here," she said handing him her half-empty Caf-pow. "I think you need this more than I do right now. Just let the cherry ethyl propionate coat your throat. You'll be all right."

"Wow. I forgot how strong that stuff is," Tony said.


November 2001

Gibbs house…

Tony was staying with Gibbs, because Wendy had left him at the altar and kicked him out of their condo. Abby had finally begun to warm up to him, and was over for lunch, while Gibbs was helping Fornell move out of his house. It seems that Gibbs' ex-wife Diane, Fornell's current wife, was kicking the FBI Agent out.

"Have you ever had a Caf-pow?" Abby asked, smiling at Tony and waving a plastic cup in his face.

"No," he said, eyeing the cup. "What's in it?"

"Cherry ethyl propionate," she replied. "I tested it with Major Mass Spec."

He took a hesitant sip from the straw then declared, "Hey! That's pretty good!"

When Gibbs got home three hours later, his living room was practically destroyed, with Caf-pow cups littering the floor. Tony and Abby were jumping up and down on his couch, each with another cup in hand.

"What the hell is going on here?"Gibbs shouted over the music of Vampyre's Kiss, Abby's latest favorite band.

Tony and Abby both froze, looking sheepish. Meanwhile, Gibbs made his was over to the stereo and turned it off.

"Uh, Boss," Tony said, "I can explain." At Gibbs glare, he amended, "No, I mean I can clean it up."

"Abs," Gibbs said, turning to the Goth, "Do you want your first head slap?" When she shook her head, he continued, "Home. Now. Abby."

"Yes, Sir, Mr. Bossman, Sir," she said saluting. She jumped off the couch, and grabbed her boots, scurrying towards the door.

"Abby," Gibbs said, turning to face her, "Don't call me 'sir'." He gave her a small smile.

She left, and Tony felt the tension in the room rise. "Erm…Boss, I'm really sorry about the mess."

"Uh-huh," Gibbs said, "Get off the couch."

Tony jumped off, landing on a Caf-pow cup, slipping on it and falling to the floor. "Ow!" he complained, getting up and rubbing his butt.

"Clean up this mess," Gibbs said. "And when you're done, you can just sit there, and try not to get into trouble."

Tony grinned sheepishly.

"You are never staying here again," Gibbs muttered, heading for the kitchen to get some coffee.