Washington, DC - September 15th – Friday evening.
Tony locked the door of his apartment behind him. Without switching on the lights, he slowly slid down to the floor and rested his head against the door, staring at the ceiling as the mask he had carefully worn all through the day started to crumble, letting pain and anger slip through the cracks.
He banged the back of his head hard against the wood and a thud echoed through the corridor.
What a mess.
He shook his head and sighed.
After coming back from agent afloat, he had truly believed that things would improve after a while, but now it was obvious, even to him, that he had been wrong. Things would never get better. Good old days were gone and had he been less dim-witted he would have realized it months ago, if not years.
Never was the sharpest tool in the shed, were you, DiNozzo? But usually, it doesn't take you so long to realize you have outstayed your welcome.
He closed his eyes and bit his lip, fighting back the bitter tears burning behind his eyelids.
He shouldn't be surprised. After all, his own father had disowned him, his fiancée had left him at the altar, his former partner had betrayed him and Jenny hadn't hesitated to use him as a pawn to get her revenge. One by one, all the people around him invariably ended up hurting him or leaving him, one way or another. It was only to be expected that, at some point, even his team would do the same.
God, he felt so pathetic. He should have learnt his lesson by now. Maybe they were right. Maybe he was definitively a thickhead.
He should have seen it coming from miles away. Okay, this day had been a real nightmare, but if he was honest with himself, it hadn't seemed worse than any other day since Gibbs had left then come back from Mexico. It hadn't been different from so many other days, except this time something had cracked and he had finally seen the light.
As so often now, Gibbs had been in one of his very bad moods, mumbling under his beard and shouting… no, rather barking orders as soon as he had entered the bullpen, before disappearing with Vance into MTAC without any explanation.
The door had no sooner been closed behind the team leader than Ziva had attacked, quipping about Tony's slightly scruffy look and advising him to pull himself together quickly, if he didn't want to waste his best skill, in case Vance wanted him for another supersecret undercover mission.
He hadn't missed the meanness behind her words and how she was not so subtly insinuating that given his lack of tech knowledge and military training, his 'best skill' was most likely his ability to seduce and get women in his bed.
Usually, he would have simply ignored her or would have dismissed her digs with some dry-witted retorts. But not this time. He had been too raw and on the edge for letting it slide. Six months as agent afloat, on top of the four months as team leader, during which he had stoically endured their permanent sarcasm and insubordination, had left scars.
He couldn't ignore how she purposely refused to admit how much what had happened between Jeanne and he had affected him and still acted as if Jeanne had only been another one night stand and his heart hadn't been broken. As if it was just a sick joke. As if he was nothing more than a cheap gigolo, bedding anything with a skirt on demand.
Of course, that was when McGee Ifoundmyballsanddecidedtousethem had chosen to join the party and to Ziva's greatest delight had gone back over the Voss' incident, before suggesting with a smirk that Tony might start to think about enlarging his field of action. Just in case.
He had felt anger bubbling inside him like molten lava. He didn't like the jokes about that case. Not because Voss was a he/she. He didn't care. No, what bothered him was that he was a murderer. A fucking cold blooded murderer, who killed Pacci and played him.
Tony jumped up, fists clenched, ready to tell them where they could shove their opinions, when Gibbs' cold voice had made him freeze.
"DiNozzo! Your sex life and your life in general doesn't interest anyone here," the former Marine had shouted behind him. "Get back to work before I kick your ass into next month."
The entire bullpen had fallen silent around them. He had tried to ignore Tim and Ziva's smug faces and managed to plaster a blank mask on his features as he turned back to face his boss.
"Gibbs, you can't..."
"Are you deaf or dumb? I said 'get back to work'. Now."
The tone was sharp, the words insulting, but it was the look on Gibbs' face which had been the last straw breaking the camel's back.
Suddenly, Tony had felt transported through time and space. He wasn't Special Agent Tony DiNozzo, standing in the bullpen of the NCIS Headquarters and arguing with his boss any more, he was Anthony DiNozzo Junior, twelve years old, squirming in the middle of his father's study as the man told him he was disowned and sent him to boarding school.
He had thought the world of Gibbs. The man had been the closest thing to a father for him. But at that moment, all he had seen in his blue eyes had been the same coldness and disdain he'd seen in his father's.
Something had collapsed inside him.
"Whatever you say, Boss," he'd literally spit between his gritted teeth, swallowing his pride once again and feeling his face burning with humiliation as he sat down and buried himself in his paperwork.
He had thought it would be for real this time. That for once he had found where he belonged, he had finally found what he missed the most: a family. He was wrong.
Whilst doing his best to ignore the condescending glances of his co-workers, he had tried to remember the last time he heard an "attaboy" or "Good job, Tony" or even got an approving look from Gibbs and had found out he couldn't. Not since he had come back from the Seahawk anyway. There was no smile anymore, no approval.
He knew Gibbs still blamed him for Jenny's death, even if he had never said it out loud. Apparently being agent afloat wasn't enough of a punishment and he wouldn't be too surprised to hear that the former Marine had brought him back to DC only to personally take charge of his case.
He rubbed his hands over his face.
Now the anger was gone and he was just tired. Tired of wearing his eternal clown's mask, pretending everything was okay. Tired of being the target of everyone anger.
He should have taken Rota. He had been stupid to refuse it. Stupid to stay after he had been demoted when Gibbs had finally decided to come back and just dumped his stuff back on his old desk without even blinking. Stupid to believe things could be the same again after Jenny's death. Gibbs didn't trust him anymore and didn't want him around. It was obvious and the team leader couldn't have made it clearer than he had done during the Maddie Tyler case.
Moreover, it had been months now since the last time Tony had been invited to share a jar of bourbon in Gibbs' basement. The former Marine had simply disowned him, just like his real father did years ago. Only this time there had been no shouting or threats, only glaring and scathing remarks.
There must have been something wrong with him. Otherwise, how could he explain that two men, so different from each other, finally ended up despising him in the same way?
He snorted with self-deprecation.
It seemed that he was back in his usual vicious circle. First his father, then the various police departments he had worked for and now his team. No, he corrected himself, not his team. Gibbs' team. They had made it fairly clear that they were not his, not as a team leader, nor as a SFA.
However, he didn't feel like a part of the team anymore. He was just the annoying and useless goofball no one knew how to get rid of.
Well, he wouldn't bother them any longer. He knew what he had to do. He had done it before, he could do it again.
Slowly, he hauled himself from the floor and headed towards the kitchen. After having rummaged through the cupboards and the fridge for a moment, he managed to put together a ham and cheese sandwich. The night would be long and he needed to refuel.
Once he had finished his Spartan dinner, he sat at his desk, opened his laptop and started typing.
Yes, it would be a very long night.
To be continued