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Chapter Warning: This chapter does include cannon level violence. No worse though that what you’d see in a Criminal Minds Unsub scene.
Chapter Summary: A killer strikes. Then back in the present, Tony has some introspection. Afterwards, he and Fornell have a chat. The truth comes out, and Tobias throws Tony a lifeline.
Note: Edited 2-4-17 to update with Beta’d version.
Chapter Two: Mark Sheppard & A Second Chance
Location: Crowley, LA – June 2011
The man was on his knees in front of him down on the ground. His head was flopped forward reflecting his near death state. Arms tied behind his back, hood over his head. This is justice. This wasn’t a human, it was an animal. An animal who escaped justice the first time around, but not his justice.
He was only doing the world a favor. There was a pool of blood forming underneath the man on the ground, but he ignored it. This man, this Mark Sheppard was an animal. He wasn’t human; this could be a trick. He knew better than to let down his guard.
He had to be sure that the monster was finally dead. He’d tortured him until he confessed his sin. It didn’t matter what the justice system had declared. It didn’t matter what the police claimed the evidence said.
The system could be manipulated. Police could be bought. The only way to guarantee justice was to enact it himself. Reaching out with his gloved hand, he gripped the man’s dark hair, and pulled his army knife out from where he’d kept it on his belt. He remembered what he’d been told all those years ago. “You can never go wrong with a good military blade.” The marine had been right. It was a wonderful instrument of justice.
Pulling Mark’s neck back he wrapped his arm around the man reaching for the other side of his neck, and in one slice cut open his throat from one side to the other. Then using the same knife, he cut Mark’s shirt off, and used it to wipe off his blade before putting it back.
Crossing the space to his bag he pulled out a container of Clorox wipes, a clean towel, a bottle of water, and a manila envelope. Taking each back to the body, he cleaned off Mark’s back. Then opening the envelope, took out a single sheet. Peeling the plastic off the front, he pressed it to the monster’s back before wetting the cloth, and pressing it to the paper. Once he was sure that it would stick, he peeled off the paper, and ran the cloth over the tattoo. Once satisfied with the result, he stood and walked around the body.
It was done.
Justice had been served.
DC/Quantico area Friday September 23rd 2011
When Tony woke up he lay still with his eyes closed trying to remember where he was. He was laying on a couch too comfortable to be Gibbs’, and too short to be his own. His head throbbed, but he was pretty sure that he hadn’t been drinking.
Although, after the last few days, he thought maybe he should give himself an exemption from his getting drunk ban. As if EJ being, at best MIA, and at worst maybe dead wasn’t bad enough, Cade was dead, and hadn’t been guilty of anything. He had gotten amnesia which led to… Oh right. That was why he had a headache.
He went to profess his love to the man he had been in a relationship for almost three years, and had his hopes for the future steamrolled by the force of Leroy Jethro Gibbs’ complete bastard-ness. The prick had been cheating on him with Dr. Kate’s Sister. Who, as it turns out, not only likes to play mind games, but is also a boyfriend stealing bitch.
It didn’t really matter to him that maybe, or definitely, Gibbs didn’t consider Tony his boyfriend. Tony was told when they had started their, whatever-the-fuck it was, that there would be no other random women. Apparently that little caveat was only for Tony though. So, Gibbs got his happily ever after, while Tony got… well that seemed to be unclear.
He’d lost his shit. Completely. Abb… Sciuto. He’d gone to see… her. She accused him of making up lies. Strike someone else off of the trust tree. Hell, after that he practically burned the fucker to the ground except for the roots, which meant… Tobias Fornell.
He was at Fornell’s house. Opening his eyes, he turned his head to see his phone sitting on the coffee table. Checking the history, he made sure that he actually sent the text to his cousin. A week? Christ Tony hoped that he was just guesstimating to be on the safe side, and it wasn’t an actual time frame.
Tony wondered if the trust tree could be regenerated this time. Things were looking pretty bleak that was for sure. No job, no future, and only two friends left. Well… he hoped two. He hadn’t actually talked to Tobias. So, maybe the older man was just being kind. If Tobias called Gibbs the night before, after Tony’d gone to sleep, he was surprised the FBI agent hadn’t woken him up to kick him out. Gibbs and Tobias were pretty damned close, after all. Hell he might be the only real friend Gibbs had other than Ducky.
Ducky… Guh. No, Tony wasn’t thinking of him. Ab… Sciuto’s betrayal had been bad enough. Tony wouldn’t be able to handle it if the Duckman turned on him too.
So, avoidance was the way to go. Frankly, the way Tony was feeling, Gibbs might be right. A complete severance from NCIS was the way to go. Tobias, though, could not be avoided. So, it was time to get up, and face the music.
Wandering through the downstairs portion of the house, Tony found the kitchen thinking it would be the best place to start. He was right. On the kitchen table was a note and a bottle of Excedrin Tension Headache medicine.
I went to get us some food. Coffee should still be drinkable. I made a new pot before I left. Please don’t leave! I want to help. I didn’t call, Gibbs. I did peak at your phone. I will be asking who TK is. Help yourself to the coffee, and the Excedrin.
I put towels out upstairs if you want to take a shower. Don’t have anything that would fit you, but I got your bag out of your backseat. It’s in the guest room. Take some drugs, take a shower, and I should be back when you’re done.
Grunting, Tony put the note down, and opening the headache meds, shook two out before heading over to the counter to search out a mug. Using the coffee to swallow the pills, Tony headed back through the house, and upstairs to hunt for the bathroom. A shower sounded wonderful. It didn’t even occur to him to leave.
As he stood under the hottest water that wouldn’t scald his skin, Tony considered Tobias Fornell. He’d known the man a lot longer than either of them ever let on to Gibbs. The truth was, there was a lot more to Tony’s past than anyone at NCIS ever knew. While it was true that he worked in Peoria, then Philly, and then Baltimore, they weren’t all PDs.
His career was a lot more classified than anyone at NCIS suspected. At times he wondered if any of the directors knew. He had a feeling Marrow did. Tom Morrow was as sharp as a new tack. There was no way he hadn’t done his research on someone that was going to be on Gibbs’ team. Tony was realistic enough to know that an old backstory would only hold up to time for so long.
Jenny Sheppard, he thought probably had no clue what his real history was. She was the type that didn’t seem interested in digging too deep unless she had to, or thought she could exploit it somehow. She probably looked at his background, but it was doubtful that she had checked into anything to see if it was real or not.
While he might have come close to making her radar during the Benoit fiasco, he was pretty sure she hadn’t known. If she had, she would have known how Tony reacted to manipulation, thanks to his history. While he regretted that she died on his watch, that was about her being the director, not about who she was as a person. As a person, she was made from the same cloth as Gibbs: manipulation, backstabbing, arrogance, and believed that she was better than she was.
Leon Vance though… he was a real question. The man seemed to hate Tony’s guts, and had from the start. One could easily imagine that it was caused by Jenny’s death, but… Tony wasn’t so sure of that. He knew Gibbs had no clue, and while Tim and Ab… Sciuto were good, information like that wasn’t kept digitally back in 1997.
Besides that Tony was damned good at what he did. Neither of them were the type to look beyond the end of their noses unless they had a reason. Much like Jenny, he had made sure to not give them a reason to believe that he was anything more than an overgrown frat boy, who occasionally pulled it together enough to have a burst of brilliance. Another good reason why it might be time to leave NCIS. Tony was tired of living a Legend, and essentially that was what he’d been doing since… well since Philly.
Tony heard a knock on the door, and pulled out of his thoughts for a moment.
“What do you want in your omelet, Tony? I think I have just about anything. My fridge has more food in it now than it’s had on a non-Emily weekend in years.”
Laughing, Tony grinned and reached for the shampoo to wash his hair. “Do you have prosciutto?” He laughed again when he imagined the huff that he couldn’t hear from the other side of the door.
“I’m Italian, DiNozzo, of course I fucking got prosciutto. Quit insulting me.”
Lathering up his hair, Tony grinned big feeling happier than he had since… well since before he walked into that damned alley. “How ‘bout prosciutto, baby spinach, and gouda, Tobs.”
This time he did hear the noise at the nickname, but just laughed unapologetically. “Or I can call you Toby if you’d rather…”
“No, no… Tobs is fine DiNutso. Prosciutto, baby spinach, and Gouda it is. In fact I may have a copy of that myself. Breakfast will be ready in about 20 minutes. Come down whenever you’re ready.”
Tony thought the man had walked away, but after a couple minutes he heard, “Thank you for staying, Tone. I won’t break your trust. You have my word of honor.”
When he heard two taps on the door, Tony knew the older Italian had left this time, not expecting or waiting for a response. That was why Tobs was kickass. It was, also, why Tony had made the wrong decision in Baltimore. Broken trust can make you do stupid things. His had landed him at NCIS instead of the FBI when he left Baltimore. Tony wondered if he’d regret that decision until the day he died.
Once he was out of the shower and dressed, Tony picked up his coffee, now considerably cooler than he liked it, and headed downstairs. He would add some more to it, and hopefully Tobs had gotten some creamer to put in it. Reaching the kitchen, he headed straight toward the coffee maker to fill up his cup.
“There’s some flavored creamer in the door, kid. They had a Salted Caramel Chocolate I thought you’d like.”
Tony’s eyes lit up at the mention of it, and Tobias patted himself on the back in his head. The kid seemed much better than he had been earlier that morning. He wondered not for the first time if he was going to have to break Gibbs’ legs when this was all over.
More than once over the years he’d wanted to warn the stubborn man that he was treading way too close to an invisible line. While to be fair Gibbs hadn’t even known that the line existed, he had still come too close to crossing it. Tobias had a feeling that he finally had done it, and he wasn’t sure he would forgive the man for it. The last thing Tony needed was more people in his life letting him down.
Senior, Wendy, a former boss, a former partner, and even his mother to some extent had shown the young Italian that trust should not be given out lightly. Gibbs though… Gibbs had stormed into Tony’s life at a moment that he was particularly more vulnerable than normal.
Danny’s betrayal had come on the heels of the betrayal by his Team Leader during the Philly job, and been at exactly the wrong time. Tony had been desperate to have someone in his life that he could believe in. Because of circumstances, Tobias hadn’t been it, and he honestly didn’t blame the kid.
Gibbs though had seemed like just the person. For a while, he had lived up to both Tobias and Tony’s hopes and expectations. The last few years though, or actually since the old bastard had come back from his extended jaunt to Mexico, things between Tony and Gibbs had been off. Toby hoped that what he suspected had happened wasn’t true. If it was, if Gibbs had played one of his bed games with the younger man… Well, some friendships just weren’t made to be permanent.
When he heard plates rattling together behind him, he turned and was unable to withhold a smile as he saw Tony setting the table.
“Make sure you set a side plate, Tone. I have sticky buns in the oven.” The smile he got was well worth the effort, and the flack he would get from Emily for sharing their special breakfast treat.
Once everything was done, Tobias plated the two omelets, and carried them to the table. Tony had moved the hash browns, bacon and sausage, and sticky buns and biscuits as they got done. He was currently following with a plate of tomatoes. They each filled their plates, and dug in eating in silence.
Fornell was letting the kid eat before trying to get information out of him. He was hoping that Tony would open up on his own, if Toby was just patient enough. Sure enough, as the kid started putting more sticky buns and bacon on his plate he started talking.
“I don’t want you to be mad at me, as pathetic as that sounds.” Tobias heard offered quietly.
“Not gonna happen, Tone. Whatever you wanna tell me, we’ll work through. Unless you’ve broken some law, I’m not gonna get mad.” Tobias assured, and hoped it wasn’t his imagination that Tony seemed to relax a little at that.
“No laws broken, although maybe falling in love with your bastard boss who expects you to be faithful while he fucks your dead partner’s head shrinking sister behind your back should be.”
When Tobias found himself with a death grip on his butter knife, he forced his fingers to relax. Tony looked up, with more trepidation in his eyes than Toby liked, and he used every relaxation technique he had to calm down.
“I’m not mad at you, kid. I won’t lie and tell you that I’m not mad. I am, but I am not mad at you. If you’re comfortable with it, I would like to hear as much detail as you’ll give me. Will you tell me what happened?”
He again forced himself to relax, when Tony just studied him for what felt like an hour. Finally though he nodded, and seemed to relax himself further. “We were… we had… Well I thought that it was a relationship of sorts, but obviously I was wrong.”
“How long were you together?” Tobias asked quietly wishing he could get up and fill his coffee cup, but he afraid to move and startle Tony out of his headspace.
“Three years about. It started after I got back from being exiled to the ship.”
Tobias hoped that Tony didn’t ask him a question right then, because he was sure he wouldn’t be able to speak even if he had to. He was gonna kill Gibbs. It wasn’t as bad as he’d thought; it was worse.
The bastard had moved in when the kid had been at his most vulnerable. There was no way the prick hadn’t known exactly what he was doing. It was bad enough that he had played his bed games with the kid, but that he initiated them when Tony hadn’t even known which way was up… He might just literally kill the fucker.
“When we started he told me that if we were gonna do this then he wasn’t gonna share me with some floozy. He made it perfectly clear that there would be no one else other than him in my bed. I thought… I mean this is Gibbs. It never occurred to me that… I never imagined…”
Tobias sighed, and hoped that his gut was right on what was about to come out of his mouth. “They never do, kid.”
Tony’s head whipped up from where he’d been studying his hands. “They? What do you mean by they, Tobs?”
“You aren’t the only one, kid. Jesus, I’m sorry. Had I known this was going on, I would have warned you. This isn’t… You aren’t the first one, Tony. He does this occasionally. I doubt that it’ll make you feel better, but this is the first time that I am aware of that he’s gotten caught though.”
“I… I don’t…”
Tony took a deep breath and stared out the kitchen window for several long moments before speaking again. Tobias just let him be. He couldn’t imagine what the kid was feeling at that moment. Jesus, he loved the old bastard. Tobias could only hope that the love was more a possibility of love, or a need for love, and Gibbs being the chosen recipient on Tony’s part, than actual love.
“Was anything the way that I thought it really was, Tobs?” Tony snorted cynically.
“Gibbs wasn’t really the man that I thought that he was. Abby… Sciuto wasn’t the sister or best friend that I thought she was. Wendy didn’t really want to marry me. Was anything real? Has anything ever been real? Anything in my whole fucking life?”
“I am,” Tobias insisted quickly, and once again withstood the intense scrutiny of a man whose faith in humanity had been shattered.
“I know that it’s hard to believe right now, kid, but I am. I am your friend, and goddamned proud to be able to say it. You are an extremely smart, competent, and loyal man. Your faith in the good in people is remarkable, when you take into consideration what the world has done to you. You will recover from this. I know it, because I won’t fucking let any other outcome occur. I refuse to stand by, and let this bastard’s sex games destroy the amazing man that you are.
“As for Sciuto, hell kid, the only people she’s loyal to would be Gibbs and herself. I know it’s hard to believe now, but I also believe that I’m not the only one on your side. I’m guessing that TK, whoever he or she is, is on your side. I would bet a month’s salary that Ducky is on your side. I understand if you don’t wanna consider, or let him in right now. I would guess that he would understand, too.”
“Would you…” Tony started and stopped dropping his gaze to study his hands, again.
“Anything. Just name what you need, kid, and I’ll do it.” Tobias swore, meaning every word.
“Would you let him know that I can’t talk to him right now? I’ll call him or go see him at home when I’m ready. Tell him… tell him I’m sorry, and I hope he doesn’t hate me, too. You can… you can tell him the truth. I want… I want him to know the truth, not just whatever lie Gibbs is gonna come up with.”
“Of course, Tony. I’ll go see him sometime Monday.”
“Not at work,” Tony insisted quickly. “I don’t want Gibbs and them to know where I am… not that I know where I will be Monday.”
“I don’t see any reason why you won’t be right here with me, unless you don’t want to be. None of them will think to look for you here, I would bet. You might pull the battery from your phone so McGee and Sciuto can’t track you.”
“That isn’t my work phone.” Tony offered absentmindedly. His thoughts having latched onto the Monday part of Tobs’ previous statement. Which led to what the hell he was gonna do now that he was unemployed.
“I have two phones. One for work stuff, which had all their numbers, and one for TK. I left my other phone smashed on Gibbs’ desk, I think, with my badge and NCIS weapon.”
Tobias raised an eyebrow at the mention of the mysterious TK, again. “You know this TK shit is driving me crazy, kid.”
He figured the aggravation at not knowing was worth the glee the kid was getting from knowing something he didn’t.
Tony grinned big at the other man. He hadn’t had a ton of interaction with the other man in their… before NCIS time. There had been enough, though. for Tony to decide he was one of the rare good people.
“If you meant the whole, me staying here part, I would like to take you up on that. I’ll need to get some stuff from my place, but I figure, as long as I do it before Monday, I’ll be ok. I doubt Ziva or McGee will suspect anything much before then.
“This is Friday, so they might be a little suspicious, but I am guessing they’ll be happy enough to have me out of the way that they won’t question what they’re told. I don’t suppose that job offer is still good? I seem to be without employment currently.”
“If it comes down to it, of course it is. I have a feeling though that once my bosses find out that you’re a free agent, they’re gonna want more from you than being one of my Agents in Charge.”
When Tony cocked his head, and lifted an eyebrow, Tobias just held up a hand. “Let me make some calls before I discuss specifics. I don’t wanna get your hopes up, if one of them suddenly has had a dumbass attack, and can’t see how perfect you would be for… well… just trust me. Why don’t you run to your place and get whatever you need? Clothes, DVDs, or I even have a Blu-ray player, or whatever else you want.
“Then we’ll just chill out here for the weekend. You need a few days off before you get back into the rat race. Trust ol’ Uncle Tobs on this one. I want to see one of those movies you’re always going on about. So, educate me, kid.” The look of pure joy on Tony’s face told Tobias that he’d made the right call.