Title: The Onion
Rating: PG-13, T
Category: Angst, Hurt/Comfort
Summary: Tag to 'Boxed In' exploring DiNozzo's feelings following the revelation that he hadn't been invited to Ziva's dinner party, and Gibbs's attempt to get him back on track.
Spoilers: Boxed In
Disclaimer: NCIS characters belong to Bellisario, CBS and Paramount. No copyright infringement intended.
A/N - I wanted to post a couple of my latest fics on lj but decided I couldn't really do that without posting the earlier stories in the series. Hence I've decided to post 'The Onion', 'Word Salad', 'Weekend Duty' and 'Four penguins and a crime scene' in quick succession. They all form an extended tag to 'Boxed In', althougth Weekend Duty strays slightly and takes a look at control within Gibbs and Tony's relationship. The Onion was the first fic that I ever posted (on Ff.net in Nov 2008) and to be honest I cringe at it. I think (hope) I've improved a little since then. You might disagree.
And there it was… laid bare for all to see… for him to see.
She hadn’t wanted him there. They were mocking him. McGee was openly smirking. Ziva attempted to smile a half-hearted apology and when Gibbs had purposely let slip what Ziva had cooked for them the night before, he was secretly crushed.
The thoughts stung.
But not me
Gibbs, Abby, McGee, Ducky, the whole team had gone… even Palmer… Was he really that bad a person? Stupid question…
He swallowed hard. He already knew the answer… he was. Always had been, always would be. That had been drummed into him from an early age, in more ways than one. The memories consumed him.
A flicker across his field of vision brought him scurrying back to the present and he watched as Abby skipped towards McGee, who was putting the finishing touches to his report. Ziva had finished hers long ago… heck, Gibbs was probably reading it now if his head bent over scouring the papers in front of him was anything to go by. He had yet to start on his. That’s another fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into Anthony he thought. Not really the example a senior field agent should be setting. Still, it went well with the DiNozzo disguise.
Sometimes he wished he could just throw off the frat boy persona that cleverly hid the true underlying Anthony D DiNozzo but years of careful and meticulous brick building had provided layers of protection that he wasn’t prepared to relinquish so easily. Besides, the true underlying Anthony D DiNozzo was one that made him shudder. He couldn’t let anyone see that.
He stood up from his desk.
“Where do you think you’re going DiNozzo? Gibbs snapped.
“Uh, the head.”
Gibbs looked at the agent, backpack in left hand, right arm held tightly by the sling. He’d been worried about them. They’d gone missing and he really didn’t want to let either DiNozzo or David out of his sight for a while yet. They’d had a rough day and DiNozzo had sustained an injury. And here he was snapping at him. He could see a pink flush beginning to spread across DiNozzo’s face. He hadn’t asked for help and Gibbs certainly wasn’t going to embarrass him any further by asking him if he needed it. He nodded and DiNozzo left.
He didn’t come back.
Gibbs silently finished reading through McGee’s report. Another excellent job. He allowed himself a brief smile and looked over towards the junior field agent, who was leaning back in his chair, hands laced behind his head as he purposefully listened to Abby who was perched on the right hand side of his desk, Ziva leaning on the left hand side. McGee was picking up more from DiNozzo than he realised. Do him good he thought. He was content to let the crowd huddle around McGee’s desk for a while longer. All the reports were in, apart from DiNozzo’s, and they’d had a rough day. They’d had quite a few of those in recent weeks. Sighing, he decided he would cut DiNozzo some slack, he’d injured his arm, been to the ER… couldn’t expect him to type up his report immediately with only one good arm. Tomorrow would do. Speaking of which, thirty minutes had passed since DiNozzo had left for the head. Where the hell was he?
“Hey has anyone seen Tony?” Ziva exclaimed as she popped a head up from the animated conversation McGee and Abby were having.
“His jacket’s still there,” McGee broke off his conversation with Abby.
“His backpack is not!” Ziva cried.
Gibbs shifted in his chair. Damn, he’d missed it… the backpack in his left hand… almost but not quite below his line of vision. He hadn’t registered the significance. He was going to kill DiNozzo. Why did he always have to take such things to heart? Stupid question he berated himself. You already know the answer Jethro.
“He’s gone… ‘bout 30 minutes ago,” Gibbs answered, his eyes staring intently at McGee’s report in front of him.
“But I was going to cook dinner….” Ziva’s words trailed off.
“Don’t think he wants company tonight Ziva. Go home, all of you. It’s been a long one. I’ll see you in the morning.”
The subtle tone implied an order, albeit a pleasant one, and with that, McGee and Ziva collected their belongings and headed towards the elevator, Abby tucking an arm around McGee’s waist as they waited patiently for the car to arrive.
Only after Gibbs heard the elevator doors close did he let out a sigh. “Leroy Jethro Gibbs, you are an idiot,” he muttered to himself.
“Ziva…” Abby enquired, as the car made its way slowly down to the basement.
Abby hesitated, “Why didn’t you invite Tony last night?” McGee shifted uncomfortably and Abby let her arm slip from around McGee’s waist.
Ziva was about to respond, her mouth opening a fraction but then shutting it tight. She had been working with Tony for a few months now. It wasn’t that she didn’t like him. She did. He was a nice guy. It was just… arrghhh… it was hard enough that she had had to put up with his idiotic behaviour, terrible jokes and constant references to movies for the best part of every single one of those days that they had worked together… it was just… well it was just that she found him so incredibly and utterly unpredictable. How could she tell them that she just wanted last night, and everything associated with it, to go smoothly for once… especially as… especially as Gibbs had been there.
The pained look on her face was all that Abby and McGee needed to see to understand perfectly.
Sometimes trouble had a habit of following Tony around even when it wasn’t really his fault. She hadn’t wanted anything to go wrong. ‘No screw ups’ she had threatened herself. Everything had been planned in minute detail. She had wanted to make a good impression on Gibbs and in doing so she had sacrificed Tony’s feelings. She told herself it was her training. The mission was paramount. However, the guilt that crept up from deep inside her stomach told her otherwise. She had to diffuse this... and quickly.
“Have you seen the way he eats!” she exclaimed.
The elevator pinged and the doors slid back. Saved.
“I’ll just be a minute,” Abby threw over her shoulder as she ran into the lab to collect her coat, coffin-shaped back pack and keys.
McGee held the elevator button, waiting patiently for Abby to return. He shot a side glance at Ziva and smiled, “You know, he’s not that bad Ziva. Sure he can be a little childish at times but he’s got a good heart… and… despite appearances, he is house trained.”
“I know,” she sighed. “How can I make this right McGee? I mean I offered to cook him dinner but he left.”
“I don’t know,” shrugged McGee.
Abby bounded into the elevator car breaking the sympathetic silence, “Ready.” McGee hit the button. Five minutes later they headed into the parking lot.
“Do you want a lift McGee,” Abby and Ziva chimed in stereo.
“Please,” chuckled McGee, a huge grin beginning to form on his reddening face.
“What’s with the funny,” Abby quizzed him.
“Two women offering me a lift home. It’s nice. I feel like DiNozzo.”
The playful punch to his arm from Abby was met with snorted laughter from Ziva and an even bigger grin from McGee.
As McGee rubbed his arm, a mocked expression of pain on his face, Ziva’s expression began to drop. “Do you think he is okay?”
“Who…Tony? He’ll be fine. You’ll see. Tomorrow it’ll be like nothing ever happened,” Abby lied. She knew he’d act like he’d forgotten all about the lack of invitation to Ziva’s dinner the other night but she also knew that Tony had been hurt by his team mate’s actions. Tony craved a sense of belonging. He needed to be needed, wanted, to know that he mattered…to someone.
Ziva wasn’t buying it. “I will talk to him tomorrow.”
The three of them hugged before Ziva slipped away to her car and McGee, together with Abby nestling for warmth under his coat, headed in the opposite direction towards her hearse.
None of them noticed the Mustang still in the parking lot.
None of them noticed as the sole occupant lowered himself down in the front seat until he was almost impossible to see.