The tall man’s posture was slumped and he walked to the front of the group with an air of dejection.
“Come on, you can do it,” Daniel encouraged, wide blue eyes earnest behind gleaming lenses.
“I know it’s hard, man, but we’ve all been there,” Blair added, almost bouncing in his eagerness to get his point across. “It’s the first step of the program. Admitting you have a problem is half the battle; the next 11 steps are almost easy in comparison.”
The tall man sighed and lifted his head, although he still wouldn’t look anyone in the group in the eye.
“My name is Tony,” he said quietly. “And I’m a trouble magnet.”
“Hi, Tony,” the other men responded.
“That was great, Tony,” Blair praised him. “Do you want to share with us how you came to this realization?”
Tony DiNozzo shifted uneasily. “It wasn’t one thing; it was kind of a series of them.”
“Go on,” Daniel prompted when DiNozzo seemed reluctant to continue.
“Well, there was the time that I kissed a woman who was really a man and got hit on the back of the head with a beer bottle.”
“Ouch, that’s gotta hurt,” Van Ray murmured.
“Blows to the back of the head are more common than you might think,” Blair reassured Tony when the taller man seemed embarrassed. “Go on.”
“Well, there was the time I got kidnapped by a serial killer, who turned out to be a woman,” Tony admitted. “Or the time I got knocked out by a woman who’d been brainwashed into thinking she was this crazy’s guy’s perfect wife. Or the time I opened an envelope filled with plague germs that this woman sent to the office and almost died.”
When DiNozzo’s voice trailed off and he again ducked his head, Blair sensed that the newcomer was feeling too self-conscious. “Hey, I was kidnapped by a guy trying to steal my identity and, man, was he wearing a stupendously bad wig.”
Tony lifted his face. “Really?”
“Oh, that’s nothing,” Daniel Jackson chimed in. “I got brainwashed by an alien who wanted me to breed little alien worms with her.”
Van raised his hand and added his own experience. “Drugged with a toxin and given hours to live unless my partners robbed a bank.”
“I got sick with the disease I’d been sent to cure,” a young man with dark hair admitted. “Then I got trapped from an earthquake.”
“Kidnapped by aliens and stalked by a cigarette-smoking man,” another man added.
A short blond wearing a leather vest over bare skin patted DiNozzo on the knee. “Hey, I’ve died more times than I can count.”
As each of the group members chimed in with their own experiences, Tony visibly relaxed.
“You see, Tony, you’re not alone.” Blair summed up when they’d gone around the circle. He gestured form the other man to reclaim his seat. “There are a lot of trouble magnets.”
“Yeah, I can tell that,” Tony said as he settled down in his chair. “But you said admitting that you’re a trouble magnet is the first step. What are the others?”
“You don’t want to bite off more than you can chew,” Blair admonished him. “Otherwise it seems to overwhelming. But I will tell you that the next step is acknowledging that there’s someone out there wiser than you and who will help you get out of the trouble that you attract. Mine’s name is Jim.”
When they’d once again gone around the circle, Blair gently asked the newcomer, “Do you have anyone like that?”
Tony blushed. “Yeah. His name is Gibbs. He’s the one that made me come here today.”
“Well, good.” Blair’s smile was bright. “You’re already ahead of the learning curve, then. The third step is to giving yourself over to his authority and care.”
“I already call him ‘Boss,’” Tony explained, “because he is my boss. Is there more to it than that?”
The other men chuckled.
“A whole lot more,” Blair informed him. “But don’t worry, this is only your first meeting and, as your
sponsor, I’ll help you through it.”
“You mean I won’t always be a trouble magnet?” Tony asked, eyes hopeful.
“I wouldn’t go that far,” Daniel Jackson said. “The support group’s more about ways to mitigate thedamage.”
Tony sighed. “That’s what I was afraid of.”