Fandom: NAVY: NCIS
Pairing: DiNozzo/OFC implied, Gibbs/DiNozzo if you squint
Rating: Adult, for violence and language
Length: 3,000 words
For: bizarrehands, thanks for the pep talk.
Notes: For the NCIS Ficathon.
A Life at Sea
At eight-thirty that night Tony heard the sharp crack from the theatre down the hall.
Backfire, he thought. No. Gun.
Tony was never going to live this down.
"What part of 'hold still' are you having problems with?" the doctor said, as she pulled another suture tight. She was a plump, pretty brunette, with long, curly hair, and the weight suited her, all her curves lush and ripe in a way that made Tony's mouth water with a need to bite. Her name tag said she was Doctor Alonzo, and usually he would have had her first name out of her by now. But he was off his game tonight, in more ways than one.
Tony attempted a smile, but knew it wasn't one of his best. It was amazing how having someone stick a needle into your right palm, pectoral and biceps dimmed the joy de vivre. Still, it wouldn't do to let the side down just because of a bit of pain, so he replied, "The problem is that I've always preferred taking a more active approach when someone sticks things into my body."
Doctor Alonzo made a not-quite-laughing sound, "Why doesn't that surprise me?" and snipped the suture thread with a particularly happy snick. "Oh wait. Maybe it's because you let someone push you through a pane of glass."
"That was an accident. An accident." He was never, ever going to live it down. By Monday morning, Gibbs, in that miraculous way he had, would know everything. Tony sighed. "No one has any sympathy for a victim of crime these days." He gestured to emphasise the point.
Doctor Alonzo smacked his undamaged pectoral with a gloved hand. "Still! Unless you want your nipple pierced while I'm at it."
"Now that's what I call value for money," Tony said, and then, at the speculative gleam in Doctor Alonzo's eye, "but no. Maybe another night?" He raised an eyebrow suggestively, glad all over again that the glass hadn't cut his face.
The doctor looked a little startled, and then smiled at him, a fleeting glimpse of the real person peeking out from beneath her bedside manner. "Call me Angela."
"Angela." Tony smiled back, and it was one of his best this time. It was reassuring to know that at least he hadn't lost his touch along with his commonsense.
It was a fucking shoe shop, for fuck's sake. And he was off duty. He didn't even have his gun with him.
Tony had just wanted a pair of the black Michello's he'd seen the week before, and he had a few minutes to spare before he needed to head home and get spruced up for a Saturday night trawling at the Kremlin.
He stepped inside, took three paces towards Domenic, who was standing, arms akimbo, near the sales counter, and then a small, brown, weasel-faced blur barrelled into him, knocking him off-balance.
Like a scene from a Jerry Lewis movie, Tony had proceeded to trip over an abandoned box of expensive-looking Puccini's and had fallen, with his full weight and quite a bit of momentum, against the display window.
A moment later he was bleeding onto the dirty concrete of the sidewalk, a rain of glass and beautifully burnished leather shoes falling all around him.
The thief was nowhere to be seen.
"If you need further medical attention," Angela said archly, her hand, now gloveless, brushing against his, "I get off at nine."
"Oh, I definitely need more attention." Tony leaned in a little so that he could smell the warm, heady scent of her skin. "Promise you'll be gentle with me?"
"No," she said, her gaze resting on Tony's bottom lip.
The word lingered between them, intimate as a touch.
"In that case," Tony replied, his voice husky with the first prickle of arousal, "you'd better point me in the direction of the nearest watering hole. I'm going to need to build up my strength."
Gibbs looked at him incredulously. "No," he said. "I have better things to do with my weekend than go fishing with you, DiNozzo."
"Whatever." Tony shrugged. Nonchalant. "All the more for me."
Gibbs eyed him for a moment longer, then took a suck of his coffee and went off to speak to Abbey.
The plastic seats in the hospital cafeteria were obviously designed by quadrupeds, or octopods, or some such ungainly creatures, because there was no way for a simple biped of Tony's dimensions to sit in one comfortably. Perhaps he should just cut his losses and go home, rather than wait for Angela. This weekend was pretty much a write-off anyway. Passing up the chance of hot-doctor-sex wouldn't really make it any worse.
He looked down at his mostly empty plate, and drew a smiley face in the sauce from the macaroni cheese, then placed two rather shrivelled peas in the centre as eyes.
Deja vu, but he couldn't quite place the memory, and the painkillers were making him too tired to chase it. He leant back in the rack masquerading as a chair and closed his eyes for a moment. Just to rest them. Just for a moment...
You're twelve and you're on your way home from your first summer camp, the camp that took a six month campaign of guilt and guile before your parents would consent. Six months well spent, as far as you're concerned. Camp had turned out to be every bit as vulgar and common as your mother had feared, right down to the meals of franks and beans, macaroni cheese, marshmallows toasted on sticks... god, you can still taste them if you close your eyes.
You're gushing about it to Ricky, as he drives you home in the limo; tales of skinny-dipping and god-awful sing-a-longs falling off your tongue, even though you know he doesn't give a shit. Ricky won't last long, the quiet, calculating voice at the back of your head tells you, because he's not good enough at hiding his boredom, and one day he'll slip and do it to mom... You give him another two months, three at the outside. (In fact, it was only seven weeks, but that's jumping ahead, pushing you back into the future, into the head of the man you're going to be, and this memory hasn't done with you yet).
You rush in the back door of the house before Ricky's even turned off the ignition, and Eva's there, of course, smiling and welcoming you home, patting you on the head, even though she has to reach up to do it now, and you can smell that she's made your favourite cookies, raisin and peanut, and you gulp three down, one after the other, as you tell it all over again, crossing your eyes as you sing a few notes of the camp ditty off key, shivering with mock cold as you relive the feel of lake water on your skin under moonlight. You snigger at Eva's frown when you admit your were stark nekkid, along with all the other boys, and most of the girls too. You show her the badge you got for baseball, and the yellowing bruise on your shin, because unlike Ricky, she's good at pretending to care. But that's not the real reason everything's bubbling out of you, gushing from your mouth like there's a waterfall of words inside, and the pressure is forcing them out.
No. It's because you don't want to lose this feeling. For just another minute, you want to feel happy. The scent of it still on your clothes. The thrill of a hundred adventures still buzzing against your skin.
(The man you are now shifts in the god-awful chair, the fingers of his left hand picking at the bandage covering his right palm.)
But beneath the joy, you're aware of a dark shape, rising up from the cold deeps. Bringing the cold with it. Because you know (he shifts again, shoulders twitching in discomfort) there's always a price to pay for forcing your parents into agreement.
Eva pats you on the head again, even as you spill forth another story--canoeing, scaring yourselves silly with a phantom alligator--and she shoos you away. In the end you go, because you like Eva, and you don't want her to get into trouble the way Angelina did when she took too much notice of you (beautiful dark-haired Angelina; he still dreams of her sometimes: dark, erotic dreams with an undertow of the forbidden, even twenty-five years, and a hardened habit of womanising later).
So you go upstairs. Clomp, clomp. Feet dragging, heart lumping in your chest, the remains of a cookie uneaten in your hand. You go up to your room. Open the door. (He twitches in the chair, searching for comfort.) You step inside.
The first thing you notice is that the walls are bare, exposing a pale, tasteful shade of cream.
Totally bare, because all your shooting pennants are gone. So are the trophies.
And there's no x-wing fighter hanging above your bed.
You turn, slowly.
The pile of Swamp Thing comics is no longer resting on the bottom shelf of your bookcase.
Your eyes flicker over the shelves quickly, trying to take in the damage all at once. Chandler: gone. Encyclopedia Brown: gone. Stephen King, Isaac Asimov, Arthur Conan-Doyle. Gone, gone, gone.
You swallow. Shocked. This is an escalation of hostilities beyond anything you had envisioned. But even as you think it, icy fear clutches at you. Because if anything is now fair game, you know what you value most. And despite your best efforts at nonchalance, you suspect your mother does too.
You're afraid to look at the window sill. You shut your eyes.
Against your will, with an inevitable, ponderous movement you cannot stop, your head turns and your eyelids slide open.
The curtains flutter and the sun shines in, golden and bright, stabbing through the glass and making patterns against the wood of the window frame. Your eyes feel wide in your face as you look, but there's nothing to see.
Sunlight is the only thing sitting on the window sill.
There is no bright sparkle of glass. No miniature boat.
Your prize is gone. The boat in the bottle. The one your brother gave you, on that last birthday. The year before he died.
You don't know how to encompass the loss. Where to even begin. You just know you can't show anything of what you're feeling, because then they will have won.
There's a sound--soft tread against the carpet--and you know your mother is watching...
(There's a sound--backfire, Tony thinks--and he grabs at it, pulling himself out of the room, out of childhood, out of the dream and back into his own here and now.)
Tony jerked forward, suddenly awake. He looked around and found he was alone in the cafeteria, his plate gone, the shutters pulled down over the service area.
He looked at his watch: eight-thirty. Something had woken him. A sound...
He was up and out of his chair before the second shot sounded, reaching for his own gun as he ran, his hand finding only shirt, because goddamn it, he was off duty and he wasn't carrying.
Third shot. Fourth.
A voice was screaming ...his fault ... it's all his fault... Henry did it... it wasn't me, do you hear me! His fault. That fucking motherfucker Henry...
Tony slowed as he neared the operating theatre, moving with the fast, quiet grace of the military, just the way Gibbs liked it.
A security guard was lying on his back on the lino in front of the open theatre doors, a bullet hole cleanly marking his forehead, just above his right eye. His gun was still holstered, his radio crackling quietly to itself with a tinny voice demanding he respond.
Tony dropped into a crouch and eased his head around the doorframe, scoping things out.
A patient was lying on the table, clearly straight from ER, his clothes not yet completely cut away. Blood was slowly seeping across the remains of a checked shirt, from what looked like a fresh bullet wound to the chest. His skin was pasty and turning blue and his breathing was shallow and laboured. He looked almost dead.
A nurse was sitting, scrunched into a small target against the far wall, head bowed. Tony couldn't see anyone else.
The gunman walked into view, his back to Tony. He was a small, brown, weasel-like man, clearly high on something, jittering with every step. He was waving the gun at the man on the table, saying, over and over, "It's Henry's fault. His fault. I didn't do nothing. Do you hear me? Yeah, you hear me!"
Tony slowly reached out and popped the stud on the guard's holster, then drew out the gun.
Once he had it in his hand, he leaned back against the wall and opened it up, checking it carefully. Clean. Loaded. Good to go.
He stood, keeping his body shielded by the doorway, aimed at the gunman and said, "Federal agent. Drop the gun or I'll shoot."
The weasel-faced man spun around, shooting even before he had the gun aimed at anything.
Tony squeezed the trigger, putting two rounds cleanly in the weasel's chest.
The weasel staggered back one pace, then fell to the floor.
Tony waited a beat, then walked over, kicked the gun away and knelt down to feel for a pulse. Dead.
So much for being off-duty. He was going to have paperwork coming out of his ass over this.
He left the weasel where he'd fallen and went to check the man on the operating table: also dead.
In the distance, he could hear booted feet coming up the corridor.
Tony walked over and knelt in front of the nurse huddled against the wall. "I'm Tony," he said, gently, "I'm with the Navy Criminal Investigation Service." He showed her his ID, then reached out and touched her lightly on the arm. "It's over now." He looked her over for injuries, but the blood on her greens didn't seem to be hers. "Was anyone else hurt."
She looked up at him, lips trembling. "He killed her."
"Who?" Tony asked.
The woman gestured towards a pair of feet in sensible white shoes, mostly hidden by an overturned instrument trolley. "Doctor Alonzo."
Tony got up and walked around the trolley. He looked down at Angela lying in a pool of blood. Tendrils of her rich, dark hair floated like islands around her head. Her mouth was open, her eyes staring up at the bright lights above the operating table.
The bullet had hit her in the neck, right in the carotid.
Tony put down his borrowed gun and picked up Angela's hand. It was still warm.
She was wearing gloves.
Tony sat in the cafeteria, toying with a styrofoam cup from one of the automated dispensers.
It was pretty much over. He'd answered all the questions. Ended up on back-slapping terms with Ed, the officer who'd taken down the report.
Angela had been taken to the morgue.
It was over, and Tony should just go home. Get a good night's sleep.
He walked over to the nearest window and pulled aside the vertical blinds. The pitch of night yawed at him, reflecting back his own face: he looked so fucking old.
He let his head thud against the glass. There just didn't seem much point in moving. Going home wouldn't be any better than this. Nowhere would be any better than this.
The lights of the city outside looked fake and distant.
Someone came and stood next to him at the window. Tony didn't bother to turn his head.
"Come on, DiNozzo," Gibbs said, his hand, warm and rough, pressing heat into Tony's neck.
Tony blinked, his eyes feeling scratchy and dry. "What are you doing here, boss?"
Gibbs' smile was echoed in the glass, right next to Tony's cheek. "Taking you home."
It was only when they drove past the old post office that Tony realised that Gibbs wasn't going to Tony's apartment.
He took a breath, opened his mouth. And said nothing. There weren't any questions he really wanted to ask. So he sat back in the seat, closed his eyes, and listened to the purr of the engine, Gibbs breathing, and the restless shush of the wind made by the Saturday night traffic.
Gibbs poured him coffee and told Tony to make himself at home, before disappearing down into the basement.
Tony stood, hesitant, at the top of the stairs as the clock in the kitchen ticked, sipping at his coffee. Then, assuming an air of nonchalance, headed down the stairs after Gibbs.
Gibbs was straddling a heavy beam of wood, sanding a piece of curved timber with long, sure strokes. The resiny smell of fresh-cut wood filled the room.
Gibbs nodded towards a workbench against the wall. "There's more sandpaper."
Tony stood at the bottom of the stairs, looking at the skeleton of the boat, at Gibbs' hands caressing the wood, watching the shadows flicker and change as the overhead light swayed a little with vibrations from the street.
Somewhere outside there was sound: a sharp crack.
Gun, Tony thought, tensing, hand going to the empty place beneath his jacket.
"No," Gibbs said, folding the sandpaper over to reveal a fresh side, "Backfire," and he smiled at Tony, a lazy, relaxed smile, before bending back to his task.
Author's Note: The quote I used was:
At eight-thirty that night he heard the sharp crack from the theatre down the hall.
Backfire, he thought. No. Gun.
-- Ray Bradbury