“As far as I'm concerned, he's the future president of nowhere.”
February 1, 2008. Washington DC
Tony and McGee stayed on Commander Portman’s protection detail in Annapolis all of Thursday. Portman was possibly their last lead – Park or Wan would want to finish their trifecta of revenge killings sooner or later. While it didn’t sit well with either of them to be using him as bait, they basically had no choice left.
So far though, neither Wan nor Park had surfaced to bite.
They were called back late Thursday night to start work on another case, handing Portman’s charge back to Agents Braun and Andover. Tony was not too happy about that, but it was Gibbs’ orders. And no matter how pissed off or disillusioned he might be, he simply wasn’t capable of refusing the boss’ orders.
Tony walked into the squad room next morning to find Gibbs standing in front of the big screen, staring at the image of some kind of electronic equipment. He trotted over after dumping his bag behind his desk.
“What do we got?” he threw out, not looking Gibbs at all.
“A hi-tech naval radar. Stolen while in transit from an M3 Inc. facility to the Navy Yard.”
“Let me guess, multi-million dollar radar?”
You called me back to retrieve this piece of junk instead of protecting a man in mortal danger?
“Is there a problem, DiNozzo?”
Gibbs turned to him then, but Tony kept his gaze fixed at the screen, acutely conscious of his little slip-up: he hadn’t addressed Gibbs as ‘Sir’ in a very, very long time. Fortunately, he was saved from any more awkwardness when McGee and Ziva walked in, and they started discussing the new case.
Tony seethed quietly, missing the good old days when he could speak his mind even if it earned him a head-slap, even if he ended up doing what Gibbs ordered him to do anyway.
Maybe that was the difference between faith and trust – faith was usually one-way and hardly ever reciprocated but one kept it anyway, like in God. Trust on the other hand had to be mutual, or it was basically pointless. Tony still had faith in Gibbs as their leader. But knowing Gibbs trusted him back was what once gave him his strength, made him believe he could do anything. But that was before. Now he wasn’t so sure his one-sided faith was ever going to be enough.
Everyone got busy with their individual tasks tracking the radar down. Hour later, a young delivery boy entered the squad room.
“Delivery from a… Damon Werth?” He called out, looking around curiously. He was carrying a large bunch of flowers – purple tulips and blue orchids.
Tony immediately felt his face heat up, either with outrage or exhilaration or both, he wasn’t sure. For God’s sake, Gibbs was right fucking there!
But before he start his mental diatribe about stalking psychos completely uneducated about prevalent gender stereotypes, the delivery boy read off the card once again. “For Officer David?”
He pronounced David the way most Americans did until she corrected them. Tony’s mouth was still open, agape with astonishment, and rapidly escalating embarrassment.
Ziva practically jumped out of her seat to go and collect the flowers. “It’s ‘dah-veed’. And that would be me, thank you!”
She grinned stupidly and buried her nose in the bunch inhaling deeply. Looking up, she suddenly realized Tony was right there. She turned to him, looking both sheepish and really, really proud of herself.
“I guess I took your advice. And it was worth it!”
Tony swiftly glanced at Gibbs, who seemed to be still immersed in his work. When he looked at McGee the tech expert turned a bright pink and refused to look back at Tony. The poor guy had still not been able to broach the subject of Tony’s bisexuality directly. But Tony didn’t mind, he knew his best friend just needed some time.
He turned back to Ziva and kept his voice as even as he could. “So, you and Damon…?”
Ziva laughed. “Oh no, well, not yet,” she pushed a strand of hair behind one ear coyly. “He’s just thanking me for last night. He loved the movie, as did I.”
Tony rolled his eyes, unable to control the sharp pangs of jealousy clenching his gut. “It’s not that great,” he grumbled petulantly and buried his nose behind an old file from the archive about past robberies of sensitive defense equipment.
“What are you saying?” Ziva dug out her pamphlet from the previous night and started reading. “It says here this movie was deemed culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant by the Library of Congress and selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry!”
“Oh, well, sure!” Tony threw his hands up in frustration, unable to come up with a good comeback, so just settled for a lame one. “If he really liked it SO much, maybe he should have like, sent some chocolates along too, huh?”
Right on cue, the delivery boy came running back in. “Um sorry, Officer David,” he pronounced her name right this time and held out a square box of… damn… chocolates to Ziva. “These came along with the flowers too.”
Ziva smiled oh-so-smugly at Tony, who just glowered dangerously. Before he could make a bigger fool out of himself, he got up and trudged away to the bathroom. He needed to get it together, and this was so not the place to be losing it in the first damn place.
He’d lost it two nights ago too, in the gym. All his pent-up frustrations had erupted in the form of violence and even Tony had been caught off-guard. Poor Damon had no idea what he’d gotten himself into when he asked to be his sparring partner. Although once he figured it out, he’d easily subdued Tony, annoyingly easily.
“Sonofabitch,” Tony grinded his teeth, furious at himself for being weaker than Damon, slower than Damon, and fucking more… asthmatic and plague-prone than Damon.
Tony washed his hands vigorously, over and over again. This was just stupid. For one, there was a very strong possibility Damon and Ziva were doing this on purpose, trying to provoke Tony but there was nothing going on really. On the other hand, maybe Ziva wasn’t lying. Maybe the two had hit it off after all. And why should that come as a surprise?
“That’s just what you are, Anthony DiNozzo Junior,” Tony hissed at himself in the mirror, “Easily replaceable.”
“No, you are not.” The firm voice startled Tony and he knocked his side into the granite top, wincing painfully.
“Seriously, Ziva, you gotta stop doing this!”
The Mossad officer stood at the door with her arms crossed, unfazed by Tony’s yelling. A second later, the door opened again and McGee walked in.
“What is this? A fucking intervention? Why don’t you call Gibbs and Abby and Ducky in too?”
McGee locked the door behind him. “We’d call Abby but she has a slightly different stand than us. That’s why Ziva and I – we wanted to talk to you separately.”
Tony exhaled his annoyance pretty obviously, leaning back against the counter and digging his hands into his slacks pockets. His friends were trying so hard he wanted to laugh. Their faces wore similar expressions of compassion that Tony tried his best to ignore. He didn’t want their pity; or anyone else’s for that matter.
“Okay, so what do you wanna talk about? My newfound gayness? Why’d I suddenly switch teams on you, McPrude, is that it?” Tony threw out, challenging them head on.
They looked at each other, and McGee was elected to answer silently. “I’ll admit I was surprised when I found out but – that’s not why we’re here, Tony.”
Tony crossed his arms. “Okay, so if none of you is homophobic, and I’m sure you aren’t, what’s the dealio?”
McGee continued. “When you went AWOL over the weekend, we asked Damon what happened. We know you basically dumped him after that night.”
“Yeah well, that’s pretty much standard DiNozzo MO, and you two have known me long enough to know it. So again I ask, what’s the big deal?”
“The big deal is that you’re miserable, Tony!” Ouch, he wasn’t expecting Probie to go for the jugular so soon. “We’ve never seen you like this before. Not even when Jeanne… let’s just say we get that there’s a lot going on here and… and we want you to know you don’t have to deal with it alone.”
“I’m fine,” he ground his teeth, seething.
His friends looked at each other guiltily, and Ziva responded this time. “Tony, those flowers and chocolates really are for you. Not me.”
Tony frowned, “For me?”
Tony erupted like a volcano. “And why, pray tell, is that idiot sending me flowers? Flowers? Seriously? Guy sending a guy flowers? When the hell did that become okay and in the workplace in a federal agency for fuck’s sake!?! Damon’s lost it. He’s just completely off his meds! And in his case, that was supposed to be a good thing!!”
He paused for breath, by no means done, but his train of thought (or six) got completely derailed when he looked at his friends again. Ziva was smiling.
“I ordered those flowers and chocolates, Tony, in Damon’s name.”
Tony blinked, realizing he’d been played. “You wanted to see how I’d react.”
“I wanted to know if Damon was right, if you actually do have feelings for him or if he is holding on to an illusion of something that does not exist.”
Tony looked away suddenly feeling exposed, and trapped with both Ziva and McGee blocking the exit.
Ziva walked up to him and leaned against the counter. “We let ourselves get caught in the middle of the two of you, Tony, and for that I am sorry.”
“Me too,” McGee added and he seemed to mean it, even though, technically, Tony was the one who’d gotten him embroiled in the first place.
Ziva continued, “Let me just say one last thing and we will get out of your hair – whatever you decide, McGee and I will stand by you one hundred percent. Abby might try to change your mind, but we will not. Even if we do not like it, even if we think you are possibly robbing yourself of another chance at happiness…”
Tony scoffed lightly. “There’s a ‘but’ coming, isn’t it?”
“But,” Ziva nodded and exhaled deeply. “I do think you owe Damon an explanation. It does not have to be anything you are uncomfortable telling but… he is struggling too, you know.”
Tony bit his trembling lip and looked away. Of course he knew; he’d seen it first-hand at the gym the other night.
Ziva put her hands up and slowly backed away, as if dealing with a skittish horse. “So I am just going to trust that you can take care of this by yourself and… next time Damon asks me for a favor, I am going to blow him up.”
“Off,” McGee corrected her blandly.
“Off, sorry, blow him off.”
Tony glanced at his partners’ reflection in the mirror as they both started for the door. Probie caught his eye first and attempted a brief smile. Tony didn’t smile back.
“Oh, by the way!” Ziva popped her head back in through the door a second later, startling Tony again. “You know Damon is going to be using our gym for a few days, right?”
“Yeah,” He appreciated Ziva trying to give him a heads up but he’d already made up his mind to avoid the place as long as Damon was frequenting it.
“Good,” she said. “Just wanted to let you know I have agreed to be his sparring partner.”
What? Tony swiveled around to face her, the ugly green monster starting to unfurl its hood again.
“Strictly platonic, of course,” Ziva offered immediately, probably in response to the dark look on Tony’s face. She tried brushing it off, which just made things worse. Awkward silence followed. Then, without another word, she popped back out of the door, leaving Tony alone with his swirling thoughts.
Why couldn’t he just make up his damn mind?
Damon waited inside the gym for his new sparring partner to show. He didn’t mind that she was running late. It gave him time to think, something he’d been doing a whole lot of recently. He sat down with his legs folded under him in the middle of the boxing ring and stared at his cell phone.
Earlier that day, he’d gathered the courage to text Tony: I miss you. He received no response.
An hour later, he tried again: Why won’t you give us a chance, what are you afraid of?
Once again, he got no response.
It took him another couple hours to put aside his very last shreds of dignity and try one more time: Fine, maybe not us. But I wish you’d give yourself a chance, Tony. You deserve to be cherished and taken care of for a change. You deserve to be loved.
He got a response seconds later: You sure about that?
Damon felt a cold shiver slither down his spine. What could have possibly happened to make a gorgeous, intelligent and competent cop like Tony DiNozzo so insecure and reclusive?
Of course I’m sure. Why do you even ask that?
Tony did not write back after that, no matter how much Damon tried. It was as if Tony realized he’d said too much and the rest was radio silence.
“I am late! Apologies!” Ziva called out as she walked in. “I shall go change and be out in a flash.”
But before she could, her phone rang. Damon stood up sighing, used to the ways of the NCIS by now and prepared to re-schedule for another time.
Ziva looked at the caller ID and frowned. “Tony! I was just about to … what? … Where? … No, Tony, do not go in there without backup! I am on my way, wait for me! ... Yes I will call McGee.”
She hung up and turned back the way she came. At the door she remembered Damon and paused for exactly half a second. “Sorry, Damon. Another time.”
Through the full-length glass windows he watched her dash to the parking lot instead of back inside the headquarters. Damon stared after her, not sure what was going on but whatever he’d heard had sent his hackles rising. Something was going down, something very, very dreadful and wrong. And it involved Tony.
He grabbed his own gear and ran out after Ziva.
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