Tony DiNozzo stood pensively in the elevator at NCIS and then pressed a button at random.
“Hey,” he said, “It’s been one hell of a ride. Although, sometimes I guess it wasn’t so much a ride as a stop between floors! You know, before I came here I didn’t even know it was possible to bring an elevator to a grinding halt like that. Yeah, sorry about that – sometimes it really did grind to a halt, didn’t it? It’s not all my fault though – Gibbs taught me a lot of things and that was one of them. I think we all got into the habit.” Tony paused and ran a hand thoughtfully along one of the walls.
“I reckon I’ve had some pretty scary moments in here! There was that time Ziva and me got caught in you – thanks, by the way, for being strong enough to stand up to the explosion. Yeah, that was scary but not as scary as the times when Boss hauled me in here to tear me a new one. I mean, he’s scary at the best of times but being trapped with him in a confined space – a very small dark confined space – well, that pretty much amps up the terror. You know …”
Tony stopped talking in surprise as the elevator stopped at a floor he had not selected. The doors opened, and Abby came in,
“Tony? Were you talking to yourself?” she asked anxiously.
“No,” he replied defensively.
“It doesn’t matter,” she said, “I wanted to say goodbye … and this is better because we don’t have to do it in public …”
Abby stopped the elevator for her first time, and then, a few minutes later, with a hug and a heartfelt, “I’m really going to miss you, Anthony DiNozzo,” she released the emergency stop button and said, “Um, Tony – this is your floor. Aren’t you getting out?”
Tony shuffled shiftily, “I-I-I need to go somewhere else first …”
Abby smiled, “Tony! Are you saying goodbye to the elevator?”
“No!” said Tony unconvincingly.
“Aww, that is so sweet!” said Abby. She leaned in for another hug, patted him on the head and left him to his farewells.
Left alone, Tony spoke once more, “It’s been a blast, elevator … in a manner of speaking. ‘Cos I really, really hope you don’t have any more explosions in your future … but who would’ve guessed how important an elevator could be … especially in a building that’s not that tall!”
Tony closed his eyes and hit a button at random. When the elevator doors opened, Tony ran a hand lingeringly over the control panel and then determinedly walked out.
“Bye,” he whispered.
The elevator doors swished closed with something like a sigh.
Autopsy was empty – well, empty of anything living apart from Tony.
“You know,” he said as he stood in front of the X-ray wall, “If someone had told me that Autopsy would be somewhere I spent a lot of time … well, I’d have either laughed or cried – or both. Actually,” Tony paused, “That sounds about right. There have been tears and laughter right here.”
Tony gazed at the drawer which Ducky unofficially reserved for fallen NCIS agents and he thought of Kate Todd, Chris Pacci, Jenny Shepard, Mike Franks … of Paula Cassidy. Of so many people lost too soon.
“Thanks, guys,” said Tony with a nod.
“Strange that I like it down here. It’s kinda tranquil and calm – even when Ducky is off on one of his tangents: but perhaps that helps it be calm, sort of soporific. And when he goes off on one with Palmer, that’s cool too,” Tony smiled reminiscently as he thought of his unlikely, slightly covert, friendship with Jimmy Palmer.
Tony looked around, letting the memories return and wash over him. Memories of despair as well as triumph; memories of times when Autopsy had served as a place for secret meetings and of a time when it had become a place of danger when Ari had infiltrated the building.
“Huh, for a place of the dead a hell of a lot of living goes on down here!”
Tony ran a thoughtful hand over the autopsy table on which he had once lain listening to Ducky and took a last look around as if trying to commit it all to memory.
“Thanks! For everything.”
The doors swished shut after him with a mournful sound.
Tony washed his hands and then grabbed a paper towel.
“Ah, Men’s Room,” he announced, “I guess it would have been too much to think that you would have just been a Men’s Room! Had some pretty special moments in here. I guess you’d have some stories to tell if you could speak!” Tony winced as he thought what some of those tales might be about, “Still, it’s probably as well you can’t. Not sure I want to hear stories about … well … puke and other stuff!”
Tony balled the towel up into a wad and threw it neatly into the waste-bin. “Hah,” he said triumphantly, “He’s still got it!” He bowed to an imaginary appreciative audience.
“Seriously though, you’ve been a Men’s Room like no other. And let’s face it, sometimes you weren’t exclusively a Men’s Room. Ziva liked it in here … or she did if I was in here. But I talked to Gibbs a few times in here … what is it about him and confined spaces? Maybe that’s why he likes his basement so much. Pity I can’t ask Jackson about that – was it something in his childhood, do you think? What am I saying, you wouldn’t tell me even if you knew …? I’m guessing that Men’s Rooms have to have some sort of code of conduct around confidentiality.” He paused, almost as if he expected an answer.
Tony took another paper towel, wiped his eyes, and then once more, balled the paper up and lobbed it perfectly into the bin. He smiled smugly and then, looking in the mirror, instinctively began tweaking his hair. “Light was always good in here,” he murmured. “Thanks, Men’s Room … for everything – for conversation, opportunities to restore the DiNozzo face and hair … and well, for the obvious facilities.”
As Tony left, the hot air hand dryer burst into life with a sad roar.
“Ah, Wall,” said Tony as he stood before the gallery of ‘most wanted’ pictures. “Not our first rodeo is it? You know I was always on your side. I understood your pain when we found out that guy, Jonathan Siravo, you’d had on your wall for years turned out not to be a bad guy after all. Things like that can make you lose heart – but you didn’t let it get to you, you just carried on. I admired that about you, Wall.”
Tony paced in front of the pictures, “Wall, you’re the reason we’re here. You show us the crooks we’re after, you never let us forget what our purpose is. And then, just when we take one of the photos down – well, we just get a replacement. But you don’t falter, you carry on – you’re an example to us, Wall!”
Tony stopped and gazed at the photo of the current top of the most wanted list but, in truth, he was seeing the pictures which had hung there previously and remembering how they had been captured and the cost involved.
“I salute you, Wall,” he said finally as he stood erect with his hand over his heart. “You’re what make us great! Oh, and sorry about the pumpkin colour … but not my fault!”
He laid his hand on the wall for a moment and then turned away. The air conditioning blasted across the photos creating a whining sound.
“Desk,” said Tony, “And Chair. You’ve been my faithful companions for years! I’ll miss you.”
Tony sat in the chair in front of his desk and spun around gently and patted the arms thoughtfully.
“Ah, Chair – you’ve cushioned the DiNozzo butt well – I thank you!” He lowered his voice and said conspiratorially, “Although I will admit to you that the DiNozzo rear end has become a little more self-padded over the years, so your task became easier. Don’t tell anyone!”
The chair creaked a little.
“And Desk! You’ve held my secrets, you’ve played your part too. So many hiding places, so much to hide! And you did it well. I’m proud of you – I hope you’ll be as kind to McReplacement when he sits here. Talk to Wall if you need advice on how to bear up in difficult times … just kidding, McGee will treat you right. In fact, he’ll probably be a better occupant than me – he has non-greasy snacks and a better organized desk tidy than me.”
Tony sighed and leaned closer, “But it’s been fun, hasn’t it, Desk?”
Tony patted the desk and then hoisted his cardboard box up from underneath: it was already nearly full but now Tony placed his American Pie mug and letter opener gently on the top. He was about to add his Mighty Mouse stapler but then grinned and put it on McGee’s desk instead – it seemed to fit, an unorthodox way of handing on the baton to Tim.
Tony looked across to Gibbs’ desk where he had already put the box of medals and then felt in his pocket for one of the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Awards he had extracted: somehow, he didn’t think Gibbs would mind and it felt like an appropriate reminder. He gazed around the squad room, once more allowing the memories to wash over him.
The orange walls had seen some extraordinary things and Tony suspected that, while he might not miss the colour, he would miss the room more than he had missed anything in his life.
“Thanks,” he whispered and walked away.
A stack of papers waiting to be filed, swept to the floor in his wake with a sigh.
“Ah, MTAC. You mysterious and wonderful place. And guarded by the Eye of Horus – or rather, by the Iris Scanner! And why was it, I want to know, that I was the only person who struggled to use it? Don’t answer that … it’s probably classified, and I don’t have clearance any longer.”
The headphone-wearing technician who was sitting at his keyboard looked around as he realised he was no longer alone. He removed his headphones,
“Can I help you, Agent DiNozzo?”
Tony waved an airy hand dismissively, “Nah, get back to work, Rob … I’m just looking … looking for a … contact lens!” said Tony. “And there it is!” he cried as he bent and seemed to snatch something from the floor.
“Really?” asked the technician, “I thought you had perfect eyesight. 20-20 isn’t it?”
“I didn’t say it was my contact lens, did I?” said Tony defensively. “It-it’s an undercover contact lens.”
“It’s a hazel coloured lens,” said Tony, hastily putting his hand in his pocket to prevent Rob from spotting it was empty. “I-I’m prepping Agent Bishop for an undercover op.”
“But Agent Bishop already has hazel eyes,” said Rob.
Tony glared, “Not this shade,” he asserted.
“Wow, it must be a pretty specific undercover op,” mused Rob.
“And that’s why she’s a Special Agent and you’re an MTAC tech,” said Tony loftily, “We all have our specialities.”
Rob nodded humbly.
“And you should probably be getting back to yours,” said Tony kindly if a little desperately.
Rob returned to his work and Tony decided on a silent farewell to MTAC. He ran a hand over the chairs on which he had so often sat, gazed at the giant screen, thought of all the conferences he had been involved in and relived some of the emotions which had swept through him in the time he had spent in MTAC. He quietly, and slowly, climbed the stairs; caressed the door handle for the last time and then left.
The huge screen sprang into life with a sad hiss.
“Candy Machine,” said Tony, “My nemesis! But I think we ended with honours even. And if you hadn’t taken to stealing my dollar bills I wouldn’t have had to resort to steal-liberating chocolate bars from you. It was all your fault, you know.”
Tony gazed at the sweet treats lurking in the machine, “But it was a pleasure to get to know you. To discover your weak points, find out where you were vulnerable … you were a worthy adversary. And of course, you knew my weak points from the start … luring me in with your chocolate and candy. Bad Candy Machine.”
Tony grinned as he remembered the battles, “And you got me into trouble, you know. Those healthy snack bars. Did Kate put you up to that? She surely enjoyed telling me they weren’t healthy after all! And sometimes, I let people sneak up on me while I was standing here deciding on my strategy … is that something to do with you? I guess you’re not saying. And I reckon you have to keep secrets … you need to keep silent about how many snacks we eat, all those useless calories.” Tony put his lips to the coin slot and whispered, “You can tell me … just how many Nutter Butters does McSlim really eat?”
There was no reply, so Tony stood up straight. “For old times’ sake,” he announced as he pulled a dollar bill out of his pocket, “Give me a chocolate bar,” he pleaded as he tried to feed the bill into the slot. The machine sullenly ejected it. Tony tried again and this time there was a depressing scrunching sound as the machine chewed the bill up.
“Oh well,” said Tony, “I’ll miss you, Candy Machine. Even if I do suspect you’re haunted or there’s some evil spirit hiding inside you … hey, I wonder if Stephen King would like an idea for a new novel?”
Tony patted the machine, “No hard feelings. And I will miss you.”
As Tony left the room the dollar bill cascaded out of the machine almost like confetti and the waste bin full of candy wrappers tumbled over and the paper whooshed out like a sigh.
“Ah, window,” said Tony, “You’ve been …”
“Sheesh, DiNozzo, just go already, why don’t you?”
Tony spun around and saw Gibbs standing watching him. The words had been harsh, but Tony saw that Gibbs wore an amused half-smile and that there was a twinkle in his blue eyes: it took Tony back to the early days of his time with Gibbs.
“Boss? What you doing here?”
“Security phoned me. They were worried.”
“Said you were going around talking to yourself.”
“Said you’d been to Autopsy, the Men’s Room … they got real worried when you went into the supply closet.”
“Supply closet?” said Tony innocently. “Um, they didn’t hear what I said, did they?” he added uneasily.
“Why?” said Gibbs with a piercing look.
“Oh, no reason,” said Tony. “I was just having a look around – you know. Reliving old memories.”
“What memories do you have of the supply closet?” asked Gibbs suspiciously.
“Oh … well, you know. Do you remember Melissa?”
Gibbs decided that he did know what sort of memories Tony might have been reliving in a closet and that it would be best to change the subject. He drew close to his former Senior Field Agent and said gently,
“Time to go, Tony.”
“I guess,” said Tony a little forlornly. “I was just looking around.”
“I know. I know. Come on, let’s go. I’ll walk you out.” Gibbs handed Tony his backpack and slung an arm around his shoulder and guided him towards the elevator. Tony noticed that his cardboard box was in Gibbs’ other hand.
Tony let Gibbs’ hand anchor him as he walked, almost in a dream, into the elevator. A few moments later, a rush of cool air told him that they were outside.
“I’ll leave you to say goodbye to your parking spot,” said Gibbs kindly.
“Thanks, Boss. I appreciate that,” said Tony.
Gibbs walked away, leaving Tony contemplating his old parking spot,
Gibbs sighed, and his breath added to the breeze. “Semper Fi, Tony,” he whispered, “Semper Fi” - he could have sworn that the breeze sounded melancholy as it drifted through the bushes.