Title: Single Doesn’t Mean Alone
Relationship: None – Gen
Characters: Tony DiNozzo, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, Ellie Bishop, Tim McGee, David Rossi, Aaron Hotchner, Dr. Spencer Reid
Content: Non-Canon Compliant: NCIS, Gibbs Earning the Second B, Tony Leaves NCIS, Altered Backstory for Tony, Godfather!Rossi, Mention of Suicide for Canon Character Death, Post Ziva’s Exit
Author Note: Written for the Forever Angst Valentine’s Day Challenge. Challenge was to write two fics, one romance, and one friendship based. Word limit on each fic is 5K. I did two sets.
Summary: One day, Tony just has enough of the way Gibbs treats him and quits. In the aftermath, he ends up with more options than he expected and some new friendships to brighten his Valentine’s Day.
Single Doesn’t Mean Alone
Tony was tired of jumping through hoops like a trained seal. He was tired of always having to prove himself, when he’d been doing this job for 13 years. One night, he was sitting in the bullpen staring at his screen. Everything was quiet except for the sound of typing as he along with Bishop and McGee finished reports on their most recent case. It was like he’d come to the end of some long trick of tumbling dominoes. One second he was rushing along knocking shit over, and the next there was just stillness and quiet. He was at the end of his tether, and there was literally no one there to hold onto him anymore.
He hadn’t realized that he’d been staring at Gibbs, until the man snapped at him. “You got a problem, DiNozzo?”
“No, I’m just done, Boss.”
“You’re not done until I say you’re done, and last I checked McGee and Bishop are still working on their reports. You don’t leave until they leave. So, find something to do. I’m sure there’s some report that you’re behind on.”
Frowning, Tony cocked his head to one side, and waited for the frustration to come. When nothing but numbness and acceptance were there, he realized that he was right. It was time.
“When in the decade that I’ve been your Senior Field Agent have I ever been behind on my paperwork?” He asked. If it was possible for the room to get quieter, it did. The sound of the typing stopped, and he could feel Tim and Ellie’s eyes on him.
“Tony, maybe you should…”
“No offense, McGee, but no. I really shouldn’t.” Tony interrupted quietly. “Like I said. I’m done.”
Opening a file on his computer, Tony changed some dates, then emailed it to the appropriate people, and hit print. Reaching down, he pulled open the top drawer and pulled out his badge and service weapon then the bottom drawer with the box of medals, and took it out. Standing, he crossed to the printer feeling the eyes on him. “DiNozzo, I don’t know what’s going on, but I’m too tired of this game of yours…” Gibbs started, but Tony just snorted cutting him off.
“I’m afraid that I’m the King of I’m too tired… but that’s never been an excuse you’ve accepted from me. So, your exhaustion isn’t really relevant.”
Pulling off the appropriate paperwork, Tony crossed to Gibbs’ desk and put the whole pile down. “My report for the case. I’m afraid that you’ll have to do the SFA report yourself after they’re done. There’s also a paper copy of my resignation, along with my badge and gun.”
“Tony, come on,” McGee started.
“Maybe we should all go home and get some rest. I’m sure that things will look better in the morning.” Was Ellie’s contribution.
Gibbs though just stared at him, and Tony felt like the man was seeing him for the first time in years. Only, then he opened his mouth and spoke and ruined the illusion. “I knew you’d burnt out. It’s been coming for a while. It’s about time you figured it out.”
Tony cocked an eyebrow at the ridiculous statement, trying to figure out the best way to answer. Before he knew it, he was laughing, bent over, and gasping for air. No one else seemed to get the joke, but it was suddenly so crystal clear in his head. Once he’d calmed down, Tony stood again and smirked at the man.
“Jesus, you’re so clueless.”
“Holy shit,” he heard Tim blurt, and knew that his Probie probably felt like he’d stepped into the Twilight Zone.
“The only thing that I’m burnt out on Gibbs, is you. I’m tired of your bullshit. I’m tired of you always putting me down. I’m tired of you contributing next to nothing to our cases, and then getting pissed off when we don’t solve them fast enough. I’m tired of you expecting me to do everything, agree with everything, take everything, and just keep coming back for more.”
Tony snorted, then turned to walk to his desk where he picked up his backpack from the floor. Zipping it open, he shoved some things he wanted to keep inside, before closing it and flinging it over his shoulder.
“I don’t know what in the hell has gotten into you, DiNozzo…”
“Jesus, will you shut the fuck up?” Tony asked turning calmly. His words not matching the quiet and sedated manner in which they were spoken.
“It’s you, Gibbs. You’re out of control. You’ve been trying to get rid of me for years, because you’ve lost touch with reality and decided that somehow I’m a threat. I’ve spent a long time trying to prove to you that I’m not, but suddenly I realize that you’re right. I am threat to you, because I’m not you. I don’t wanna be you, and I have no intention of letting you grind me down to nothing like you do everything and everyone else. So, I’m done. I’m leaving while there’s still something left of me, but I’m not leaving law enforcement. I’m just leaving NCIS, and more specifically you, you grumpy old bastard. You aren’t the man you used to be. He had honor, and commanded respect. Now, you’re a bully, and you demand respect. There’s a huge difference, but despite that I wish you luck.”
Walking to Tim’s desk he held out his hand, which the younger man stood, wide eyed, and shook. “Watch out for yourself, Tim. Don’t let him change you. You’re a hell of an agent, and you’ll be a helluva SFA.”
“I had a helluva teacher and role model,” Tim offered nodding. “Thanks for everything.”
Smiling, Tony turned and walked to Bishop’s desk. The rookie looked a little lost and confused, and Tony kinda felt bad for leaving her. He had faith in Tim though that he’d have her back. If Tony had taught him nothing else, it was that.
“Don’t ever change, Bishop. You belong here.” For several moments, she just looked at him, but finally she nodded. Feeling Gibbs’ eyes on him, Tony headed to the elevator and hit the down button. When it arrived, he stepped inside looking at the bullpen one last time as the doors closed.
Nearly an hour later, Tony walked off the elevator on the floor of the FBI building at Quantico that housed the Behavioral Analysis Unit. He was beginning to question what the hell he’d thought he was doing as the doubts set in. It wasn’t like him to allow himself to react to impulse decisions, but yet it seemed he’d just thrown away a 13 year position on a whim.
As he walked through the glass doors, his eyes sought out the team in the bullpen, and gave a wave to Derek and Spencer, who were at their desks. He didn’t see Dr. Blake, but he didn’t know her very well yet, and therefore didn’t question her absence. While he knew that she’d worked hard to get a spot on the team and had eyed it for quite a long time, he wasn’t sure how long she’d stay. It seemed from what his Godfather had told him that she was being torn between the FBI and her husband. He certainly wasn’t one who would look down upon her for choosing the man she loved over the agency that at times hadn’t appreciated her.
Heading up the ramp, he saw his Godfather sitting in front of Unit Chief Aaron Hotchner’s desk, and stopped at the door giving a knock on the doorjamb before being waved inside. “Figglioccio!” Special Agent David Rossi greeted happily, as Tony took a seat and gave Aaron a nod of welcome.
“What’s wrong,” Dave asked quickly, and Tony winced at the thought that he was so easily read at the moment.
“I just quit,” Tony shared and wondered if he really sounded as dazed as it seemed to his own ears. He was guessing yes from the worried frown on even Aaron’s face. While he knew the Unit Chief and could say they were friendly, he wasn’t sure that friends would be a fair assessment of their connection.
“Why don’t I give you two some space,” Aaron offered, but Tony just waved at him to stay seated.
“He’ll just tell you everything anyway,” Tony pointed out before taking a deep breath and continuing, “And it isn’t like it was some big trauma.”
“I just, I just couldn’t take it anymore. So, I told Gibbs I was done and quit. I can’t take any more of the not being good enough for him. Never being able to satisfy him. The head slaps and put downs and the not respecting my position and the constant secrets when he runs of like a cowboy every other second aren’t tolerable anymore. I’m tired of hearing him bellow at us when he thinks a case isn’t being solved fast enough, but yet never seems to offer nothing to the investigation himself until we give him all the damned answers. Then he runs off like a hero and acts like he solved the whole thing alone. McGee’s still hacking shit without warrants because Gibbs has brainwashed him into thinking it’s ok, and now there’s a probie that I’m a little concerned will never meet her potential because of that Second B is for Bastard.”
When he finally stopped there was a look of concern on Hotch’s face and bemusement on his Godfather’s. “I don’t know which part to be horrified about first,” Aaron finally admitted, “but it sounds like leaving was the right decision for you to make.”
“Oh, believe me, this is long overdue,” Rossi snarked, and Tony just rolled his eyes at the older man who had acted more like a father to him since his mother died than Senior had. “I suppose this just goes to show that things truly have to happen in their own time. I don’t know as I understand why today was the straw that broke your back, but I fully support your decision. You know how I feel about how that man, and NCIS in general, treats you.”
“I just,” Tony started and stopped glancing at Aaron before deciding to just go on, “I am tired of not being enough.”
“It feels like I am forever fighting everyone in the world, and I always come up the loser. I wasn’t enough to keep my mother from killing herself. I wasn’t enough to make Senior want me. I wasn’t enough to make Danny want to uphold the law and protect the people he took an oath to serve. I wasn’t enough for Wendy, and it seems like I was never quite enough for Gibbs and NCIS. I’m tired of sleeping alone. I’m tired of bars and having to settle for things because I can’t find what I want. I just want to be enough, and I’m not willing to stick around anymore at a place that obviously thinks that I’m not.
“None of those things were your fault, Figglioccio,” Dave said quietly, and Tony could hear the worry in his voice. “None of those things were your fault, and you’ve always been enough for me. Way before your mother died you were enough. When James died and things with Carolyn fell apart you were the only thing that was enough, and you’ll always be enough for me no matter what you do from here or where you go. You know, you and Aaron could just give into my prodding and finally take a chance with each other.”
Tony snorted and looked toward Aaron who just rolled his eyes before they both shot Dave a glare. The older man laughed and held up his hands as if surrendering. “OK, ok, I know butt out. One of these days though. You two will see the wisdom of my pushing and nudging.”
Tony just shook his head as Aaron snorted. When the Unit Chief addressed him, the former NCIS agent turned his gaze away from his Godfather. “If you’d like, you’re welcome to join Spencer and I tomorrow night for our Single’s Awareness Day celebration dinner in lieu of Valentine’s Day since none of us have dates. There’s an extra seat on the reservation because Casanova here got a date at the last minute and is bailing on us. No pressures about NCIS or disparaging it or the people there I promise. Mostly, I don’t want Spencer to mope about Maeve, and it’s his first big romantic holiday after her death. I know the two of you get along fairly well.”
“Doc’s awesome,” Tony praised smiling as he considered the genius who truly lived up to the Pretty Boy nickname Derek gave him. “As for Don Rossi, I’m not surprised he got a date. I think that singer he’s been chasing finally gave in. He was practically preening when I went to his house last weekend. If you’re sure, I think I will take you up on the offer. I am sure that I’ll be bored out of my mind by then. God only knows that I don’t do downtime well if I’m not on a beach somewhere. I’ll be crawling the walls before the weekend gets here.”
“You could always take either Tobias or I up on our offers,” Dave suggested, but Tony huffed and rolled his eyes once more at the older man.
“No offense, but I refuse to work for an agency that has tried to put me away for murder at least twice, and the first time you didn’t even have a whole body. I’m fairly certain that Slacks would find a way to prove I was the shooter on the grassy knoll before the end of my first day.”
Tony watched Aaron almost snort coffee out his nose at the statement, but didn’t regret it as the man’s the half laugh and half gasping for air followed shortly thereafter.
“I think I’m gonna just keep my ears open,” Tony said once he was sure Aaron wasn’t going to die at his desk. I always have an offer from someone or other. I just need to make some calls, and then take my time to decide what I want to do.”
“O’Neill was serious about the offer he made at the last poker game,” Dave reminded and Tony nodded. It was definitely one that he’d be exploring. He really liked the Secretary of Defense. Their personalities almost mirrored each other, and he knew that he could trust the man. He was a many time decorated war hero who took no shit from anyone and always spoke his mind.
“Yeah, that’s one I’ll be considering,” Tony admitted as he slouched down to get more comfortable. “I also have a standing offer at Homeland with Morrow. Recently he upped the stakes with a position he’s willing to create just for me as something of a combination personal trouble shooter and sensitive case agent. The DC Police Chief calls me every few months to see if I’d be interested in a couple positions. One of them is a liaison position between the various federal agencies that I find faintly interesting. My concern there though is NCIS. Then there’s a couple more secret agencies that have poked around lately, and one private security firm that made an offer I’m fairly certain I don’t wanna touch with a ten foot pole.”
Standing, Tony held out his hand to shake Aaron’s who advised he’d text the details for dinner the next night. Then after getting a hug from his Godfather and permission to stay at the house for a while where it would be harder for the NCIS crew to get to him at, he turned to leave but turned right back around. “Aaron, do you mind if I go bug Double D for a while?” Double D was Tony’s nickname for Spencer, whom he called Doc, and Derek, whom Tony actually met in college and helped steer toward the Bureau when he started having issues in Chicago.
“It’s fine,” Aaron agreed easily as he sat back down. “I am sure Spencer’s been done with his required paperwork for hours, and is probably working on Derek’s by now.”
Nodding his thanks, Tony set off to see if he could entice someone into going for burgers. He needed some greasy red meat and company for a while to keep him out of his head.
The next night when 7 o’clock hit and it was time to leave, Tony was beyond ready. He’d spent all day refreshing his resume, and making calls. It seemed that once the first domino fell there was a rapid succession of tumbles that even he hadn’t expected. Despite his late angst over his decision to leave NCIS, he knew his worth. He knew that he’d be able to find a job without much trouble, and having been the only one the DoJ didn’t have any issues with when they’d investigated Gibbs certainly helped.
Not only had he ended up with multiple offers, but some had made offers from multiple divisions within their agency. Finally, he’d waved a white flag, changed his voicemail message to promise to call people back, and turned his phone off. Fortunately, he had a wireless home phone through his cellphone carrier that he had taken with him to Dave’s and was using it for his job prospecting stuff. He had made it clear during the day’s calls that blowing up his cellphone would only get the guilty agency removed from consideration. That included any wise guy who gave the cell number to someone else hoping to get them removed from contention.
When he finally got to the restaurant, he was 10 minutes late and cursing DC traffic. He wasn’t surprised to find out that Aaron and Reid were already there, and offered a sincere apology once he reached the table. “I’m sorry. I should have known traffic would be a nightmare, but I’ve been in recruiting call hell for most of the afternoon and evening.”
“It’s good to be wanted?” Aaron asked in a half quip and Tony snorted before giving the server his drink order deciding to stick with iced tea that evening. He had a long drive home to Rossi’s, and too many calls to make in the morning to add alcohol to his current confusion.
“At least professionally,” Tony finally quipped back before addressing Spencer.
“What’s up, Doc?”
When Aaron offered a chuckle, Tony grinned even though Spencer just rolled his eyes. “Someday you’ll get tired of that,” the young genius threw back, and Tony was ignoring the hint of hopefulness in his voice.
“I doubt it,” Tony threatened playfully as he got comfortable. When the server brought his drink, he held it up. “Here’s to being single and the advantages that come with it.”
“Here, here,” Aaron agreed tapping his glass. Spencer followed suit, but the frown on his face.
“What kind of advantage is there to being alone?”
“Who said anything about being alone?” Tony asked concerned. “Just because you’re single doesn’t mean that you’re alone. I mean look at tonight. You’re out on the most romantic night of the year having dinner with two friends who genuinely enjoy your company. You have a team full of people who are as much family as friends, and your Godson thinks you hung the moon. I know things with your mom are difficult, but there’s never a doubt that she loves the hell out of you. Just because there’s no one in your bed besides you, doesn’t mean there’s not a shit load of people who care about you and actively seek to spend time with you. I can’t imagine what it must feel like for you today with Maeve not here, but don’t for a second think that you’re alone.”
Spencer frowned for a moment before nodding. “OK, I’m sorry.”
“Nothing to be sorry about,” Aaron assured quickly. He was glad that Tony had stepped in before, and was hoping that the new voice would reinforce what the rest of them had been telling him. Aaron knew that it was a similar conversation with Tony after Haley’s death that really settled him down and focused him back on the task of being a single father instead of drowning in being a widow.
“You have a right to your grief, Reid, we just don’t want you to be consumed by it.”
Once more Spencer nodded his agreement, and Tony quickly turned the conversation toward a paper he’d read for one of his online classes that he thought the two profilers would find interesting. As the night went on, the three men took turns reminding each other that they weren’t alone in anything. Both Spencer and Aaron offered to help Tony weed through his job offers, and Tony volunteered to help Jack learn how to play basketball after finding out the young boy wanted to try out for the school’s team.
In the upcoming weeks, he’d find out just what kind of friendships had been made that night. For the moment though, the three men just took comfort in understanding that single really didn’t mean alone.