The Difference A Bullet Can Make – Chapter Three

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Chapter Three

Tony felt like he had been caught in an endless nightmare of killing or being killed by Ziva in a damned shipping container broken up only by very short incoherent moments by strangers in hospitals. This time when he woke up it was with a gasp of shock as his bullet pierced Ziva’s forehead as her bullet narrowly whizzed past his ear.

“Ziva! Why’d you make me…”

“Tony, it’s ok. It’s just a nightmare. It’s over. You’re safe. Come on, open your eyes, Buckeye. It’s time you ended this slumber party.”

“Dirty, Wolverine,” Tony complained as he opened his eyes and looked toward the sound of Brad’s voice, frowning when he couldn’t figure out where he was. “Where m’I? Drink?” He asked before coughing and almost panicking again.

“Easy, Tony. It’s just a minor cough.” Tony heard and turning his head away from Brad, saw Nurse Emma on the other side of his bed.

“Emma m’love,” he said in greeting before sucking happily on the straw she was holding in front of his mouth.

“Not too much, Tony, and I thought we agreed that I was Brad’s. To the winner goes the spoils and all that?”

“Cheated,” Tony insisted as he turned to mock glare at Brad. “Broke m’leg. Ser’ously, where are we. Not a hospital.” Already he was yawning again though as Brad and Emma took his vitals and talked quietly.

“You’re someplace safe, Tony. The next time you wake up though I think you’ll be awake longer. Go back to sleep. I’ll let Tom know you should be ready to talk soon.”

“Tom?” Tony asked, but already his eyes were shutting. As he was being pulled back to sleep, he heard a distinctive twang that had been breaking into his dreams here and there. He really wanted to know who it belonged to because there was something quite comforting about it.

The next time Tony opened his eyes, Tom Morrow was sitting at a table not far from his bed working on a laptop. He must have made a noise as he woke up, and he assumed that it had something to do with the shock of the bullet hitting him in his dreams. “Tony?” Tom asked before standing and crossing the short distance to his bedside.

Tony was vaguely aware of someone leaving the room but didn’t look away from his former Director. When the older man picked up a nearby glass and held the straw to his lips, Tony was grateful. “How do you feel, Tony?”

“Like I’ve been shot, and half froze and then almost shot again,” Tony grumped back as Brad came in with Nurse Emma.

When Tom went to leave, it was with a promise that he’d return when the Doctor and Nurse were done. “If you’re still awake we’ll talk then.”

After answering what felt like a hundred questions, and frowning through having some blood drawn, Tony was happy to prop himself up higher into more of a sitting position. Brad promised they had some soup and tea coming if Tony could stay awake. Promising that he felt like he would be awake for a while, Tony was eager to get something in his stomach and find out what was going on. It was very apparent that he was not in a hospital, and from the looks of the guy who followed Tom into the room, things had happened while he’d been out of it.

“Tom, what’s going on?” Tony asked before taking another sip of water.

“I know you have questions, but there’s an FBI agent here that needs to talk to you. Things are in a holding pattern at the moment, and he’s been hanging around hoping that he could catch you the next time you woke up.”

“You’ll stay?” Tony asked watching Tom’s eyebrow lift a little. “I know I’m a grownup agent and everything, but I feel a little fuzzy. I’m jus’ gonna have to answer most of the same questions for you anyway. You might as well hear the answers the first time. The agent can come in. I don’t wanna hold up his investigation. It’s not Fornell? I assume you would have said his name if he was running the case.”

“Director Hutchinson felt like there was too much of a conflict of interest, and assigned someone from the New York City office,” Tom explained as a man wearing a face he’d seen somewhere between nightmare and consciousness walked into the room.

“Tony, this is Special Agent Jubal Valentine. His team is investigating the case.”

“You’re a hard man to catch awake, Special Agent DiNozzo,” Jubal offered with a smile as he held out his hand for a handshake. “I don’t know if it will make you feel better, but Special Agent Fornell did hunt me down to make sure I knew you were a hell of an agent.”

“Fornell’s ok I guess,” Tony admitted yawning slightly and was about to take another sip of water when Emma came in with two mugs.

“Tony’s here’s your broth and your tea. They’ll help your throat. It’s probably a little raw. Just holler if you need something or send one of the guys out. Brad and I aren’t far away.”

Immediately, Tony took a sip of the tea and hummed happily as the warmth did soothe his throat. “I’m sorry I’ve held up your investigation. I know you’re probably about to ask, so let me just say I don’t need a representative. I’d just like Tom to hang around. I don’t wanna have to go over this nightmare more times than I have to.”

“Fair enough,” Jubal agreed and took out a recorder to tape their conversation.

“This is Special Agent Jubal Valentine interviewing Special Agent Tony DiNozzo for the first time in regard to the shooting of Mossad Officer Ziva David. Special Agent DiNozzo, whenever you’re ready, can you tell me about your day? How did you end up in the shipping container?”

“We were ambushed,” Tony said his voice huskier than normal because of his sore throat. Taking another drink of the tea, he looked around the room and found a window nearby that he could look out of.

“I’d gotten a tip while Ziva and I were talking to a witness that suggested we’d find something at the port. When we got there though it turned out to be an ambush. There was no way that we were going to make it out on our own because we were seriously outnumbered. There was an open shipping container that I suggested we use for cover. Once we were inside, I shut the door. Stupid, ‘cause they just bolted us in, but if I hadn’t we would have been dead. There were more of them than us and Ziva couldn’t seem to hit any of them.”

“You were conscious of the fact that her shots weren’t hitting their mark?” Special Agent Valentine asked, and Tony shrugged.

“It was chaotic, so I wouldn’t bet my life on it. I’m pretty good at keeping track of how many people I hit in relation to how many people are shooting at us. All the people I aimed at went down, and I didn’t see any others that seemed hit so… I assume that she didn’t hit any of her marks.”

“How did Officer David react to being in the shipping container?”

“She freaked the fuck out,” Tony offered frankly then frowned. “Sorry, that was mean.”

“I’m not concerned about how it sounds, Special Agent DiNozzo. I just want to know the truth about what happened and your observations of the events.”

Tony nodded and bought himself a moment by trying the broth before speaking again. “Yeah, ok. She was visibly freaked out by being trapped in the container. I asked her if she was claustrophobic, and she denied it, but I didn’t buy it. She said that she was just pissed off that I’d gotten us trapped and proceeded to insult my intelligence. It was obvious that it was a lie though. She was freaked out and didn’t seem to be thinking completely rationally.

“I tried getting a signal, but the metal of the box was interfering with it. I started poking around in the crates to see what was in them and found some Bollywood movies. I was making some jokes trying to loosen things up, maybe calm her down when she made a comment about shooting out the bolt on the door. I turned around and said that would be a really bad idea, but she wasn’t listening and took the shot anyway.”

“I want to make sure I am understanding correctly,” Jubal interrupted, and Tony turned his eyes away from the window to look at the FBI agent again. “You were trapped in a steel shipping container, and Officer David discharged her weapon in an attempt to shoot out the pin at the bottom of the doors?”

“Yeah, apparently they do things differently in Mossad. They have magical bullets that can penetrate steel or something.” When Morrow snorted, Tony turned his attention to the man and offered a shrug with his good shoulder before looking back to the window and continuing his story. He couldn’t help but lay a hand over the bullet wound he knew was in his left shoulder.

“When she realized that she’d hit me freaked out some more. Honestly, for a second, I thought that she was going to shoot me again. I remember going down and hit my head pretty good on the floor of the container. When I came to, she was standing over me cursing in Hebrew. I am guessing she was calling me more names. I’ve started to learn Hebrew to try and figure out what she’s saying, but I’m only a couple months in.”

“Why did you think she was going to shoot you again?” Jubal asked calmly and this time Tony didn’t look his way.

“I thought she said something about killing the cow. She had her gun still in her hand and her finger was on the trigger. Her eyes were… I dunno. She just looked like she was debating something. By the time my head cleared though she’d put her gun away and was saying something about a bleeding cow. She’s really bad at American sayings. Eventually, we got my sweater off and used that to try and stop the bleeding”

“So, you were shot, but you used your sweater to try and stop the bleeding leaving you with only your coat to wear?” Jubal verified and Tony looked to Tom whose face was completely blank of emotion.

“She’s from Israel. It’s hot there. She doesn’t… didn’t like the cold.” Tony offered in way of explanation.

“I… ok, what next?” Special Agent Valentine asked, and Tony started his story back up after finishing off his tea.

“I laid on the floor for a while bracing my feet up on the side of a crate, but I got bored. So, after a while, I got up and started investigating ‘cause I realized that the container was too short. Ziva managed to get into the false wall and eventually found what I suspect was counterfeit money in a box marked explosives. She wanted to burn it, but I pointed out that would be stupid because the container would only get filled with smoke. I have bad lungs and didn’t need the irritation.

“She spent more time cursing me out, and eventually we got the idea to shove money out one of the holes to try and get someone’s attention. Since I had to sit anyway, I got up to sit on top of a crate while she rolled up money. After a while, I got the idea to use her necklace and one of the Bollywood movie boxes to make a longer antenna so I could try and get Gibbs. By the time I got the Boss though we were at our destination.”

Tony stopped and swallowed heavily and gritted his teeth to stop himself from showing his emotions. Brad must have him on some kind of pain medicine because his shoulder didn’t hurt as much as it should, and it felt like he was seconds from flying apart. Normally, he had much better control of himself. You didn’t spend as much time undercover as he did and survive by being easy to read.

“What happened then?” Valentine asked and Tony shook his head and took a deep breath, which just made himself cough. After a brief visit from Emma, Tony was finally settled down again and started the last part of his story. Valentine offered to wait, but Tony needed to get the last bit out. Someone other than him had to know.

“You have to understand that I haven’t exactly been quiet about my opposition to Ziva’s placement on the team,” Tony started, and this time turned his attention to Morrow. His opinion was really the one that mattered to him. As long as Tom believed that he’d only taken the shot to save his life, Tony knew he’d be ok.

“I couldn’t figure out why the hell Gibbs was going along with it. Not for sure anyway. I had a suspicion, and evidence to support my thinking, but Gibbs refused to talk about it. Instead, he seemed to be willing to just roll over and accept his ex-fling putting the handler of Kate’s murderer on our team. Even if Ziva hadn’t been Ari’s handler, which she was, it was obscene and made no freaking sense!”

Tony growled, which only irritated his throat, and forced him to finish off the broth before he could continue. “Ziva was a Mossad Officer. She was trained to kill people and use her body to steal information. She had zero investigative experience. Hell, Shepard didn’t even make her go to FLETC! From what I could find out due to my own system access level as the team’s Senior Field Agent, she had the same system clearance as the rest of us, which was a serious red flag.

“She constantly broke the law saying it didn’t make sense and it wasn’t how Mossad did it. She openly tried to create friction on the team by playing to McGee’s ego and having stupid dinner parties that didn’t involve everyone. She was forever trying her little seductress routine on me, and most of the time it made me wanna puke. I usually went along with it to amuse myself, but sometimes it was just irritating.”

Tony scoffed at the thought but went on after making a face at her really bad flirting. “She drove company vehicles and touched evidence, broke into homes, and half her reports were submitted in Hebrew! No one seemed to give a fuck that she was a liability to not just the MCRT but the entire agency. God only knows what she was doing with that system access of hers. Nobody would listen to me though. I’d been batting around the idea of calling JAG and just laying it all in Harm’s lap when we caught this case.

“Apparently, someone had told Ziva that I was creating waves. After the shipping container stopped someone started yelling at us to come out. Ziva took a shot at someone’s foot, and she thought she hit them, but that only slowed them down for a little while. Eventually, they pulled the doors open and started shooting what sounded like automatic weapons at us. Ziva and I were huddled behind this crate. I was pretty lightheaded and having problems staying focused. So, I didn’t notice at first that she stopped shooting. When I did, I turned my head to see what she was doing to find her glaring at me.

“She started raving how I had been nothing but a skull ache and this would be the perfect time to make sure that I didn’t ruin either her plans or Jenny’s. I was going to ask her what the hell she was talking about when she swung her weapon my way. I… I fell back and tried to kick it out of her hand but missed. I think I got her face or shoulder or something. She fell back but didn’t lose her weapon. I scrambled back to the other side of the container and got my weapon up just in time. I don’t know who got off a shot first. I’m pretty sure her shot went into the crate next to my head. I knew mine hit home, but I don’t…. I fell back and hit my head again.”

Tony took a deep breath and was relieved to see sympathy and faith on Morrow’s face. “I didn’t like her, but I didn’t want to kill her. I wasn’t about to die at her hand though. She helped her brother murder Kate. I wanted her in prison, but I’m not sorry she died instead of me.”

When he was done, Tony looked to Special Agent Valentine, who seemed to be watching him. “I have one more immediate question. I may have some later as the investigation unfolds, but for right now I just have to clear up one thing. You mentioned the dinner party. It was suggested that you killed Officer David because you were jealous that you weren’t invited to the party. That somehow you must have found out and got pissed because you didn’t like that Ziva was better liked than Kate had been. So, when you saw a chance to get rid of her, you took it.”

“That must be McGee,” Tony guessed with a snort. “His former booty call, that would be Abby, was the one who called me to tell me about the party. Ziva had been on her shit list until then. Suddenly, instead of urging me to keep going, I was being a big meanie and it was my own fault I didn’t get an invite. As far as I was concerned it was just more evidence to what I had been saying all along. I bitched about it for a while, but then put it out of my mind. I had plans anyway. Ask Brad or the others. Some friends I play ball with on the weekends came over to watch the fight at my place.

“One of them asked how things were going because they knew I was upset with a new coworker. Ziva tried to throw it in my face when we were on our way to the scene. The whole thing is stupid. I hate her. I didn’t hide the fact I didn’t want her on the team. Why would I wanna go to a dinner party? I didn’t even wanna go to the scene with her, but Gibbs insisted that we “work things out”.”

Tony just snorted and shook his head. “That really worked out well, huh?”

Pretending that he didn’t see Valentine and Morrow sharing a look, Tony made an excuse about being tired and shut his eyes. Maybe, now that he’d verbalized some demons, he could get some sleep without nightmares. Belatedly, he realized that he’d been wanting to talk to Morrow alone and find out just where the hell he was, but the Sandman had already caught him and pulled him down into dreamland.

~*~ ~*~ ~*~

When Morrow saw how much the discussion with Jubal had wiped out Tony, he decided to put off the talk he needed to have with him one more day to give the man some time to sleep. So, instead of hanging around his guest house all day, he got changed and went into his office in the Pentagon with Special Agent Valentine accompanying him to discuss some other things he wanted to share in an environment where he knew it would only be the two of them.

On the way out of the guesthouse, Tom stopped and had a conversation with Brad about revising his timeline on when to tell Tony about the bigger secret while Jubal made calls to his team outside. The consensus that Tom and Dr. Pitt eventually came to was that while Tony still would need some mental therapy before being released into the field, the event hadn’t been as mentally traumatic as they feared.

Having to shoot your co-worker was always going to be something of a mental mindfuck, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as their worst-case scenario which had been Tony having shot her and then getting trapped in a shipping container with her dead body all day. With that decided, Tom made a quick call to O’Neill to advise him that Daniel Jackson’s presence would be appreciated the next day understanding that would automatically include O’Neill and Major Davis and his mile-high NDA.

Tom and Jubal were sitting in front of Tom’s desk going through some of the concerns that Jubal’s team had come up with in the early days of the investigation. The first had been the disappearance of Officer David and Tony’s PCs along with some data from the server that looked like it had been altered. Jubal was explaining that they had put out a bolo for the NCIS Cyber Team manager when Tom received an alert from security that the very man, they were talking about was at the front gates asking to speak with him.

To say that Tom was a little surprised that Special Agent Francis Lagina had gotten himself wrapped up in something of an understatement. While Franco came off as a nervous man with his stutter that worsened when he was agitated and his preference for computers of people, he also knew that the man was as honest as the day was long. Lagina was a bulldog when it came to anything digital, and his people were fiercely loyal to him. After authorizing security to escort the man to his office, Tom sat back and waited to see what his former agent had to say.

Special Agent Lagina came into his office and after Tom waived away security, approached Tom’s desk pulling two bags that Morrow knew were used to store digital evidence and placed them on his desk. He then followed it up with an evidence bag that looked to hold some thumb drives.

“I… I know that you will have to arr…arrest me now, and I accept that” Franco declared as defiant as Tom had ever seen the man. “But… But I had to do what…what I thought was right. I’m… I’m not going to let that w…woman railroad DiNozzo or… or make it look like he…he was in the wr…wrong.”

“Take a breath, Franco,” Tom said calmly waiving to the empty chair in front of his desk next to Jubal. “Have a seat next to Agent Valentine, and I’ll get you some water. Tell us what’s going on and then we’ll talk about repercussions.”

After Franco had sat down, Tom got up and grabbed three bottles of water from the mini-fridge he had in his office. Giving one each to his visitors, he cracked open the third and took a sip buying the NCIS agent time to calm down. “Better?” Tom asked and when Franco nodded, he continued.

“Now, no one in this office wants to railroad Tony or anything else. Agent Valentine here is running the investigation. He was just asking me some questions from things I remembered from my time as Director at NCIS, but he mentioned that you’d gone missing with some PCs and some information was compromised.”

“That Mc…McGee!” Special Agent Lagina swore, and Tom just lifted an eyebrow as the other man took another deep breath and drink of his water visibly trying to calm down.

“The hard…hard drives from both Special Agent DiNozzo and Officer David’s PCs are in those bags. They’re labeled and have been in my pos…possession since I left NCIS yesterday af…afternoon when Director Shepard went into meetings in MTAC. I…I’ve done my best to ensure the ev…evidence is still immiscible in court if needed.”

“Why did you take them in the first place?” Jubal asked and Tom just lifted an eyebrow at Franco wanting to know the same himself.

“Yesterday Director Shepard sent me an email ordering me to retrieve Officer David’s computer and make sure it is wiped down and ready for re…reuse. I reminded her that there was an active investigation going on by…by an outside agency and per policy, we were not to touch the computers until that inves…investigation had been resolved.

“She… she advised me that she was my bo…boss not Agent Valentine and her instructions were to clean off the computer. I… I responded that I wasn’t com…comfortable with that. At…at that point she came to my…my office and ordered me to comply with her orders to wipe the PC or she’d… she’d get Special Agent Mc…McGee to do it for her and I would be…be relieved of my duties as Cyber Team Manager.”

“I… I knew that there was something fishy going on. I heard my people…people gossiping that she’s been freaking out since… since Gi…Gibbs told her what happened. When… when she found out that… that Gibbs had been replaced as DiNozzo’s Medical POA she…she freaked out even more. I… I don’t… don’t trust McGee. Everyone in Cyber knows that he’s… he’s got his eye on the director’s chair and thinks he’s some Cyber hotshot even though I have at least two people on my team alone that are better than him.

“I didn’t… didn’t trust that he wouldn’t cave if She… Director Shepard ordered him to mess with something. So… So, when I pulled Officer David’s PC I pulled Special Agent DiNozzo’s as well. While I was doing that, I ran… ran some searches and saved some information that seemed… seemed relevant to the things I know Di…DiNozzo has been complaining about. Tony… Tony is good people, Tom. I… I don’t know what happened in that shipping container, but I know he didn’t kill her unless he had to.”

When Franco just looked at Jubal and lifted his chin in defiance, Tom almost choked on his water. This was the most defiant he’d seen Lagina about anything as long as he’d known the man.

“Arrest me if you have to, Agent Valentine. Tony’s helped a lot of people at NCIS, me included. I… I thought we’d lost my son completely after his accident. He… he was a star basketball player when he got hit by a drunk driver and found out he’d never walked again. Thanks… Thanks to Tony he now is still a star basketball player and… and may be chosen for the next Special Olympics. There’s p…pr…probably dozens of stories like that in the Yard. D…David never did anything but curse me and my… my people and had access way above what she should have been allowed.”

“When my people investigated that claim it didn’t reflect that,” Valentine pointed out and Franco huffed angrily.

“St…stupid McGee probably changed it. For…Fortunately that stuff is part of what I have on the thumb drives. I’m… I’m willing to… to take the hit for what I did. As long as Tony’s safe from that… that woman that’s all I care about. I owe him.”

“If you owe him, how do we know that you didn’t alter the evidence to reflect what you wanted?” Jubal asked Tom guessed playing devil’s advocate, but Franco didn’t seem phased.

“If I did… did that then your cyber people will find it. I… I bet McGee won’t be as willing to say… say the same. That glory hound will hide… hide behind the Director’s skirts and Gibbs’ coff… coffee cup and scream he didn’t… didn’t do anything wrong. Shit went down… downhill fast when Director Morrow left. Hope… hopefully, they make… make a better decision whomever they bring in next.”

Tom watched as Jubal and Franco studied each other before Valentine stood and motioned Carlson to follow. “I won’t put you in cuffs. Right now, you’re a witness. You’ll have to come back to the Hoover Building with me though so my team can ask you some questions and look over the evidence you brought. I’m not making any promises, but if you really didn’t alter anything, and if we can back up your claims that Shepard is trying to interfere with the investigation, I’ll do what I can for you. All I want is the truth.”

“That’s what we all want I think, Jubal,” Tom inserted before offering the men a good day as they left his office. Shaking his head, Tom couldn’t help but smile when he thought about the kind of people DiNozzo drew to him. Most people couldn’t tolerate Lagina because his stutter frustrated them, and his lack of people skills irritated them especially when his fuse got shorter after his son’s accident.

Tony though looked for the whys of all that and befriended not just the man but helped to improve his son’s life. Tom wasn’t aware that Tony was trying to help the kid get on the Special Olympics team but wasn’t surprised either that he was doing it or that he had a contact in that area. DiNozzo’s contacts were legendary and Morrow knew that Franco Lagina wouldn’t be the only one coming out of the woodwork to help if there was any hint of unfairness to Tony in this investigation. Tom doubted that he’d even need to use any of his own contacts if things turned for the worse. That didn’t mean that he wasn’t willing to do so, however. Pushing Tony and the investigation to the back of his mind for the moment, Tom turned his attention to some much-needed paperwork. The next day would be busy and he needed to clear some things off his desk for whatever may happen when DiNozzo found out about the SGC and its secrets.

Next Chapter

Note: I write fanfiction for fun. It’s a hobby and a stress relief. I refuse to angst over my writing. What you see is what you get. Errors, plot holes, and all. Thank you for reading my story!

2 thoughts on “The Difference A Bullet Can Make – Chapter Three

  1. Pingback: The Difference A Bullet Can Make – Chapter Two | AngelicInsanity

  2. Pingback: The Difference A Bullet Can Make Master Post | AngelicInsanity

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