Idea: what if tony had been a childhood actor. That would explain his encyclopedic and abnormally high interest in movies.
A Star Was Born.
Tony looked up from proofreading Ziva's report, as ordered by a frustrated boss, at the sound of his email going off. He reloaded his inbox and stared at the new message. Then he clicked on it and read it over. He typed in a short one and sent it back. Then he highlighted another phrase and put an arrow to the margin to write in what it should be. His email beeped again and he looked, then grimaced some. He read that message then closed it for now, considering it in the back of his head. He found a few more but he knew his mind wasn't on work. He got to the last page and groaned, crossing out a whole paragraph and telling her to rewrite it. Then he tossed it over. "Look for the highlights and arrows. Also, whatever translator you're using has grammar issues. Read it through to make sure the sentences make sense to you, Ziva."
"That bad?" McGee asked sympathetically. She nodded and held up the second page, which had no margins left to fill and some on the back of the sheet. "Well, at least you're improving your English skills."
"I still don't like that I have to do all this work," she complained. "Why must we file reports on everything we do, even if we don't solve the case?"
"Because if it's an unsolved one and someone else has to, they have our reports to summarize what we did so they don't have to bang their heads against the same wall," Tony said patiently. "I look at my reports as a way of briefing myself for court, Ziva. It should have everything in there that you should ever need if you're called to testify in the case and you have to refresh your memories."
"I've had to do that more than one time," McGee agreed. "Justice can sometimes be a slow old Lady." He looked at Tony. "Or to justify yourself if you broke something."
"Yeah, someone's not going to be pleased that they've got to replace the truck, again. I remember writing the report after the last time we damaged the truck. And the shriek we got when she read it."
"Hmm," McGee agreed, shuddering. At least that one had been storm related. Lightening had hit a tree and brought it down on top of their truck. This time, it had been traffic but no one wanted that report and McGee had supposedly been driving, even though Tony had taken the keys from him, so he delegated it to Ziva. The director liked her more anyway. Gibbs came back.
"I proofed it for her, boss," Tony offered. "She's got notes on what to correct and how. I also mentioned the translator's got a grammar problem." He looked at his email as it beeped again, closing it for now. His boss looked at him. "New email, not important at the moment."
"New woman?" he asked dryly.
"No. Actually it's about my cousin, but thanks for thinking I give out my work email for that, boss." His boss gave him a look. "I don't."
"He probably has an email account just for them, boss. That way he can keep his address book online," McGee offered with a smirk for Tony. "How many contacts does it have, Tony?"
"I don't keep a book like that, McGee. Any of my important women I don't need to look up their numbers." He gave him a long stare. "Besides, why would I keep that in email account? Not like I'm the one who had computer sex at work last month." McGee blushed and ducked his head, going back to his report. "Boss, I forwarded my report to you already. Including a nice section that can be cut out on what happened to the truck this time. You can leave it in or not. I made it sound like the other guy's fault."
"It was his fault," Gibbs agreed, sitting down to read it. He looked at Ziva, who was correcting hers. Then at McGee. "Yours?" His inbox beeped so he settled in to proof them both. They knew his preferred form and usually tried not to annoy him with them. His phone rang and he answered it. "Gibbs." He listened. "I'll tell him." He hung up. "The director wants to see you, DiNozzo. What did you do this time?"
"I have no idea," he admitted, getting up and heading up there. He looked at the secretary, who shrugged. So he knocked and walked in at the 'enter' that got called out. "You wanted me, Director?"
"I did. I just got an interesting phone call from computer services about private emails?"
"It's about my cousin. They wanted to do a 'where is he now' special on him. I'm the only way anyone has of getting in touch with him."
"Why?" She took off her glasses to look at him. "What did your cousin do?"
"He used to act."
"Really?" She looked at him. "So you were his assistant?"
"When I was younger. He left the business to go make a difference in the world. I told them we'd chat and talk sometime later tonight. I didn't realize I was under monitoring for unusual emails, Director."
"Your whole team is since they caught McGee having computer sex last month." He shrugged at that. "You knew?"
"It was four in the morning, he couldn't sleep, we were having a rest break, so yeah, I knew. Gibbs knew. He called him a teenager and told him to quit. He hasn't since then that I know of. Well, except for the porn ring we were working on last month."
"No, I heard about that one. Nice work pretending to be a teenage girl, Special Agent DiNozzo." He shrugged at that. "Fine. Try to keep it out of the office."
"If he's going to do that I may need to take a few days to go to him and help him. That way I can help him arrange for things."
"He can't do that himself?"
"No. He's got more important things on his mind and there's considerations that have to be made."
"Who was your cousin?" she asked, looking unamused.
He walked over and typed a web address into her computer, pulling up his 'cousin's profile in IMDB. He waved a hand. "Him." She gaped then stared at him. "Like I said, I played his assistant for a long time. The year he left the business he spent some time in my dorm at Ohio State." He shrugged and walked off. "I'll let you know."
"You do that," she called after him, reading over the profile of an actor she had seen in a few minor roles. She had liked one of the comedies he had a minor part in.
Tony sat down behind his desk. "McGee, thank you for getting us all watched by computer services," he announced. McGee groaned and put his head down. "Boss, the director wanted to know why I was handling things for my cousin."
"You have cousins?" he asked, looking slightly confused.
"A few. One's a former actor and he left the business. They want to do a 'where is he now' piece so I may need a few days to go help him with that."
"He need his act cleaned up?"
"He's making a difference in the world so I might need to press his clothes and make him shave, but otherwise no." He glared at him. "Not all those who left the business hid in drugs and alcohol, Gibbs. The fact is he's not at home at the moment and I used to play his assistant so everyone comes to me for him."
"Who was your cousin?" McGee asked.
"Bradley Nubbins. He used a family member's maiden name and a made up first one." He got to work, ignoring the pleased looks McGee was giving him. "I played his assistant for a few years."
"I remember him. He had a few good secondary roles in some actions and some comedies, plus a drama or two that won some really high praise."
"If I have to go, I'll tell him you're a fan," Tony offered dryly, getting back into his email. He forwarded the messages to another email account, plus the new on that had come in begging.
"Would I have seen any of his?" Gibbs asked McGee, who nodded. Tony shook his head. "Which is it?"
"Probably not, boss. You don't really go to the movies. He walked away from the business my sophomore year in college," Tony offered.
"Yeah, but before that he won an Academy Award for a supporting role in a drama and got nominated for another one."
"He also won an Emmy for a soap," Tony said blandly as he typed in something. He looked at McGee. "Should I get you an autograph?"
"No, I don't collect those. Thanks anyway," he said, smiling back. "Is he coming back to acting?"
"Every now and then he does voice roles. He left due to some issues he saw in his life that he didn't want. He's happy making a difference at the moment so I doubt it'll be more than the occasional voice work or maybe a small role now and then to keep his hand in."
"Wow. What's he doing?"
Tony looked at him. "He followed me into a department, Probie. He uses his skills now for undercover work."
"That's a good use of acting skills," Gibbs agreed. "He taught you well, DiNozzo."
"Thanks, boss." He got back to work then sent that email from his other address, getting back a confused one but that was okay. It would be fine when he answered later.
"What is wrong with my conclusion paragraph?" Ziva complained.
"It reads like a hippo wrote it and it doesn't wrap up anything," Tony said firmly. "Also, say something about the crash since you were in the truck when it got hit."
"Fine," she grumbled, doing that.
Gibbs looked at Tony's report. "Speaking of, yours comes out of nowhere."
"I wasn't sure if you wanted that to be a separate report and I did do a lead-in, boss."
"Not a very good one."
Tony looked at him. "It's not like I'm going to skip over it and out of timeline order, boss. That's how you want those things. That's what format it's in." He got back to work, then sent him something else. "There, two separate reports so you can hand in the one on the truck separately."
"You were driving."
"No, technically I was paused at a red light when the truck hit us."
"Tony, is it maybe time for pain killers?" McGee asked pleasantly. "You're sounding cranky again."
"Yes, my head is throbbing, no, I don't need drugs."
"Drugs are always a bad choice," Ziva taunted.
He looked at her. Then at the boss, who shook his head. He left it there. His boss knew he had another concussion, even if she hadn't been paying attention, yet again.
Tony answered his phone when he woke up from napping in front of the movie of the night. "DiNozzo." He smiled at the gentle, honeyed voice. "Mary, how are you?" He grinned and sat up more fully. "Yeah, there's a few issues with that plan. Well, for one, no one at work knows who I am. I told them I was my cousin's assistant on the side." He curled up around his knees. "Dear, I'm a Fed. I do undercover work. So you couldn't show my face anyway. A closeup on my eyes maybe but not my face," he agreed. "I can do that. Sure. That's more than acceptable. I can head out to LA and the house. Not an issue, Mary. I've missed you too. No, I've kept my hand in here and there. Some voice work, some mentoring a local kid's stage company, things like that." He beamed. "Sure. I've got to get it cleared with my boss. Um, two weeks?" He nodded. "That works. Thanks, Mary. See you soon." He hung up and called his boss. "Gibbs, DiNozzo. Nope, that thing with my cousin is going to make me go out of town. Do you want me to go on leave tonight or starting this weekend?"
He tapped a foot while he complained. "Sorry, boss, but I've got to get things ready while he's out of the country. Including going and opening his house back up and making sure he's got something presentable. Yes, I'm sure he'll be there. Because he agreed, boss. Don't care, boss. I'm more than willing to use my leave time for this. Not like I don't have a month or so saved up already." He smirked. "Thanks, boss. Love you too." He hung up and groaned. Then he called the director at home. "It's DiNozzo. I'm taking off starting this weekend to help my cousin with this shoot for a 'where are they now' segment. No, he's out of the country and I'm the only one who knows where his house is. Plus, neither of us is close to our families. I am his assistant, Director." He smirked at that grumbled response. "This weekend. I'll be back in two weeks. I do have the leave time and I'll be doing the paperwork in the morning. Yes, I'm sure I need it. Because my head aches from being hit while driving the truck, Director. Concussion. No, I'm flying. Yes, I can fly with the concussion I have. I've had worse and I'll have Ducky clear me before I go. Thanks." He hung up and laid back down on his couch, shaking his poor head.
Sometimes he wasn't sure which was worse, the politics in Hollywood or the politics in NCIS.
Tony pulled the keys out of his overnight bag and headed for the long-term lot at the airport he had flown into. He hated LAX. He always had. Fortunately they had a special garage that he rented space in. He used the pass on his keyring to get in and headed to his car, which was still in perfect condition. Someone had started it for him as promised and everything. He slid behind the wheel of the cherry Z-28, starting the humming engine and running a hand over the dash. "I'm home for a while, baby. Let's go home." He looked behind him then backed out and headed for the freeway. It was a pain but he didn't want to take the back roads with his present headache. He got through the mid-afternoon traffic and headed off his exit, going up into the hills around LA. It was a beautiful drive. It was one of the reasons he had bought the house up here. He smiled at the names on the gates he passed. He had some pretty nice neighbors. He pulled into his driveway and used the remote hooked to his visor to open the gate and the garage door, driving through. The gate closed automatically and the garage door stayed open since he parked outside. He'd have to run out for groceries later.
He looked up at his house. It wasn't anything special. It was a mix of Spanish metalwork on the balconies of a Tudor house. It was pale stone. The roof had been fixed a few years back and done in Spanish-style tiles. It looked a bit odd but it was like looking at a representation of his life, the two parts that were forced together. He got out and headed to the door, using the keys on that same keyring to let himself inside. He sighed in pleasure when he opened the door. "I'm home," he told himself. He walked around, touching a piece of furniture here, looking in his bedroom to make sure no one was napping, checking the fridge. The beers he had left were still there and still cold. He made out a quick grocery list and checked the small backyard. His house was modest, but comfortable. He'd had it since he'd made his father cosign his paperwork at fifteen. He had earned it and it was his house. His parents had never stepped foot in there. They had trusted him to behave on his own and not turn into one of the wild child brats that Hollywood was famous for. He'd had a few parties but nothing that wild. The pool was clean and clear. The lounge chairs had been moved but he assumed it was by the housekeeper since she was sitting on one. He coughed. "Maria?"
She jumped and stared at him. "Tony?"
He nodded. "Yeah, it's me. Someone wanted to do a 'where is he now' segment and I needed the rest."
"Your head again?"
"My head again; someone crashed into me. Not even case related," he said dryly. He sat down next to her. "Anything important I should know?"
"Your accountant out here is a bastard. He tried to cut my salary."
"I fired him last month. It might've been my mistake," he offered.
"No, this was before you fired him. I noticed the change in the checks." She stared at him. "Are you all right? You look tired."
"I am tired. You know how cases are." He shrugged gracefully and stretched out, yawning some. "I'll miss the movies while I'm here but I needed a rest. I'm in for about two weeks."
"That's good. You could use the rest! I should call that boss of yours and complain!"
"He thinks I'm my cousin, Maria. Don't do that," he sighed in complaint.
"Fine, I won't, as long as you rest and don't die on the job."
He looked at her. "You didn't even see me when I got the plague. Quit nagging."
"Plague?" she asked dryly. He nodded, smirking some. "That's it, I'm going to call that man."
"Don't. He still thinks I'm my cousin. The first he knew of it was them emailing me at work. I've never even mentioned Bradley at work." She snorted and got up. "I mean it."
"I know you do. I can keep that story."
"He'll be confused."
"No he won't! You need a mother!" She came out a few minutes later with a snack for him, making him smile and eat. "Thank you!" She patted him on the head. "Don't grow the beard like you did when you were working in Philly? You look dumb."
"It's one easy cover."
"No, Tony. Don't. Wear a ski mask, it's more attractive than when you grew a beard the last time." She smirked at him. "Or go have some minor plastic surgery done and wear bandages."
"Can't. The boss would complain if I did. Ziva taunted that I should get some wrinkles removed since I was coming out here."
"The woman is blind. Even lesbians would say you're handsome." She gathered up her things. "I'll head home. Order a pizza in tonight. I'll bring groceries. I found your list." She headed off with another pat, going out to pat his baby, the car. She loved working for her boss, he never complained when she mothered him. She had the easiest job in Hollywood since he was almost never home.
Tony finished his snack and stretched out right there, taking a nap in the sun. It was nice to be home.
Gibbs looked over when Tony's computer beeped. "Get that, McGee." He watched as he got up to answer the computer's summons, going back to his paperwork. He hated paperwork.
"Boss, it's someone looking for his cousin to arrange a time."
"He's already in LA," he said patiently.
McGee typed that in, getting an 'okay' back. "They'll call him or whatever." He shut down Tony's computer and went back to his own. "I can't believe he knows him."
"He said they're cousins," he said, tired of this subject already.
McGee shrugged. "I'm wondering if that's where Tony got his interest in movies from, boss."
"It could be," he said, sounding more patient. That did explain his fascination and knowledge of movies. Tony often quoted movies around the office. His computer beeped and he sighed, looking at the email from computer services. "Get his computer back up, log in, and tell the annoying person to leave his work address alone. Even computer services is complaining."
"Sure." He went to do that, smiling at the easy login. Tony always picked easy passwords in case something happened. He got into the email and wrote out a careful one saying that Tony's boss would like it if they used his personal email instead of the work one as the work emails were monitored by the federal government. He didn't get an answer so apparently it was gotten to the right people. He went back to his own paperwork. The director had made them fill out the forms for the insurance company. "Boss, what color truck was it that hit ours?"
"Thank you." He finished filling it out and sent it over for approval, getting a nod and it being sent up the chain. "It's quiet."
"Yet you keep breaking it," Gibbs said, glaring at him.
"I'm used to Tony babbling and throwing things at me, Gibbs."
He snorted and shook his head. "It's only for two weeks, McGee. Buck up. He'll be back and babbling very soon."
"Unless he gets a role out there," Abby said as she joined them, looking at McGee. "He could. Bradley's offered stuff all the time. Plus, I heard Tony on that last voice role he helped his cousin with."
"Excuse me?" Gibbs asked, staring at her. "What voice role?"
"Oh, it was for some cartoon project. A trial ep so they could see if anyone liked it. He played one of the little boys on the playground." He shrugged. "Bradley wasn't available and he sounds a lot like Tony so Tony filled in. Or that's what I heard."
"They didn't know the difference?"
She gave him a look. "That's because they're nearly twins. If Bradley had some plastic surgery, he's Tony, Gibbs." She looked at McGee again. "I got an email from him. He's safely out there and already had a nap in the sun by the pool."
Gibbs stood up. "Where is this place?"
"Bradley's house. It's in the hills somewhere. The number's unlisted and has a billing address that goes to an accountant. I can't trace it unless he calls us from the house phone."
"I see." He stared at her. "Are you...doubting this cousin? Do we think he's going to get DiNozzo in trouble?" Something in this was giving his gut instinct indigestion.
"No. His cousin quit the business because he had a minor stalker and he saw how things were going on around him that made him unhappy," McGee told him. "That's what he told the reporter when he announced he was going to school. He said he needed a break."
"Where did he go to school?"
"Well, he was filming at Ohio State for Tony's first and part of his second year there. So I'm guessing they stayed together. Then he had a girl who broke in and proclaimed she was accepting the proposal he had never given to her since he had never seen her before, and people made fun of him for having her arrested. It was back before the stalker laws were really put onto the books, boss. So he decided he wanted to go to school for a bit. No mention on which school but I know he spent the rest of that semester with Tony at Ohio State since he said he was going to look at colleges from that base and to please leave his cousin alone."
She nodded. "Then again, he also had a very proud moment once when he said that he didn't ever use an assistant."
"He could've been protecting Tony. They're both about the same age," McGee reminded her. "Tony's two years older, Abby."
"Huh," Gibbs said, looking at them. "You both suspect what?"
"Boss, it's too circumstantial and if it was something like Tony's actually Bradley I think there's a pretty good reason for it so I'm not going to bother him," McGee offered.
"I'm not that much a fangirl, Gibbs, but people have wondered about him."
"Tony said he went to a department like he did."
"I'm sure he did," Abby agreed. Then she smiled at Ziva when she joined them. "Hi."
"What's going on?"
"Oh, talking about Tony's cousin."
Ziva snorted and shook her head. "Actors are boring people. I'm not surprised someone like Tony got sucked into that life. All the loose women probably drew him like jelly."
"Honey, jelly on draws ants when it's left out," Abby corrected. "And no, his cousin never partied like that." She shrugged. "Plus, Tony has taste. He only dates pretty things." She looked at the boss again. "I do know that Tony's been out there a few times, Gibbs. Every time he gets really hurt. Except for when Ziva got him shot. You called him back to work while he was packing." Gibbs gave her a glare. "You did." She looked at McGee again. "Anyway," she said, handing over a CD. "If we taunt Tony about his cousin, he'll leave us. We'll come in, there'll be letters for each of us, and he'll already be on a plane somewhere else." She walked off again.
McGee ran it, looking it over. "Boss, the film from the bank robbery you wanted her to go back over for us before court." He handed him the CD and got back to work.
Gibbs went back to his desk and considered what they had said. He wasn't one for modern entertainment but it was interesting to think about. Then again, DiNozzo as a real actor? He wasn't that good. He looked up this guy online through google, finding his fanclub's page. It listed an academy award, another nomination, and an emmy. No, the DiNozzo he knew and had worked with was not that good.
Tony looked up as someone he had known once upon a time was let into the living room. "Hey, Mary." He blew a kiss. "Pull up a chair. I forgot I had HBO out here."
She sat down beside him, staring at him. "I need to make final arrangements for the interview."
"Sure." He glanced at her. "Did you see this one yet? It wasn't playing anywhere in DC that I could get to with the case I was on at the time."
"It wasn't too bad. Not great but not too bad. More cultural than I liked." He nodded and set it to record then looked at her. "Okay, what are you doing now?"
"I'm a Fed."
"Crap," she muttered. "Okay, so how do we want to do this?"
"You remember in Horizon, the eye shot?" She nodded. "We can do that again. I was told not to grow a beard like last time." She smiled and nodded at that. "Maria said I looked dumb."
"You looked like Grizzly Adams before a bath, Tony. Rough does not look good on you. Now, a fake one in an odd color we could see. The first question will be why we're doing this and the eye closeup?" He nodded and grinned. "Yeah, a fake beard in something like bright blue or lime green won't hide that but it would camouflage the lack of cleft in your chin."
"My fanclub knew I had it taken out. Plus that I got my nose fixed. I told my doc to slip them some post surgery pics. Not the ones where I was fully healed but enough that they saw where I had the work done and a few days later I agreed that I had let him take the cleft out because it was cracked and bothering me thanks to that one fall on the site. To fix it fully they had to fill in the gap too. Then I told them I got the bump and small scar on my nose taken away. But that I had left my birthmark alone." She smiled at that. "So if we have to I can gladly show that and we all know it's been seen. They put it in People for two weeks running after that one nude scene."
"Well, you were only sixteen, Tony."
"Yeah, but I had been doing that when I was eight too, just not nude." He shrugged. "I liked that role." He sifted some more, leaning on the back of the leather couch. "Are we doing this here?"
"If we could. This house always makes you more calm and restive. Most reporters hate working with you because you're so bouncy and loud. Here is better."
"Here is home."
"I know. We'll let them see a small tour if you wanted." He shrugged but was still smiling. "How's work?"
"Tough. I manage to make it home all the time when I get injured."
"I've heard you've been back in town a lot over the last few years. What happened?"
"Mostly hard things attracted to my head. A few minor gunshots. Oh, and the plague but I was watched too closely to get out here after that. Plus I lost a teammate."
"I'm sorry. Which one?"
"Kate." She nodded, looking at that picture. "Yup, that one. I'm still working with the rest of them but we've got a Mossad agent in to take her place."
"Is she doing okay?"
"Now and then."
"Ah. So you two don't get along?"
"Not that well. I can work with her but she's not the sort I can tease or I can hang out with after work. I had that with Kate now and then. Oh, and Abby, who is a member of the fanclub and might know but she'd never talk to me about it."
"She knows the *second* she brings that up I'm leaving. I told my fanclub that I was joining a police department and if they saw me to please not out me to them. It would only cause problems and I'd have to leave. Abby knows me well enough to know that I'd leave."
"Well, at least you have some friends."
"Some." He smiled at her. "How are you and the gang?"
"Pretty decent. We were all surprised when you and Molly broke up of course, but that's the last time the gang has really been noted together except for movie reunions."
"It happens to the best of us. I'm luckier than most. I avoided all the traps and I didn't spend myself poor."
"Which is a good thing," she agreed, touching his hand. "Is there anyone special? Should I not mention anyone?"
"No, no one special and I don't care if you ask. The fanclub all know I'm bi. One of them outed me about three years ago. I don't normally date men but I have in the past." He shrugged. "My boss would freak if I brought in a boyfriend."
"Probably. Did you know that the local office out here knows your boss and you?"
"Doesn't really surprise me. I can walk into the FBI building in DC and say 'hi, I'm Tony from Gibbs' team' and they all know me now." She laughed at that, swatting at him. "Seriously. It gets easier if I've got Abby with me but they all know me." He smiled. "Anyway. Hat?"
"Hat would be good. You dyed your hair for roles so that shouldn't be a problem. It'd give you a bit more coverage."
"Sure. I've got a 76'ers hat I can wear backwards." She nodded at that. "So, here?"
"Here or the porch if you want."
"With that sun?"
"Point. Here's good." He smiled. "We'll start with the 'are you sure you're Bradley' questions, then move onto that standard stupid questions, then move onto 'this is my life' stuff and then a small tour of the house to look at the awards and the pool?"
"Sounds good and like a full day." She nodded at that. "I'll go buy a fake beard tonight."
"I think we can find one. Should we make it match your eyes?" He smiled at that and shrugged. "I'll have someone use some temporary dye then." She stroked the back of his hand. "Do you miss being out here?"
"I miss some of it. Some of my old friends and things. I don't miss the politics. I get the same sort of stuff at work anymore." He took her hand to hold. "I miss having people who knew what I had done and were supportive. Did you hear about my father?"
"We figured that was one of the reasons why you left. She had been the last straw and then he told you it was good publicity and pushed you toward that action movie again?" He nodded. "That's reasonable then. At least you told your fanclub that you had other supportive members of your family."
"No, just me. Mom hated me because I took away her method of being shown off and being admitted to the best places. My aunts both hated that I acted before they died. Now and then I work with a local stage company to mentor some of the kids and to get some of the parents off the Mommy Dearest path. If my work schedule was a bit less insane I'd do it more often."
"Do you act with them?"
"No, I coach and I sometimes direct a few things. I wrote something minor for them to do as a pre-show."
"I heard you were trying to write."
"Oh, I have. I've written two things no one liked. Though one of them was blatantly plagiarized. That one's before a judge and the guy doesn't have a hope in hell. He only changed names and a few sentences to reflect a supposed racial speech pattern, my lawyer's words. Not that the movie that got created did very well but it was my script."
"I've been following that one. He's done it to a few others. There was another case filed against him and there's rumors that another author stepped forward as well."
"Charming. Why did I ever want to act?"
"It got you out of the house and around other kids. It got you away from your parents for a while too."
"Oh, yeah. That reason." He sighed and shook his head. "He'll get what's coming to him. One of these days he'd going to rip off someone who has underworld connections and they're going to have him killed."
"Tony, sweetie, you've been in the police a bit too long now," she said, giving his hand a squeeze. "You're thinking like the other side." He grinned at that. "Should I mention the music?"
"Go right ahead. I still play to relax myself whenever I'm home. My apartment in DC isn't big enough for a piano. I spent half the morning playing."
"Good." She leaned over and kissed him on the end of his nose. "I'll let you get back to your movie, Tony. Oh, Martha wants a call. She got snapped at by one of your coworkers about using your work address?"
"One of my coworkers was caught having 'net sex and we're all being monitored on my team."
"Ah. Well, call her anyway?" He nodded and smiled, getting up to walk her out to her car. "Thank you, Tony. You have a good week? I'll see you in three days?"
"I will. I'm behaving." She smiled and drove off. He locked the gate after her and sighed. "To think, I nearly married that woman once." He went back inside to his movie, contemplating the strange thing that was his life. And how Gibbs would snarl and then laugh at him for it.
Tony finished sticking the bright green beard on and put his hat on backwards, then pulled down a few pieces of hair. His forehead was much too large to have it all pushed back that way. Then he let Maria check it over, weathering her sighs of complaint. It'd stay on since she tugged really hard. He walked out there and Mary giggled and nodded. "I know."
"It does do good things for your eyes," she offered. She pointed at the couch. "There please, Bradley."
"Sure, Mary." He sat down and got comfortable. Then he looked at the cameraman. "This good for you? Too hard of an angle? Too much sun? We'll have a lot of sun near two or three."
"It's fine so far, Mr. Nubbins."
"Let me know." That got a nod and he looked at his ex. "Okay, whenever you're ready. Not like I've had to rehearse anything."
She smiled and picked up her notes to glance through then nodded at the cameraman to start rolling. "I'm here with Bradley Nubbins. As far as I know. Can you prove who you are, Bradley?" He stared at the camera for a moment, letting it capture the deep green of his eyes, then he looked away like he had in one very well known movie. "Ah, you do remember."
"Of course I do. I practiced for two weeks to get that one right. I can even show you my birthmark if you want, Mary. Though you can't say anything about the other scars around it."
He got up and let his pants down, showing off the mark on his thigh. She stared and reached over to trace one, looking up at him. He nodded and pulled his pants back up. "Sorry."
"That's all right, Bradley. Now, I should clarify that you're in disguise because you've become a police officer since the last time we spoke, correct?"
"I have. I also do a lot of undercover work and if they knew what I looked like now it'd kinda blow that for me."
She smiled. "That's perfectly understandable. I do like the green beard."
"Your cameraman was right, it brings out my eyes," he said with a goofy grin. She smiled back. "So you wrote a friend at work and said you wanted to see me?"
"I did. You were one of the more promising and watched young stars we had during your heyday and then you went to college. A lot of people were wondering what happened to you."
"Well, I went to college and graduated with a BS. Then I joined a police department, though I do still do some voice acting work now and then. I also help and mentor a stage company where I'm working so I can help the kids who're part of it to see what the life is really like and not what you see in the tabloids and the shows like ET. I've also had to help some parents come down off the Mommy Dearest track because stage moms like that suck. I've found a few kids I've introduced to people and let them move on from there. I've suggested two go to school for it, that way they learn more about the craft of acting and the other parts of the process, then I introduced them to my manager, who gave them a realistic overview. Last I heard they were both doing some off-Broadway stuff in New York. I've had to help a few kids see that it's fun to act but the *real* part of acting is like work. I've dashed a few dreams, mostly the parent's. Sometimes the kids' about the glamorous parties. I find telling a few stories about the eighteen hour days on a shoot in the middle of nowhere like we did for four of my films works well for that."
"Good. It sounds like you haven't abandoned us totally," she teased.
"Acting's part of who I am. I use it more on the job these days than not," he offered with a small smirk. "Undercover is like the ultimate acting role. I flub a line and I get shot." The cameraman moved some and he tracked him then looked at her again. "Was it my fanclub who asked? I adore them, they're all very nice to me."
"Some. One of them wanted to know if you'd do an interview for an anniversary copy of one movie's DVD."
"I'm not sure. With what I do, it could become dangerous. I'd love to do it," he promised, smiling brightly. "I just don't want shot again."
"I noticed the scars around your birthmark, and in that one case through the edge. What happened?"
"Various problems at different times. The one through the edge was my second year on the job. The other two were about six months ago. I've got one on my arm," he offered, letting her see that one. "That was caused by stupidity."
She took his hand, moving closer since the cameraman was trying to get both of them. "You look tired, Bradley."
"I am. I'm working on the other coast so I only get to come home whenever I'm injured or on vacation. I'm on vacation to do this for you. Thank you."
"You're welcome. Before we go any deeper, let's do the 'must have' questions everyone wants to know the answer to. Then we'll get back to your life as we know it, all right?" He nodded, realizing she had noticed how sad his eyes had turned. "All right. The first one is...if you had to do anything other than acting what would you be doing? For you let's amend that to besides being an officer."
He grinned and blushed some, ducking his head. "I'd be a movie historian. That's what got me into the love of acting, watching the movies and seeing how everyone was different. It took me a few months to realize that sometimes it was the same guy but he was a different guy for each film and that intrigued me. Anymore I see more of my movie collection than I do anything but the inside of the office. I've got about six hundred DVD's at home. It's so bad the place where I buy them knows me by name and gives me a rundown of what's come in since the last time I was there." She giggled at that. "If I ever do leave law enforcement I'm going back to school to become a film historian. Hopefully for the Guild. I would adore that." He pushed some of her hair back behind her ear. "You changed your hairstyle in the last week."
"I have." She blushed a bit and smiled. "Are you seeing anyone?"
"Nope. I've dated a whole lot. I've dated enough that my coworkers pick on me for it, but I haven't found anyone *special* in a while. I'm a bit picky in that area."
She nodded. "This has come up a lot recently. Are you straight?"
"I'm actually bisexual. My fanclub's known for years. They've caught me out on dates with guys in the past, and with some women. Recently I've stuck with women, it was easier at the office with the way things are going in my life. My present boss would freak and throw me out if I came in with a boyfriend one day."
"But you're not ruling it out?"
"No, I'm searching more for a personality than a gender. I want someone who understands me. Someone who likes me. Someone who's willing to pop the stress zit on my back whenever it comes back after a hard case. Someone who'll let me sit and watch movies with them or read with them. Someone nice. Not someone like my stalker, who showed up a few years back at work. I ended up changing departments because of her showing up at work. Things got weird and I had to leave."
"I'm sorry to hear that. There's no one on the dating front?"
"Oh, I've dated. I've dated what seems to be half the city that I'm in presently. I haven't found what I'm looking for yet."
"Does that mean you've had some regrets?"
"Well...." He considered it. "Back before I went to school, I thought I'd be a father by now," he admitted. "Someone to teach the right ways, to teach them respect and love. Someone who was my family. I do regret that I don't have that yet. I regret that things happen on cases that I couldn't control. If I was psychic I'd be a lot happier. There've been things that have happened during cases that I would give anything to prevent. I lost a teammate a few months back and I would give anything to have her back," he said quietly. "It's one of the few times in the last few years I haven't walked in the door with a bandage or medication in my hand. Maria, my housekeeper and might-as-well-be mother, found me collapsed in here after her funeral." She nodded, patting his hand. "I was next to her when she died."
"I'm sorry, Bradley." She gave him a hug. "We all have regrets about those we lost."
"Yeah, well, she was like my sister in many ways. It's always hard to lose family." He blew his nose. "Sorry. Let's move onto happier things."
"Sure." She looked at her list. "What's your favorite sound?"
He smiled. "The sound of the enter key as I send a report to my boss after the end of a case. Catching a criminal is like that moment when you've finally finished filming, you've watched the whole thing through to make sure it's as perfect as you could make it, you've cleaned out your trailer and you turn to look back at it. That's the same feeling I get when I hit the enter key to send in my report." She smiled at that. "It's sappy but it is."
"I'm sure it is. The world could use many more officers who give a damn."
"After a while you can give up," he said honestly. "It's a hard job. You see a lot of the bad and very little of the good of humankind. I've seen serial killers, rapists, people who abuse their kids, one who sold their kids. I know I can't stop it alone but it's important that I stop the ones I can."
"I'm glad that you do, Bradley. I'm sure the victims all feel that you've done your best." He nodded at that. "I hate to ask, but what's the most hated sound?"
"It's a toss up. It's either the sound of a bullet hitting myself or my teammate somewhere or it's the sound of something hard coming down on my head. Since I moved departments I've had a lot of that last one." She smiled at that. "Seriously. It's gotten to the point where I go back to work with a concussion anymore." He shrugged. "I'm in a tough job but I love it most of the time. Now and then it sucks monkey balls but most of the time I love it."
"So I've heard." She smiled. "Do you still play music?"
"Every chance I get. Usually only when I'm at home since my apartment where I'm working isn't big enough for a piano. I wish it was some days, it'd be nice to come home and destress that way. Music has always been how I unwind and relax after a long, hard shoot or a hard case. Unfortunately I'm working on the other coast at the moment so I only get home when I'm injured or on vacation. Thank you again for bringing me out on vacation."
She giggled. "You're welcome. You look less tired than you did a week ago."
"I've gotten some full nights of sleep. It's amazing. No one called at two in the morning needing me to report."
"Have you considered changing departments again?"
"I have but my team is like my family. Right now, the goods outweigh the bads. If not, maybe I'll move back this way so I can live at home. This has always been my real home and my sanctuary. Maybe I'll go work in Malibu." She smiled at that. "Well, that way I'd at least get to see some of my old friends out and about."
"True." She stroked his wrist again. "Would you mind showing me around?"
"Not a problem. This is the living room. It's where you'll find me if I'm not napping in the sun, tinkering in the garage, or napping in the bedroom." He got up and hauled her up, walking off with her, her hand over his arm to be escorted. "You've seen the front of the house. Please don't film the outer part of the house so no one suddenly starts to show up here," he requested politely.
"Not a problem, Mr. Nubbins," the cameraman agreed.
Tony smiled at him. "Thanks." He pointed at his car. "That's one of my two babies. I've got one back on the job that's my other one. It's a mustang." He walked her around the side of the house, letting her into the yard after a few tries. "Sorry, I always forget the gate codes," he excused. He smiled at his bit of lawn. "This is one of the few untouched places on the grounds. I used to play with Charger here."
"What did happen to your husky? No one's heard about him in years." He pointed at a small monument against the wall. "Oh, I'm sorry, Brad."
"Not a problem, Mary. He lived a long and good life. He died right before I went to shoot Token at Ohio State." He shrugged. "We used to play out here all the time. I'd have gotten a new friend but my life's too frantic even for a cat. I get called out of town now and then." He walked her on, taking her to the pool area. "This is the pool. It's nice. It's got shady spots for a nap. Which I've spent the last two days doing. Um..." He quickly hid the boxers he saw out on one of the chairs. "Sorry, I was skinnydipping last night when it was so humid and Maria doesn't clean up after me that way."
"You're not a child of my womb, of course I don't," she called from the kitchen. "There's a car pulling up, Bradley."
"Thanks, Maria." He walked them back to the front, smiling at the delivery driver. "Hi. Thank you." He signed his name and the man gaped at him. He winked and handed his copy of the slip back. "Thank you for bringing dinner for me. Anything else?" he asked when the guy continued to stare.
"Oh, um, your drink." He reached into the car, finding one, but it was half empty. He found the guy's drink and handed it over. "Thank you, Mr. Nubbins."
"No, thank you. I needed wings tonight." The guy smiled and left so he locked the gate again and walked the wings inside. "Here, Maria. So you don't have to cook for my pitiful butt again tonight."
She swatted him but took the box. "It's not like I mind. Go smooze with them. Out! Take your drink, you need more fluids. You're sweating." He took his soda with him, smiling at Mary and the cameraman. "He never takes good care of himself," she called. "He needs to find a good friend to date."
"I know I do but I can't find one," he called back. "Send some my way, Maria. I'll give them a try too." He grinned that same goofy grin. "Like I said, she might as well be my mother." He walked them back outside and through both gates, into the small area of trees. "This is a nice spot. It's a small orchard that I never get to pick bare. I've got a friend who went into social services who comes out to pick some of it to give to his kids and families that he works with. Also, now and then, one of the neighbors picks some, mostly because she complains if they rot and stink up her kitchen." He pointed at a branch that was moving. "Hi, Mrs. Reid." He heard smaller footsteps running off. "I don't mind, Billy," he called. "Come back and pick some more. It's not like I'm going to eat them all." He peeked over the fence and Tony opened it. "Really. I'm not. Pick some apples too if you want." He gave him a boost up into the tree and smiled at the older lady coming out. She had been old as long as he had known her. "Hi, Mrs. Reid."
"Hello, dear." She kissed him on the cheek and smiled at the cameraman. "Did they force you to do an interview?"
"Mary said she got nagged to find out where I was by some people. You know I don't mind if you poach fruits."
"I know, dear, but I only sent him out for lemons. That's enough, Bobby. Help him down?" Tony helped the younger boy down with his ill gotten gains, including handing back an apple he had dropped. "I haven't seen young Frederick recently. Nearly six months now. You might want to check on him. Also, can you have someone look at the lemon tree? It's been waving in lighter and lighter breezes. I wouldn't want it to destroy the fence."
"I'll call Fred tonight and I'll have someone come look at the lemon tree so it doesn't break your fence. You know I like your fence." She smiled and nodded, walking her grandson inside. He smiled at Mary. "Her husband built that before he had his car wreck and died a few years back," he said quietly, pulling out his phone and pushing the walkie talkie button. "Maria, has no one heard from Fred recently and have someone look at the lemon tree for me please?" He let it go.
Her voice came back after a beep. "Someone's coming to bury the tree's roots deeper, some of the topsoil got washed away in the last ark-needing rainstorm. They'll also put in lines to make sure it stays upright and not into her fence. As for Frederick, I'm not sure. I haven't seen him either but I'll call his work to see if he can come out for you, dear." Her voice disappeared after another beep.
"Thank you," he called back, then put the phone back, smiling at Mary. "There's a small mystical spot out here too." He walked her and the cameraguy on. "When the two neighbors in the back put up their fences, they curved them so I have a point back here that's basically no man's land. We've called it a mystical spot of convergence. We've even had picnics out here on it." She smiled at that, giving his arm a squeeze. He found one of the neighbors peering over the fence. "Hi, Donna."
"Oh, T... Bradley," she said, catching sight of the camera. She kissed his cheek. "I thought I heard someone and I wanted to make sure."
"Just us. Mary wanted to see what I was doing. Someone nagged. You know, Maria can't eat all the fruit and neither can Mrs. Reid. If you wanted you, you could come pick some too."
"I might get some of the apples."
"Bobby just picked some but I'm not sure if they're all ripe or not."
"That's fine. For my pie, they can be a bit tart. Help me over the fence?" He braced himself then picked her up and put her on top of the small stone fence, making her blush. "Thank you. You're very strong."
"Comes with the job, Donna." He grinned and walked them back up to the house. "That's about the whole place."
"I didn't see your statues."
"Well, they're in the study. I don't usually go in there." He finished up his drink as he walked them through the kitchen, tossing away the cup like a good boy, earning a fond smile from his housekeeper. He walked in there then leaned out. "Maria, can I have the endust?" She sighed and brought him a dampened dusting cloth. "Thanks. We both missed the Emmy." He walked in there to clean them. "Sorry, I don't spend much time in here anymore."
"I'm surprised they're here," Mary said, sitting down in one of the sinfully soft and comfortable leather chairs next to the desk.
"Well...." He turned to look at her. "I consider it a great honor to have been chosen for these, and nominated for another one," he said. "But at the same time, I can't rest on them. I'd be bored within six weeks if I didn't have anything new to do other than dust the new hardware." He turned back and dusted the others up there. "Now, my second emmy for the voicework I did a few years back, that's at the other place. It's a bookend." He got done and sat down behind his desk, letting the view out the bay window behind him frame his position. "I try very hard to live in the present and only remember the past fondly, Mary. I adore and I cherish the fact that they considered me good enough to earn those, even though I wonder why. I've never understood what made my performance better than anyone else's and worthy of such accolades. That's just the guy I am though. But if I rest on them then I'm not living in the present and that means I'd get injured again and get to have another short weekend home. So I try to live in the present and only remember fondly. That's why they're here, in my home. I'm a lucky man. I've got two homes. I've got family that's like a home in my current team. Plus I've got this place, which is my home and sanctuary. Part of the reason I went to college on the east coast was so that my new life didn't bleed and corrupt my sanctuary. This has always been where I retreated whenever I needed some peace for my soul. With what I do, it comes home with me."
"So even if you moved back to this coast...."
"I might end up taking an apartment in the town where I'm working but I'd get to come home so much more often." She smiled at that. "Maybe if I did that I could find a place big enough for a piano at my other place. That way I could play some more."
"Would you play for us, Brad?"
"Sure." He got up and walked her into the conservatory. It was filled with light and plants, plus his baby grand piano. He sat down. "Any requests?" he asked with an impish grin.
"Play whatever you want to. I know today's been a bit emotional for you."
He smiled and played something she used to like to dance with him to, making her smile at that. Then he moved onto something more emotional, something he could let some of the past hurts out on. He didn't prefer showy pieces, the ones that proved technical mastery, he liked the ones that showed emotion and depth, that almost told a story within the music. So he was playing a lesser known Tchaikovsky piece. It was good for him. When he finished and looked up it was just him and her. "He left?"
"He went to put the camera in the car." She moved closer, giving him a hug. "I'm sorry you lost her."
"Me too." He gave her a squeeze. "If you're ever in DC, come find me. I'm at NCIS," he whispered in her ear, getting a nod. He took off the beard and hat, putting one on her head and the other onto her face with a grin. "Now go edit so I don't sound like a total moron in the first few minutes or the last few minutes."
"I still like the mystical spot of convergence. Watched Buffy?"
"I usually stick to movies but now and then some series catch my attention and I end up buying the boxed set. That was one. So was CSI since I kinda do that now," he admitted dryly. He spanked her, making her yelp. "Go work, Mary. You can come watch me play some other time."
"Yes, Tony. Want dinner tonight?"
He smiled at her. "Your ex would hunt me down and kill me. He called to make sure I knew I wasn't getting you back."
"I've got to stop that man. Have fun with your wings and the Roots specials you had laying on top of the DVD player." She smiled and walked out, heading out to their van. Then back to the office so she could make him seem as special as he was.
Tony went back to playing. He loved his music and he did need to let it go again. He had loved her once upon a time. He would have married her if her career hadn't gotten in the way and if she had agreed to go with him.
Tony looked up from his nibbling on his wings when Maria came in with a letter. "What's that?"
"I don't know."
"Does it sound like there's baby powder in there? Because I don't want the plague again."
"No, dear, it's a letter." She handed it to him. "From your local president of the fanclub." She took the plate of bones and headed to toss them out then give him the plate back while he read. She saw the goofy smile and hugged him around the throat. "Do you have time?"
"It'd mean pushing my departure back by about ten hours and having to sleep on the plane that night. I'll fix that tonight and arrange for a slightly sooner time." She nodded, heading to call the girl herself. She knew Tony would get lost in the movies. He always did. He looked at the picture of his former partners and teammates, smiling at the one with Kate in it. "You would've made fun of me for months," he said fondly.
"She knew," Maria called from the kitchen.
"Not really. She figured out I had a past I didn't talk about, but she never figured out what," he called back. "She told me once she thought I had driven race cars or something flashy like that. Kate was a good profiler but she always underestimated me."
Maria walked in a glass of lemonade. "That's because you never let those hidden depths out, Tony. How could they know you if you don't?"
"They don't want me to be that deep, Maria. They want me deep enough to go undercover and nothing else. I can't even talk about dating anymore." He nibbled on another wing. "Plus they hate it when I talk about movies."
"Then they're not really that close to you." She grabbed her things. "I'm going home. You rest. You're still tired. If you're hungry later I left you a sandwich for a midnight snack." He kissed her on the cheek, making her smile. "I'm sure they're as close as you let them, Tony, but you never let anyone that close anymore. That's why you're not finding someone special." She walked off, heading to catch a cab home.
He settled in, staring at the movie for now, thinking about that. He had pretended to be shallow for so long, it was almost like a role for him.
Tony smiled as he was let into a house, shaking hands with his fanclub president. "No stalkers, right?"
"No, no stalkers, Bradley. No beard?"
"It itched." He grinned. "I can wear a bandana if you want. Or I can be my cousin Tony, which is who I am at work."
"I'll make sure the fangirl out there doesn't get it." She walked him into the living room, watching her fellow fans squeal and bounce up to hug him. "Yes, he's agreed to come today and then he's got to leave to go back to DC. That's why we can't tell any of the DC members he was here or give them any tapes." That got some nods and they gathered around. "We saw the interview." He blushed at that, looking sheepish. "No one?"
"No, I date a lot. Quite a lot. But no one can put up with my work schedule, much less dealing with me when I've had a bad case or a bad day. Plus there's no piano there. How did it turn out? I didn't watch it."
"She let it trail off with you playing something classical," one of the women said with a smile. "What were you playing?"
"A lesser known piece by Tchaikovsky. Talking about my teammate got me a bit upset."
"We saw. She edited it beautifully."
"Sometimes it pays to let an ex-girlfriend do the interview. Hopefully she didn't make me sound like an idiot?" They shook their heads. "Oh, good. I was worried about that."
One of the women took his hand to hold. "Are you going to do the voice in the second film when it's done next year?"
"No one's asked. I'll ask Martha today if she'll talk to them," he promised, smiling at her. "I haven't been very active because my current posting has some very long, bad hours for any moonlighting. I've had whole weeks where I only made it home twice." They 'oohed'. "Sorry, but being there is very tiring now and then. That's why I only get home when I'm injured."
"Can I see your arm?" another woman asked. He took off his shirt, making her blush and a few of them take pictures next to him, but she checked the scar. "What happened there?"
"The person I was working with shot inside a metal container. I got grazed. It needed a few stitches and I got to come home for about four days that time." He grinned at her. "It's not the worst."
"I'm ignoring the scar on your chest, Bradley," she admitted, touching around the edges gently. "Was that dangerous?"
"It was nearly fatal. I spent a long time at my desk in Baltimore after that one." She pouted at him. "Hey, blame the drug dealer who was killing people." She nodded, touching it again. He took her hand to hold. "It's all right. Modern medicine is very good at healing bullet wounds."
She nodded at that, giving him a hug, and more people took pictures. "It sucks that to be a positive influence on society you have to get shot now and then."
"I don't mind the grazes as much as I do the concussions. Concussions ruin your whole week. They never heal as fast as they do on tv." They giggled at that. "We all know we can't tell Abby anything, right?" They all nodded and he relaxed. "Thanks, ladies. So, what would you like to know?"
"I saw Rage the other day," one offered.
"Wow, you're one of about ten people outside the critics then," he said with a grin. "Hated it?"
"I took it as a character study, and as such you being a horrible person like that was a great job."
"Thank you. I liked doing that movie. The only problem with it was the leading man and how the director catered to him. I think if we had a different sort of leading man it would've been a better movie. Probably edged more toward a psychological thriller sort than the one it ended up as." She nodded at that and smiled. "I'm still surprised anyone watched that. My father complained for months that I chose to do that over a higher budget action movie. He never understood that for me it was about becoming someone else. Not about being the same guy every single film."
"What did happen between you two?" his president asked.
"Well...." He grimaced. "My father was watching the bottom line. He made me use a pseudonym for my acting stuff because he didn't want it to go back onto his normal life as a banker." They all nodded at that and a few pouted. "To him, the family name was everything and something to be upheld. He thought my mother sending me to do the local stage company's stuff was cute and got me out of the way until I was needed. When I got my break on that soap for six months, he made them use a different name so no one would know it was his son. Then he found out what sort of money I could make and he kept grooming me to make millions of dollars. Eventually he and I had it out after the stalker and how I reacted to it. He thought it was great press. That I should go to the press about it instead of letting it be handled quietly and if it leaked, which it did, it leaked. He thought it would get me more attention. I ended up screaming that I didn't want that sort of attention. I didn't want to be some stock part that got pulled out as a plot device in some crappy big budget movies, and I sure as hell didn't want to end up like some of the guys were going and being forced into the same part over and over again. He banished me from the family since I wasn't going to make us more money. I was already at Ohio State taking a few classes while I filmed. So I stayed." They smiled at that. "I got a PE degree, I went to the academy, and then I started work in Peoria."
"Which one did you leave when she showed up?" his president asked.
"Philly. She showed up at my work and started to scream and rant about how I had never come home after proposing to her. How she had miscarried the baby I supposedly gave her and I had never cared. It was worse than some soap speeches." They giggled at that and he shrugged. "I pointed out there was a restraining order. That I hadn't met her before she broke into my room at Ohio State, and that if she didn't leave I was going to have her put back into the mental ward since clearly she still needed it. My boss got her arrested and had it handled more quietly, then the funny looks started. The 'I can't believe you used to act' looks. The 'did you do drugs like the rest of them' questions. I left about a week after she got there and headed to Baltimore. He never said anything thankfully. She's still on drugs from what I understand."
"Do you ever want to go back and do another film?" the one who had touched his scars asked.
He nodded. "I wouldn't mind. It's why I fired my agent back during my college days. I withdrew some and told him to find me stuff for the summers. He never did and I questioned the second summer. He said my father said I should rot so I fired him and went to Martha. She found me voice work and I've done a few minor parts in some more PBS oriented movies now and again. If the right part came along, I'd jump at it. I might have to quit NCIS because Gibbs would *not* approve of having an actor on staff. As a matter of fact, if Abby's blown my cover I may be back here in a few days. Gibbs would never put up with it."
The president of his fanclub coughed. "Brad, are you maybe a bit in lust with your boss?" she suggested.
He shrugged. "Well, yeah, but we're a family and I'm not going to ruin that dynamic by hitting on my very straight boss. Who was married three times and divorced really badly all three times." They giggled at that. "Seriously! One of them took a golf club to his head." That got more giggles. "Question," he asked her. "Does Ducky, Doctor Mallard, know about you guys and me?"
She nodded. "He's been a member now since you did Blood on the Water for Channel Three in the UK."
"Well, at least he's never mentioned it at work," he sighed, shaking his head. "Ducky's a great guy but I've had hints about him knowing. Every now and then he'll bring up one of the more obscure movies and talk about it with me." They smiled at that. The doorbell rang. "Hope you guys don't mind, I sprung for pizza?" They squealed and went to maul the delivery guy, leaving him with his president. "Figured it might go a bit longer and I know you hate to cook."
"True," she agreed, smiling at him. "Thank you. Have you seen Timothy?"
"My son," she sighed. "Though I think McGee is a cute little geek. Abby showed us team pictures to brag."
"He is a cute little McGeek. Cyber McGeek at that. He got the whole team's email monitored for having 'net sex with someone recently. That's how I got busted at work. Even the director knows but it's 'I'm Tony, his cousin' stuff again."
"I'll make sure she won't out you, Tony." She smiled as the women came back with her son in tow. "Tim, this is Bradley Nubbins."
The teenager nodded. "Hey, man. I see a lot of you. Was that birthmark painted on?"
"No, it's real. I've always had it. Now it's got scars around it to add to the picture." That got a smirk. "I wish it was a tattoo some days. It itches whenever I get sick."
He snorted and took some of the pizza. "Thanks for not making mom cook. She's still horrible at it."
"Yeah, she was when I dated her when we were both sixteen too," he agreed dryly. "Does she still make those oatmeal and brownie cookies?" The boy gaped at him. "I had just broken up with a very serious girlfriend and she was my rebound girl. She made me see it was going to be okay. We dated for nearly seven months and then I had to go out of town on a shoot and your grandmother found out because she was trying to sneak out to join me. She nearly shot me that night." The kid gaped harder and so did most of the members. "Your grandmother made us break up and said if it was real love, it'd last through the shooting and separation."
"Instead I found your father and he took me to the prom since Brad was out of town. He gave us his full blessings, is very happy for me, and he's the guy who gave me that crystal statue you used to gnaw on while you were teething."
Tony looked at her. "You still have it?"
"It...fell a few years back," she admitted.
He stared at her. "I heard." She blushed. "You good?" She nodded. "Good." He grinned and looked at the kid again. "I'd never take her back now. She's hate DC and all the politics, plus she'd miss this house and her friends out here."
"Wow." He looked at his mother. "Does that mean you used to be cool?"
"Very. He and I partied with some of the bigger teen stars of our days." Her son walked off shaking his head. "Anyway," she said dryly, making the other women stare at her.
"The freaky thing was, I dated the reporter who did the interview last week," Tony told them. "I went to her to salve the pain Brenda gave me. I nearly married Mary." They all cooed at that. "She wouldn't follow me to Peoria though. Her career was taking off and she decided she wanted that more. It's obviously made her happier and I heard she got married a few years back?" They all nodded. "Then I'm happy for her." He smiled. "I'll find someone nice some year soon. Have a little kid. Be content."
"Only if you leave Abbyland," Brenda said dryly.
"Well, probably," he agreed. "But I like working with Gibbs."
"You work with Abby? Goth Abby?" one of them asked.
"Which is why she's being ignored for things like this," Brenda reminded her. "So she can't out him at work. Once he leaves, all the DC members will get all the tapes we've all got in one big package. We did the same when he was in Baltimore since Philadelphia went so sour once they knew."
"The guys in Peoria were really understanding about me taking off for a few weeks to act here and there. They thought it was neat and it would draw more people to law enforcement. Then I just had to move to a bigger city for advancement," he sighed. They all sighed too and most of them hugged him. "But enough morose topics. What's up?"
Brenda smiled. "We wanted to talk to you, see you in person, take pictures. The stuff you'd normally get at a convention since you never go to them."
"I haven't been asked since that one time in my senior year. I had to turn that one down because I was in Canada on a shoot." He shrugged. "I tried but I couldn't make it. I'm surprised any of you guys remember me most of the time."
"Oh, I've got everything you've ever done," one woman assured him. "Including some bootlegged copies of speeches you've given at cop conventions." He grinned at that and blushed a bit, looking shy. That got some more pictures being taken.
Tony strolled back into work on Monday, looking happy to be back and well rested, even if he did say so himself. He ran into McGee, who smiled like usual. "We on a case?"
"Just solved one yesterday. Missing housewife who ran with the daughter to get away from the life."
"No. Felt trapped by all the rules of being a Navy wife living on base." Tony nodded at that. "So, how's your cousin?"
"Good. Back at work. He left Saturday after seeing some of his fanclub. They called him up to talk to him."
"Wow. He's still got an active fanclub?"
"He does and they all hugged him for the scars he's gotten on the job." He smiled at Abby when she bounced up. "Hi, I missed you."
"I know you did. Did you bring me anything?" He grinned and pulled something out of his pocket, handing over the small roll of vampire poster. She unrolled it and squealed. "It's an original copy! How did you get this?"
"It's actually a lithograph of the original poster and it was on sale," he admitted. "One of the more odd, small theaters was doing a vampire movie retrospective so I got you that and a list of what they showed." He pointed at the back of the poster, making her squeal and bounce off to look them up. "Probie, want a post card?"
"Sure." He got handed one that was a picture of LA from an overlooking point at night. "That's a beautiful composition."
"I know the artist. That's one of the best views of LA day or night. I like the night one, it looks less like ants marching around being busy." Gibbs and Ziva came down the stairs. "I'm back, boss. Hey, Ziva. Want a postcard?" She shrugged so he gave her a day shot of one like McGee's. He looked at his boss. "I brought you back good coffee. I didn't figure you'd want a postcard, boss."
"Thanks, DiNozzo. It's thoughtful of you." He stared at him. "How did it go?"
"It went okay. Brad and I had a long talk while we both rested. I hadn't been out there since I got my last graze so I spent the first few days napping by the pool. He's got a great shady spot against the house."
"Good. You look well rested." He stared at him, trying to see if he was lying. "How's your cousin?"
"Good. He went back to work yesterday. He and his fanclub sat down to chat earlier that day about his work with his PD and all that. They petted his new scars and asked personal questions and got a bit nosy. He had to admit he had dated the president of the fanclub earlier in his life."
Gibbs gave him an amused look. "Really?"
"Yeah, Brenda was his rebound girl after his first true, serious romance. He broke up with Molly, and ended up with Brenda a few weeks later. They were together for a year, then they got broken up by his job and her life. She married a nice guy at the time. Had a son, who thought it was odd that his mother used to be cool, and then they divorced but she's got someone better for her now. Then Brad went on to date the reporter who did the interview. They nearly got married." McGee choked at that. "Really, they did. That was right before he joined his first department but she didn't want to follow him because she was getting the good assignments on her job so she broke the engagement. They dated all through college." He looked at Gibbs again, tipping his head some. "What's up, boss?"
"Yes, I've heard Abby thinks I'm my cousin. I'm not Bradley." Which wasn't totally a lie, he wasn't anymore.
"The piano stuff at the end," McGee asked. "You play, right? Ziva said you played."
"Yup, he and I both learned when my mother demanded it," he agreed. "He plays slightly better than I do."
"You play the piano that well?" Ziva asked.
"I don't have room for one in my apartment so I'm a bit rusty, but yes, I do. We both used it for stress relief. Me from my parents, him from his career. It's hard being ten and nominated for an Emmy." She stared in horror. "Soap opera." He looked at Gibbs again. "Was there some problem with me being my cousin's helper?"
"No," he decided. "Just wondering how close and alike you two were."
"Very. We were basically raised together and people thought we were fraternal twins now and then."
"So, his thing about dating so much?" McGee asked with a smirk.
"He dates more than I do."
"Do you like boys too?" Ziva sneered.
"Do you want me to kick your ass?" Tony countered. "That's a personal question and I don't like you that much."
"DiNozzo. David," Gibbs warned.
"True, it was a rude question," Gibbs agreed, glaring at her. She settled in. "Even if he was, there's nothing wrong with it."
"Good to know, boss," he said cheerfully, going to his desk. He found an envelope on it and opened it, looking at the personal note saying the director wanted to speak to him. He waved it. "From on high, boss."
"I heard. Go." Tony got up and headed up the stairs behind his and McGee's desk. "Officer David, that was rude. I don't care where he sticks it after hours as long as it's legal and it's not affecting his work. The same as I don't care that you and Palmer had a fling or that you and McGee had a short dalliance."
She blushed and nodded. "Yes, Gibbs."
"Good." He sat down. "I'm expecting reports?"
"Already sent, Boss," McGee said happily. "Last night before I left."
"I'm still proofreading mine," Ziva complained. "Can I have Tony do that since he won't have anything to do?"
"No. You're a big girl. Do your own homework, Ziva."
Tony walked into the director's office, getting a shrug from the secretary. "She in?"
"She is and puttering around." She hit the page button but before she could say anything the director had opened the door. "Have a nice day, Tony."
"You too." He walked in there and let her shut the door. "Did something happen while I was gone, Director?"
"I know who you are. Cut the crap, DiNozzo." He sat down, looking totally unconcerned. "You're going to use it for the good of the agency."
"I already do. Do you know how many undercovers I do for Gibbs?"
"I meant in the wider spectrum."
He stood up. "I'm on Gibbs' team. I'm not moving from Gibbs' team. If you try I'm quitting," he said firmly, staring her down. "The only thing holding me here is Gibbs and Abby. If you want me to do something like that, you give it to Gibbs." He walked out, going to talk to his boss. "Yo, boss?" he called from the stairs. "Can we have a conference?"
"Go. I'll follow." He got up, grabbing his coffee to head to the elevator with him. Tony stranded them and started to pace. "Before you say a word, Abby outed you the day you left."
"I figured she had. I should quit. That's why I left Philadelphia. Because of the odd looks I got from my boss."
"I could care less what you used to do."
Tony looked at him. "And yet you gave me a look earlier to see if I had gotten high while I was gone, boss." Gibbs glared at that. "You did."
"I was trying to see if I could tell when you were lying."
"Well, it may not be a problem. The director wants me to use my skills in the wider option of the agency. I told her I was yours. The only thing keeping me here was you and Abby, and I'll be yelling at Abby later."
"I'll handle her. I like how you've handled it so far."
"No future plans for more films? Abby made me sit down with McGee and watch some." He sipped his coffee, leaning against the wall. "That one you filmed at Ohio State was decent."
"Thank you. I had a lot of doubts during that time and I knew it came out in it. Honestly my favorite one only ten people have ever seen I think. It's called Rage."
"I saw that one. She gushed about how scary you could be. Then again, I've seen you without sleep for days on end."
"Gee, thanks, boss." He smirked at him. "Forget it, okay?"
"Any future work things coming up?"
"If offered I might. I know I'd probably end up quitting because that can take up to four months."
"That's what unpaid leave is for, DiNozzo."
"Yeah, well, that gets tiresome now and then, Gibbs. I like the voice work I've been doing. That way no one knows what I look like and no one can say anything about the job."
"If anything it's helped you on the job," he admitted. "It's clear you draw on that for all the undercovers I have you do. Does Ducky know?"
"Yup. Every now and then he brings up one of the more obscure movies I did for PBS and British stations. So, you don't mind?"
"I don't mind as long as it doesn't get in the way of your work," he corrected. "No more stuff at work from your agent."
"It came from Mary directly, boss. She knows exactly who and where I am." They both looked up when the elevator started to move without them turning it back on. "I didn't know they could force it." He pushed the button for Abby's floor, getting off there. "Abby, I'm going to strangle you," he called as he walked in.
"Oops?" she said, looking hesitant but cute. "Sorry, Tony."
"You're going to be." She held out the postcard. "Abby, seriously here. This is why I left Philly, my boss ended up knowing."
"I saw that part. I know Gibbs isn't like that."
"Yeah, but he's got a boss to answer to too," he said flatly, staring at her.
"Sorry." She gave him a hug. "I'd miss you if you left." She gave him a pitiful look. "Can't I help you sell her to someone or something?"
Gibbs smirked. "I doubt anyone would keep her."
"He might be right about that," Tony agreed. "Anyway, I made it very clear that I'm only on Gibbs' team and any assignments had to come through him. If I have to leave, I'm going back to LA for a long time."
"No you're not," Gibbs told him. "You'll go work with Fornell at the FBI so you're around when I need you and I have a competent person over there whenever I have to work with them." Tony shrugged at that. "Also so you can get a bigger place." Tony grinned at that.
"Would you play for us?" Abby asked, giving him the pouting, begging look. "Please?"
"We'll see. I'm still out of practice." Guards walked in. "Let me guess, I got fired and wasn't told?"
"Yup," one of them agreed. "Unfortunately."
"Let me go pack my desk and my locker," Tony told them. "You can lurk."
"She's having them packed, sir."
"Then she's in for a lawsuit, boys. You also might want to let her know I took home all the LA addresses I had." They gaped. "Sorry. Boss?"
"Let's go," he agreed, leading him up there. He smacked the hell out of his boss the way he had when she was a rookie agent. "Get out of his things. I know you were taught better than that, Jen." She glared at him. "Seriously." She backed away. "Thank you. DiNozzo, sit down. I think we need to have a talk about her reassigning my staff. If she wants someone she can take Ziva since she put her on my team," he noted, staring her down.
Tony stood up. "Gibbs, I'm not worth it. Let me get my shit and I'll fall in line with your plans." Gibbs looked at him. "Not like I'm going to tell them either and if she does I can sue her. She had no right or reasonable cause to get into my private life. I might forgive Abby but not her." He pulled out his travel bag and loaded everything off his computer, including sitting down to download his mail onto a CD and then erase it. Then he grabbed his bag and hugged Gibbs. "I'll be at home. Have him call, boss." He sneered at the director. "Sorry, need to do my locker too. I need to do laundry."
"You could have your job back, Agent DiNozzo."
"Why would I want to work for you? I work for Gibbs, not for you," he said at her heated glare. "He is my boss. He is the only higher power I admit to knowing about." He walked off, letting the guards take him down to empty his locker. "Sorry, guys."
"No, that's all right, Tony," one of them offered once they were in the elevator. "What did she do?"
"My cousin is Bradley Nubbins. She wants me to use any acting skills I have for her anti- terrorism project. Gibbs has full control of my skills for undercovers. I told her that. She didn't like it. Hence me going to find a new job." That got a nod. "Sorry you had to see it."
"No, she's not right in the head," the other one offered. "It's wrong to make you do things that's not part of your job or to reassign you without your input. Hell, we all know Gibbs is going to be an asshole for the rest of his tenure now. We'll be on the lookout for him."
"Watch McGee for me, guys. He and Ziva are going to get it in spades from this. McGee might be following me shortly." He got off and headed to the locker room, cleaning out his gym locker. Then he handed them his pass. "The other's in the car. Have them mail my last check." That got a nod and they escorted him down, taking his parking pass and the sticker off his window. Then he headed out into the late morning sunshine. It was a pretty day for a drive. His phone rang and he ignored it since it was Abby. The only one he was answering was Gibbs and he knew that.
Tony looked up from his lunch when he heard the quiet cough, kicking out a chair for the FBI agent to sit down. "I take it the boss talked to you?"
"He did and your former director spread it around, DiNozzo."
"Yeah, well, we all knew she was a bitch when she forced Ziva onto the team." He ate another bite. "The offer still good?"
"It is. It'd mean you would deal with Gibbs on any case."
"Fine with me. That way he's got competent help who's used to him there."
That got a smirk from him. "I'm very competent."
"Yes, but your alpha bitch stance against his alpha bitch stance means it's not a happy partnership whenever you have to work together, Fornell."
"That's one way of putting it. I'll submit it to my boss tonight. Can you live on your last paycheck for a while?"
"Oh, yeah, and if I have to I can move back to LA for a while and live at home."
"I saw the interview. Cute beard."
"Maria said I shouldn't grow one ever again."
"I agree," Gibbs said as he sat down. He looked at Fornell. "You may not need to. Someone higher up stomped on her. Apparently a White House staffer is a big fan."
"Great. I don't want to base my career and it's decisions on what I used to do." He ate another bite and looked at his boss. "You know that's one of the reasons I never told you."
"That and you think I'd look at you oddly," Gibbs agreed. "Did you end up in rehab?"
"I never did more than four hits of acid and two bong hits, Gibbs. Why would I need to? It's not like I drink."
"Point." He looked at Fornell. "You know?"
"Have known. My first ex was a fan of his. The plastic surgery was subtly done."
"I went to one of the best in the city." He finished up his salad and pushed the bowl aside. "Why else are we having this meeting? And can I change my name?"
"She's going to claim you lied on your application," Gibbs warned.
"No, when I came to the question of 'have you ever went by another name for any work in the past' I asked her if acting names counted and she said no. I have it in writing." Gibbs smirked at that. "I specified acting and stage names."
"Which name is your union card in?" Fornell asked.
"His." He looked at Gibbs again. "Sorry, boss."
"Not half as sorry as she's going to be. Ducky's filed a formal protest. Abby's filed a formal protest and said she's going to quit if she doesn't quit being stupid."
"Abby or the director?" Fornell asked dryly.
"Both. They're having women's thought process moments." He looked at Tony again, staring him down. "Give me the address."
"No. Sorry. That house in LA is my sanctuary, Gibbs. I can't bring this work to there without corrupting the peaceful nature of it for me. Having you storm into my backyard to wake me by the pool would break some of that for me."
Gibbs smirked at that. "I can find out."
"Go right ahead. Find Brenda, she's got my home phone number even." He shrugged. "Yay me. It's still my sanctuary. It's the place I go to heal and rest."
"Fine, I won't bring work there. Did you live there while you were filming?"
"I bought it right before my sixteenth birthday and I was on the road so much I was hardly ever home. Though there is a hole in the dining room and the study from Geometry frustration."
Fornell snickered at that. "Geometry frustration?"
"I never said I a was a math geek," he said dryly. He looked at Gibbs again. "If she's blacklisted me, I'm going back to school to become a film historian. UCLA has a program." He nodded at that. "If so, if you need me out there I'll come. If not, you can come over as long as you don't bring work."
"Fine. I can understand that." He smirked back. "Anything else?"
"Yeah, the honey dust was intentional," he said dryly, putting down money and heading off with a bright smile.
Gibbs blinked, watching him go, then he looked at Fornell. "Was he blacklisted?"
"She's trying. A woman scorned and all that."
"He was doing the job. She wanted to send him undercover to a foreign location. She thinks he's James Bond."
"She and reality need to quit the divorce proceedings," Fornell noted, nodding at a van up the street. "She's also got surveillance."
"Yay her," he said dryly, waving a waiter over to hand him Tony's money and order lunch for himself. The waiter gave him an odd look. "He left. We were having a lunch meeting."
"Oh. All right." He opened his pad. "What would you gentlemen like?"
Tony pulled back into his house and shut the gate, parking in the garage this time. He walked in through the back door. "I'm back, Maria," he called.
"My former director's a bitch," he called up the stairs. "She had me blacklisted because I wasn't James Bond." He grabbed some milk out of the fridge and shut the door, finding her standing there. "Seriously." He walked outside drinking it. "My mustang and the stuff I had out there will be here within a few days. I hired movers." He flopped down on his usual chair and got comfortable in the shade. "She had me blacklisted because I wouldn't accept a very dangerous undercover assignment and quit my team. She tried to force it on me and I pointed out I was Gibbs' guy and only his guy. That if she wanted me to take them on to give the assignments to Gibbs." He took a drink. "So I got fired. She's had me blacklisted so I can't work in intelligence or in another department ever again."
"That bitch," she muttered, coming over to hug him. "We should sic Brenda on her."
"Oh, I've already had a word with Mary about it. They're going to do some checking on her and see if there's not a story there." They shared a look. They knew how damaging publicity could be. "Also, I told Gibbs he could come out but he could not bring work. That this is my sanctuary and he could come rest but not work."
"That's fine. You have the two unused guest rooms, Tony." She smoothed his hair down. "You need a trim. Also you need to talk to UCLA. I got information on their film history project for you. I knew this day was going to come sooner instead of later." He sighed and finished his milk, letting her take the glass. "Be a good boy and rest or go play the piano. I'll make something restive for dinner so you can go over it." He smiled at her and she gave him another hug. She wasn't sure how anyone could do anything but love this boy. She certainly couldn't. She went inside to find that information for him, putting it on his piano. He'd be on it by midnight. Then she went to make some garlic bread and some spaghetti for him. He adored her recipe for her sauce. She heard the phone and went to grab it. "Nubbins residence." She listened. "He's out back, Brenda. No, she had him blacklisted when he refused to be her James Bond." She smirked at her screaming rant. "Exactly. You might check with whoever's out there. No, he's thinking." Tony came in and looked at her. "Brenda's on the phone," she called.
"Swimming," he mouthed, going out to do that so it wasn't a lie.
"He's just now dove into the pool, Brenda." She smiled at that. "He did what?" She laughed. "Well, he knew it was special to you and he probably heard how your ex smashed it on purpose. It was him being thoughtful not him offering to take you back, dear. Of course. I'll tell him. No, give him a few days. He came in and headed right for the milk. His stuff is coming from DC at the moment as well." She smiled. "That would be fine but he told Gibbs that he could not bring work here, just restive and healing things. You know how he is about the house." She nodded. "That's fine then. Have a better day and tease your son some more so he quits being so surly." She hung up and went back to her sauce making. "Tony, put on some clothes! I do not want to see you skinny dipping!"
"It's not like I'm hitting on you, Maria. You're like my mother," he called back, diving under the water again.
She snorted and considered dragging him out to spank him but he might flirt with her. She went back to making him dinner, knowing that Brenda and the others would have Tony's future well in hand. Brenda was a Captain in the local Vice unit after all and she was the least scary of his women.
Gibbs got out of the truck, nodding at the guy driving. He rang the bell.
"Yes?" a female voice asked.
"Delivery from DC for Tony DiNozzo?"
"Next gate up, gentlemen. His is the iron one."
"Thank you, ma'am." He got back in. "The iron one."
"Knew I was right," he said dryly.
"It's the same number."
"Yeah but that one ends on a different road. It's an issue on this road." He drove up the street and buzzed that one. "Stuff from DC for DiNozzo?" he called. The gate opened. He drove in and let Gibbs help him by backing the mustang out and putting her into the garage. The rest of the stuff he walked inside with his help and put in the entryway where the housekeeper pointed. She paid him with a smile and a kiss on the cheek. Then cookies for Jethro. "Oh, no, ma'am, he's part of the delivery."
"Ah." She looked at him. "You look older than that photo of the team, Mr. Gibbs. He's in the conservatory playing his fingers off." She pointed the way. "Go in there." He nodded, heading that way. She gave the driver the cookies, earning a smile. "I made extra anyway." He nodded and checked the truck then left, heading back to his local base.
Gibbs followed the faint sound of music, finding the shut door. It was well soundproofed. He opened it just enough to slide in and leaned against it once it was closed. He was surrounded by light and plants. The music was flowing out an open window. Then it slowly stopped and he got stared at. "I didn't mean to interrupt."
"No one ever bothers me in here and I heard you come in. The sound quality changed. What's up?"
"Your stuff's here."
"I figured as much since you're here. What else is up?" He turned to look at him. "More problems in DC?"
"The whole team is suspended pending investigation. I'm taking you up on your offer of a rest."
"Sure." He grinned. "Maria said I have two unused spare rooms. All she ever does is dust and replace the clothes I switch out by season." He got up and walked out with him, going to get his clothes. "There should be more stuff. Like furniture."
"It's on the other truck that went to storage," Maria called. "It's not like you need another couch, Tony."
"Sure, dear." He shrugged. What did he know. "She's like my mom."
"Good. You could use a mother. I talked with yours and she was a raving bitch."
"Yeah, that pretty well describes her. Why did she call?"
"Word got back to her that you had been fired. She demanded that we send you to your agent."
"I've already called Martha and she said there's two open things that she's got coming to me." He shrugged. "Where's the movies?" he asked.
"The back of the mustang. Plus all your electronics are in there since it was in the truck too."
"Cool." He hefted the clothes up to his bedroom, letting him see the pale cream and light blue room. It was peaceful and smelled nice, like something faintly floral and a bit musky. He opened a window. "Sorry." He unpacked the first box and found the spare hangers, getting to work putting his clothes up with Gibbs' help. "So, why else are you here?"
"Mostly hiding from Abby. She got into a bit of trouble after threatening to blow her up. She got cleared when they realized she probably couldn't do that. She was just angry."
"Abby can make explosive devices, boss."
"I know that and you know that, but the director doesn't." His phone rang and he looked at it. "Ducky."
"Balcony," he said, pointing at it. Gibbs went that way with a smile. "I told you not to bring work here." He hung up what they had already done and got more hangers. When he was done he went to get his precious electronics and the movies, stacking them in the living room for now. The electronics went into his study, all but his bedroom tv, that went into his bedroom. Once he got everything hooked together and checked again, he went to shelve the movies, finding Gibbs doing that. "Thanks."
"Welcome. I see some duplicates."
"Yeah, some I wanted with me." He opened up a second cabinet since he had opened a box of 'S' tapes.
"Do the front part first, that way you don't end up shifting everything down more than once," Gibbs ordered. Tony came back to help him, opening the other cabinet as well. Gibbs looked at them then at him. "You have way too many movies."
"I'm thinking about going to school to become a movie historian. I meet with UCLA tomorrow." He opened up the other boxes, finding two of them packed backwards. He emptied them out and handed Gibbs the next row, then went to do the one that had been on top of that one. He looked at the one he had three copies of and shrugged, going to give it to Maria. Then he came back with beers and they got back to work.
Gibbs stared at the sky past the pool, glancing at Tony. "You're comfortable here," he said quietly.
"This is home for me, boss. It always has been. There's something about the grounds here that make me calm and clear-headed." He glanced at him then back out at the sky. "One of the more affluent neighbors is having a party tonight. We might even get fireworks."
"That'll be pretty." He glanced at him again. "We're fighting your blacklisting."
"I'm not sure I want to go back." He turned his head to look at him. "It's like playing a role, Gibbs. After a while you become possessive about it, it's so much a part of you it's painful to let it go, especially if it goes to someone else, but it's still not the core of who you are."
"You're wrong. The need to make a difference and help people is part of the core of who you are."
"Yeah, but I can do that other ways. Including mentoring kids."
"True. Hell, someone's been trying to get me to retire for years now." He sipped his beer and looked out at the first explosion. "That is pretty. I didn't know they made them only in red and purple."
"Yeah, you can have them designed. I did for my twenty-first." He sipped his beer. "Missing the boat?"
"A bit. It's too clean here."
"Go into the valley tomorrow, Gibbs, you won't be able to breathe," he said dryly, smirking at the fireworks. "They went cheap. It was only a fifteen minute display. Looks like they're getting a divorce." Gibbs gave him an amused look. "They do it every year for their wedding anniversary. Their second year the display went on for two hours. Last year it was a forty-five minute one according to Maria." He took another drink. "Fifteen minutes? Yeah, there's a lawyer somewhere getting a fee."
"Do you know them?"
"Casually. On sight, mostly from promo pictures. I've never worked with them and I've kept to myself my whole career. All I ever did was go out to dinner and a few clubs for dates. I was always busy with school or a shoot."
"How did you graduate a military academy doing that?"
"My father got me accepted and then I had to go on shoots. So my tutor was one of the recently retired teachers. He was basically my nanny but he taught me a lot about the world and how to dance." He finished his beer and put the bottle on the table between them. "I attended maybe sixteen weeks out of the whole time I was there. Got ragged on the whole time about being too special. I also decked one of the gym teachers for starting on me. I spent four of the weeks on report and doing KP and cleaning duties on the lawn." Gibbs snickered at that. "I never asked for favors. My father asked for favors without me knowing. I pointed that out when I had my hearing. That's why they kept me and they pointed at my excellent conduct while I was on shoots and things."
"Hard not to be that good when you've got a personal drill instructor," Gibbs noted.
"True. He's also the reason I never got tucked into the undercurrents of the city. Though he did teach me how to waltz and how to be a gentleman when I wasn't being a playboy. He made sure I knew the difference between dating and seeing someone for real."
"I'm sure he was good for you. You're a great agent and a pretty decent guy from what I understand."
"Thanks, boss. Did Ziva get suspended?"
"Yup. Because her background on you was so incomplete."
Gibbs snickered. "Did Kate know?"
"She suspected I had a hidden part of my past but not what as far as I know. Ducky knew as I recently found out. Abby's been a member of the fanclub. McGee?"
"She made him one."
"Joy. I'm sure the next time I see him will be a bit awkward."
"He said that the evidence of you and your cousin being the same person was circumstantial but he shrugged it off. It shouldn't be too bad." Maria came out and he smiled. He already liked the woman and she had made it very clear she'd rip him apart if he hurt Tony. "He said the fireworks only lasted fifteen minutes."
"Pity about their divorce. They were a cute couple." Tony looked at her. "I know but they were. Need anything before I go home?"
"Be safe and call a cab on me, Maria," he said quietly. She nodded, heading out to get the money out of his wallet and head home. Tony settled into the chair and yawned. "I nap out here all the time so if I fall asleep don't sneak. I'll sleep through it."
"Sure." He enjoyed the quiet night air and the stars. Tony had good taste in houses. It was calm and peaceful here. He'd never bring work here and ruin it for him. He glanced over at the quiet huffing noise, smiling at the sleeping guy. He looked like a teenager again. He soaked up the atmosphere, needing the calm and the peace for his own doubts and problems. He had some decisions to make about his career.
Tony woke up with a yawn and looked around, frowning at the empty pool area. "Maria?" he called, getting up and heading inside. Gibbs looked at him and he knew something was wrong. "Who?"
"Maria's at home. Her cab was hit last night. She's got a broken leg and a cracked wrist." Tony sighed and leaned on the counter. "She said she'd be back tomorrow."
"Fat chance," he said firmly, grabbing his keys. "I'll be back."
"Can I help?"
"No, I'm going to hire her a housekeeper to annoy her into healing faster. Stay here." He headed out to his Z, going to find her someone to help take care of his mom. Then he took breakfast over to her place, tapping gently. "It's me, Maria, I've got the keys, don't move." He walked in and looked at her. "Hi." He kissed her on the forehead. "What happened?"
"Stupid drunk starling."
"Are we suing him?"
"A lot, he slurred he could use the publicity. So I talked to Martha and she's passed it on to a lawyer she knows and has used in the past." She kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you, dear, but I'll be back tomorrow."
"Maria, I've been there before. You're not coming back for a few weeks. I promise I won't leave the house a mess on you but I also made sure you don't have to scrub your own toilet." He grinned sweetly.
"You hired me a housekeeper?" she demanded. He nodded, beaming at her. "Why?"
"To annoy you to heal faster." He gave her his best slightly insane, best boy grin. "She'll be here tonight. She's nice, an older lady. She's had casts before too. So you rest, relax, don't worry about me. Gibbs is there to smack my head if I get out of hand." He kissed her on the forehead again. "Let me take care of you for a change. You rest, mom. It'll be okay." He smiled and petted her cat then left, heading over to talk to his manager, who gave him a horrified look. "What?"
"I was hoping you kept the beard."
"No, Mary did it." He blew a kiss. "Anything? I'm bored stupid."
"We're working on the second film to do the voice role again. Would you do anime?"
He shrugged. "I like anime."
She smiled. "I like you being so easy, Tony. Now, go home. I heard a rumor about a boyfriend?"
"Gibbs. My former boss."
"Oh. Sorry to hear that."
"No. I wouldn't mind but he's had three ex-wives." He grinned. "Maria got hit by a car, she said she told you, but expect her to complain because I got her a temporary housekeeper." She gaped and he beamed. "It was necessary. It's not like she can clean with a broken leg." He bounced some. "I'm headed home. Let me know if I can help humiliate the young wannabe." He left, heading back home. He found Gibbs in his study checking his email. "Work stuff?"
"No, Abby stuff. She's pouting that I'm here and not there. She wants me to shoot the director for her."
He smirked. "I'm sure you could but that's almost a waste of a bullet, boss. You can make her much more miserable in other, more fun, ways." He called his manager, then hung up and called his former fiance. "Mary, baby, it's Tony."
"I noticed the phone number. What's wrong?"
"My former director is pissing me off. What can I do to help you make her miserable?"
"I do entertainment things, dear."
"I know that."
She snorted. "Fine, we'll talk later. Can I come out for dinner with you and your boyfriend?"
"Former boss," Tony corrected, not looking at Gibbs. "He's had three exes, love."
"You've had more than that, Tony, including nearly marrying Steven."
"Point. Gibbs, would you mind?" Gibbs shook his head. "Then you can come out but you've got to bring dinner unless you want to eat my cooking. Maria got slammed into by a stupid little starling who was fairly drunk. He slammed into her cab and broke her leg and wrist. By the way, if you find him, tell him I have more balls than he ever will, more skills, and he'll never amount to anything, all right?" he finished sweetly. "She's like my mother and I know people who will cap him and laugh. I arrested a lot of them."
"We can't get them out of jail just for that," Gibbs said plainly, giving him a look.
Tony blew a kiss. "Didn't you get the notice that the one guy is out, Gibbs?" He got smacked. "Ow! You're being harder than usual."
"You've had too long off. Your head's going soft. We'll have to rebuild your tolerance." He smirked back. "No siccing murderers onto the kid. He's stupid but he can fix himself and learn. Before I prove I used to be a Marine."
She giggled. "If I could quote you guys, it'd make the little boy shake in fear and piss himself in public."
"Announce that the woman he ran into was like my mother, love. That I'm *very* upset with him. That I'm going to help the local PD arrest him and make sure he goes to jail for this. Also point out HBO was very *easy* on what real jails are like. Okay?"
"Of course. He's holding a press conference later, Tony. I do adore you. Can I quote your former boss?"
"No, don't. I save him for the big threats. Little piss drinkers like him? Not worth even one of Gibbs' lower glares." Gibbs smacked him again. "Ow! Switch targets, Gibbs." He got spanked this time and hissed, tightening up. "Gotta go, dear. I just got spanked." He hung up on her giggling. "She used to do that too. It's why I nearly married her." He gave him a look. "Tell Abby we're both fine and no she can't come squeal and take pictures. It'd ruin the peace of the house with her squealing."
"I already have. I can help you threaten him."
"Gibbs, he was doing it for the publicity. Nothing gets notice like rehab in this town." He strolled off. "Want lunch?"
"I made sandwiches. Yours is in the fridge, DiNozzo." He sent another email to Abby about the squealing and how peaceful this place was, even without a boat. Then he got up to follow him. Tony was nibbling and leaning on the counter, his hips moving with the music he had quietly playing on the stereo in there. "Why didn't you become a professional musician?"
"Stage fright. It's why I don't do plays." He looked at him. "It seems dumb but doing a movie or tv is in front of professionals. I never did sitcoms or things that had an audience. I can't stand the instant feedback. I always feel dumb and I can't concentrate so I don't do those. Besides, music is my stress relief."
"You needed a bigger place in DC."
"I did. I didn't have room in Baltimore either but I had a place I could go play whenever I wanted to." He took another bite of his lunch and chewed slowly. "I needed that in DC but I never had enough standard time off to find somewhere that would let me. I almost bought a keyboard instead but it sounded wrong to me. When you've got a baby grand, going to a keyboard is pitiful." He finished his sandwich and drank his milk. Then he went to brush his teeth and came out again. "Okay, I'm good. Got anything you want to do this afternoon?"
"Not really. I'm not much for tourist things."
"Wanna go lurk and stalk the guy who hit the woman who's like my mom?"
"That's against the law."
"I'm not an officer anymore."
"Point but I am still am until I'm fired."
"True. It's not very handy at the moment." He scowled. "I really want to go mash his face in this."
"Your ex will." He smirked. "How close did you get to marrying her?"
"We had set a date and then I got accepted into Peoria's lineup. She took two days to help me look for an apartment then decided it wasn't for her. She handed back my ring that day and left."
"Any of the others?"
"You heard about the other one just now, boss."
"First I've heard of him."
Tony sighed and shook his head. "I was in Philly. We met about two weeks after I moved there." He grinned. "He was a historian. He's the guy who said I should go for film history stuff." He leaned on the counter again. "We were together nearly a year. I proposed and he ran off screaming about the commitment stuff. I didn't get to see him again. He supposedly died later that night from a bar brawl. Instead his family kidnaped him and made him back into their image." Gibbs nodded, patting him on the arm. "We weren't really well suited. It was good sex and he listened to me but he didn't understand the job and he would've hated Baltimore." He gave him a sad smile. "Wouldn't Kate have been shocked if she knew I had nearly been married?"
"A lot. She thought you'd never settle down."
"And yet I haven't. It's not looking too promising either." He shrugged. "We'll figure that out in a few years I guess." He looked at him. "Nothing you want to do today?"
"No, not really. I visited Hollywood before on leave. I had my full rounds of the easy women, the sights, and all that stuff."
"Okay. Well, then the options are a movie, the pool, or I'm going to go play the piano and I'll leave the door open." He walked that way, going to do that. He heard Gibbs sit down in the hall but ignored him, getting back into his music. He was still out of practice but he was also still angry. It sucked that he had been fired due to someone's delusions and unrealistic expectations. He was an actor, not a spy. He hit a wrong note and groaned, shaking his head. He took a deep breath and started over again. He hit one faster this time. Warm hands caught his, making him calm down. "I'm not a spy. I know I'm not a spy. I'm an actor. I'm actually a pretty crappy actor. I know she was being unrealistic and so do you, right?" he asked, looking at him. Gibbs nodded. "Then why can't I let it go?"
"Because you're angry that she destroyed everything you had worked and planned for, Tony. Hell, I'm mad for you. She destroyed a promising career. Who else was I going to leave the team to when I retired?" Tony nodded, taking his hands back. "Now, play something that matches your mood. Something dark, sullen, and angry. It'll help more than something happy and upbeat."
"Yeah, I can do that." He looked at his piano then got up to get some music from the hidden shelves, bringing it back. "Can you turn the page for me?"
"Sure." He leaned out of the way and turned the page when Tony got closer to the end. It was definitely angry music and he played it flawlessly. The final note floated off out the windows and he looked at him. "Nice job. Wife number two used to make me listen to the symphony with her."
"Thanks." He leaned his head against the music, staring at the keys. "I'm still pissed."
"Then let's go for a jog."
"Yeah, maybe." He got up and headed upstairs. He came back down in sweats and sneakers, but without a shirt. "Coming?" Gibbs nodded, going to change into his own sweats. He came down stretching. "No music?"
"Too distracting." He nodded and grabbed his keys and wallet, heading out into the driveway. He stretched then nodded at Gibbs to go through the gate first. He walked out and hit the keys to lock it, then headed down the road. Gibbs and he jogged off the side of the road, just out of the way of the stupid drivers who went way too fast around here. He pulled him out of the way when he heard a roaring engine, flipping his neighbor off when she drove past with a honk and a wave. "That's why it's too distracting." That got a smirk and they headed off again. "Want to trespass and take someone's back woods or not?"
"Not. I don't want trouble today. Not with her on our cases at the moment."
"Sure. Another mile to the park. We can break and get drinks down there, boss." They headed into the park, pausing to get some water at a stand, then they headed on. A cop on a horse stopped them and Tony panted, leaning down, then looking up at him. "Hi."
"Are you a local resident, sir?"
"I am. I'm Tony DiNozzo. I live up on Poor Man's Row." That got a nod. "This is my former boss, Special Agent Gibbs." That got a shocked look. "Stupid bosses who think I should be James Bond."
"Ah. I've heard some people have that problem, sir. Do you know Brenda by any chance? She's got a picture of you on her locker."
"I do. We used to date." He shrugged and grinned. "We're bored and killing energy."
"Works for me but the lieutenant governor is in the park for a rally."
"Then we're going back up the hill," Tony assured him. That got a nod. "Have a better patrol."
Gibbs pointed at someone. "He's part of a militia we busted last month at NCIS, Officer." He turned around and jogged off.
"And they think I'm a drama queen," he shared with a grin.
"I heard that, DiNozzo. Come on. I don't have your gate code yet."
"On your six, boss." He hurried after him, catching up and running beside him, on the outside of the road again. "Sorry," he panted but he was smirking.
"I'll take it out of your hide when you come back to work."
"When. Or else we're both going to UCLA." Tony shivered at that. "Bad thoughts?" he taunted, speeding up to get up the hill.
"No, boss, just thoughts I probably shouldn't have about you," he said honestly.
"You have no idea what my past was like. You only assumed."
"True, but I also knew a long time ago you weren't interested. You never checked me out in the jeans I wore on that first undercover for you. Since I was hot enough to nearly get arrested twice...." He let it trail off as they crested the top of the hill, moving Gibbs out of the way since he saw the lights. "Pause. They will consider us a threat and shoot us around here."
Gibbs looked at him. "That's dumb."
"Yeah, well...." He pointed at the trooper that pulled over. "Just out for a jog, Sergeant."
"Formerly Special Agent DiNozzo, NCIS." He handed over his ID. "I live up the hill."
"What are you doing out?"
"Boredom. Jogging." That got an unamused look. "I was. This is my last boss. He didn't want to do touristy stuff and I'm bored. We went for a run. I had no idea he was going to be here screwing up traffic again." He took his ID back. "I made him stop so you wouldn't shoot us. Can we go home, I need a shower."
"Think you're so special now?" he snorted.
Tony stared him down, then looked at the cars, whistling and waving at one person, smiling at him. The car stopped and the wife got out to hug him. "Hi, Molly."
"Tony, darling!" she cooed, kissing him on the cheek. "Why are you back in town?"
"My last Director thought I should be James Bond. I never even tried for the part." He shrugged. "So she fired me because she's delusional. This is my last boss, Jethro Gibbs."
"Special Agent Gibbs. I've heard you mentioned now and then by the protection details," she offered, shaking his hand. "Tony's always spoken very highly of you when I run into him. Out for a run?" They nodded. "Then go ahead, dear. Do you need a ride back?"
"It's only been a mile and a half. I made him do ten when he worked for me," Gibbs assured her politely. "Thank you anyway, ma'am."
"You're welcome, darling." She smiled and kissed Tony on the cheek. "How's Maria?"
"Some little starling looking for headlines crashed into her cab last night. Broke her leg and wrist. I hired her a temporary housekeeper so she wouldn't have to struggle with the casts. Right now, Gibbs is keeping me from sending him to a hospital since he's probably made bail."
"I'll check, dear. You go ahead home and play some pretty music." He smiled and nodded, taking off again. Gibbs nodded politely and followed. She glared at the officer. "Those two saved the president's life," she said firmly. "Be more polite." He nodded, looking down. She went back to her limo, smiling at her husband. "It was Tony."
"I thought it was." He kissed her hand. "Does he know we got together?"
"Steven, dear, he knew before I told him." She patted him on the knee. "His boss fired him because she wanted him to be her James Bond."
"I've heard things about their director and how he got blacklisted. I'll pass that on." She smiled and nodded. "He looked happy."
"That was Gibbs with him."
"Damn. Tony has good taste."
"He does, after all he dated us," she reminded him, making him smile and kiss her on the cheek. "Now, let's get you elected. After all, if a steroid junkie can do it so can you." He nodded and made sure he was straightened out before getting out and smiling, starting to shake hands to cheers his crowd was giving him.
Tony got them back into the gate and sealed it, looking at him. "We broke up when I was sixteen. She took Steven as her third husband. He's running for governor now."
"Does that bother you?"
Tony looked at him and smirked. "Gibbs, this is Hollywood. No one sees anything wrong with that. But I can guarantee Madam Director will be having a problem soon. I'm the one thing that could ruin his chances."
"Disappointed in me, boss?"
"No, impressed. Thank you."
"Welcome." He let them back into the house and went out to water some plants around a monument next to his wall on the side lawn. "He died protecting me at Ohio State. I took the weekend off to come home and bury him," he said when Gibbs brought him some water. "He took a knife for me."
"Can't prove it but I think it was the same one who broke into my room and said she accepted the proposal I never gave her," he agreed. He got finished and poured the rest of the water in the can on the hedge fence. "There. All done for the day."
"Go shower." Tony looked at him. "Really. I'll meet you back at the pool in an hour." Tony nodded, going up to his room while Gibbs looked at the picture embedded in the monument. It wasn't Tony and his dog, it was only his dog. He walked back inside, looking around the study. There weren't many pictures in here either. He found a scrapbook with critics' reviews, good and bad. He saw a picture of him with his Emmy as a child. He was an adorable young teen. All smiles and hair. He walked around the downstairs, finding a few other pictures. A few with friends doing things like skiing. One with his dog. He saw the ones on the mantle and looked. All his former partners and teammates. He picked up one to look at.
"That was a special ops team we had in Baltimore. We were doing inner city cops who were corrupt and using drugs," Tony said from behind him, putting it down. "I was hated for it but I stopped some of the guys doing the bad things." He looked at him. "You could ask." He headed back upstairs. "There's enough hot water for both of us, Gibbs."
"Sure. Thanks." He went up to his room to shower too. He heard the phone ring five, six times and answered the one in the hall. "Nubbins residence." He had heard Maria answer it that way. "No, he's in the shower. No, he's in the shower alone and I'm not like that, ma'am. Anything else?" He grimaced. "I'll ask him when he gets out." He hung up and leaned into Tony's bedroom. "Tony, your ex wanted to know if you were going to support your other exes in his political campaign. She wanted to know if you'd go to a fundraiser tomorrow."
"No. I'll call her when I get out. Thanks. Let the machine get it."
"It didn't pick up after six rings."
"I'll check it. It's probably full. Go shower."
"Fine." He went to do that, considering this screwed up life his agent had at times. Who else could say his former gay lover and near fiance had married his former straight fiance for political reasons? With a straight face. Abby would love this story if he could tell it. Kate would've shaken her head with a smile and said 'only DiNozzo' a few times. He shook his head quickly and got to work on his back. Then he'd go for a swim later maybe. Tony used the non-chlorine stuff in his pool. It was nice. It got him thinking about his finances. How did he afford this on his salary? He had probably saved some of it. He knew there was some law about an underaged actors' earnings being saved for him. He came out and found Tony delivering laundry. "I could've done that."
"Yeah but you don't know where the washer is, boss." He gave him a look. "What?"
"How wealthy are you?"
"Enough. Minor wealth. I never made millions a film. I supplement my salary with voice acting work." He grinned and headed downstairs. "I'm going to swim."
"Yeah, I'll be right down."
"There's a spare suit in the dresser. One of mine." He went back to his room then headed down to the pool. He dove in and started doing laps, enjoying the movement. He was going to go insane soon. He suddenly stopped and slapped himself on the head, getting out to call the university. "Hi, this is Tony DiNozzo. No, I totally forgot, man. I'm so sorry. No, my last boss came in. He needs the rest. So I've been entertaining him and things. I'm sorry. Sure, he won't be here by then. No, I'm pretty sure it'll be fixed within a week. I'm sorry if you waited too long for me." He smiled. "Thank you. I promise. Thank you so much, Professor. You have a better day." He hung up and dove back into the pool.
Gibbs came out of the kitchen with bottles of water for the mini fridge out there. "Forgot to go to the college?"
"Yup. I'll go next week, while you're back home."
"You could come back to DC with me. I'm sure you'll have your job back, DiNozzo."
"That would depend on who they get as a new director and I'm not sure it won't be weird, boss. Everyone there knows who I am. Ducky admires the stuff I did for British tv. Abby's a fangirl of the squealy nature. I love the girl like a sister but it's going to be weird. Plus, I'm not sure I want to work with Ziva. She'll shove it back in my face."
"Yeah, well, you're not the team all by yourself, boss." They shared a look. "Wish you were but you're not."
"Point." He slid into the pool and swam over to where he was resting. "If it's offered, will you give it a try?" Tony nodded. "How long?"
"A few weeks. That should give it enough time to settle down again and get back into a routine."
"Good. Then we'll have to see." He punched him on the arm. "You need a better place in DC."
"I'll come back with a suitcase, my DVD player, and a few movies. I'll move the rest if I stay." That got a reasonable nod. "You're sure it was Mary who called?"
"Sounded like her."
"Huh." He got out and headed into the office to check his machine. It was indeed full. He listened to the messages, smiling at Maria's complaining that she wasn't helpless and didn't need a caretaker yet. Two of them were Mary asking him to call. So he did once he was done. "It's me. Did you invite me to a political fundraiser?" He snorted. "No, hell no," he said dryly. "Because someone will figure it out and decide I'm blackmailing him," he pointed out. "No, I'm good. I don't usually involve myself in politics. No, she asked so I told her why I was home, Mary." He sat down and picked up a pen to play with. "Really?" He made notes on what she was saying. "Where did you hear that?" He smirked and wrote down that very familiar name as well. "Thank you. Any word on the starling?" He laughed. "Sure he is," he agreed dryly. "I told Molly about that too." He smirked at her groan. "Well, he'll definitely get some publicity since she thought Maria was like my mom too. She tried to steal her twice now." He smirked when Gibbs came in, handing over the notes. "Thanks, Mary. No, we're swimming. Well, I did hire her a housekeeper. No, she's already yelled. Love you too." He hung up.
"Yes, but she wants to be an entertainment reporter. It's more glamorous."
"Still, she's a good friend to have." He looked at Tony. "Why do you keep Maria? You're never home."
"She's like my mother, Gibbs. She'll do anything I need except pick up the underwear I leave in the bathroom. That's why I don't leave any here when you said I left a mess in your bathroom that time I had to stay over. Plus, she has a really easy job, which is important to me. Sergeant Bricks was like an uncle, though a pretty stiff one, but Maria's still like my mom. I've even let her bring dates here. She was serious about a butler who served up the street."
"How did that work out?"
"Not too well I guess since they're not together now." He shrugged. "She's got the easiest job in this whole city, Gibbs. Even if I do pick up after myself now and then. She complains when I do then I threaten to give her a pay raise for lounging by the pool and watching the lawn guys cut the grass. Who else would hire her to do nothing eleven months out of the year and treasure her like the mom she should have been?" He got up. "I'm going back to the pool, coming?"
Gibbs looked at him. "I didn't mean to upset you, DiNozzo."
"I know. It's all right." He grinned. "You don't understand because you've never been part of my screwed up life, Gibbs. Until you've been here for a while, you won't understand. Even the ones who've been here don't." The phone rang and he answered it. "Yes?" He listened. "No, Molly, I'm not involving myself in politics unless I have to. Because it would look bad if anyone knew, dear. I promise. I'm not even in LA most of the time. Though I am thinking about the film history degree at UCLA. You can tell him that." He smirked. "That's fine. No I won't. No, I'm not getting naked with my boss. You can tell him I said that. Yes, I'll tell him you both thought he was hot." Gibbs choked. He held up the phone, then put it back against his ear. "See, he heard." He smirked at Gibbs, who was scowling. "Have fun and good luck, just don't screw shit up for me, Molly. Doing so would make me fight back. I did learn how to be mean from Gibbs as well as how to be a good agent. Mary told me that. Got anything further?" He noted that down and smiled at the new source. "Love you too, precious. You behave. Give a good photo op tonight. Call my name in bed if you want." He hung up on her shocked silence and looked at his boss before handing over that note. Then he went out to the pool and dove back in.
Gibbs looked at the notes, then smirked and made a call from the side lawn to Abby. "It's me. I've got information for you. I'll mail it tonight." He hung up and went back to the pool area, climbing over the fence.
"It's my fake birthday," Tony called. He dove back under the water and got back to his playing.
Gibbs shook his head and tried the only birthday he knew, and it opened. There was a lot he was going to have to find out before Tony came back to the team.
Gibbs watched Tony as he paced around. "Sit."
"I want to get the bastard and turn him into paste. He's blaming her and the cabbie for being in the right lane at the wrong time."
"I heard. The prosecutor said it didn't negate him being drunk and driving." He looked up. "He's trying to save his ass from jail."
"Nothing's going to save his ass," Tony said dryly, giving him a look. He went back to pacing and grabbed the phone when it rang. "DiNozzo." He smiled. "Abby. What's up?" He nodded. "That's what my reporter friend said. Why?" He nodded. "Sure. Let me get him the cordless so he can go outside. Because I don't allow work or stress in this house, Abby." He handed over the cordless phone and Gibbs went into the driveway with it. Tony hung up once he heard him on the line and went back to pacing. He finally called a contact downtown in the local PD. "Heaven. Tony DiNozzo. Yeah, I heard. She wanted me to check. Because he's trying to say her cab was at fault." He ran a hand through his hair. "Heaven, I was doing CSI as a fed before I got blacklisted by a director who wanted me to be James Bond. I refused."
He weathered her laughter. "Hey, I was a decent action star, but I was a thoughtful one, not a thug." He smiled. "Thank you. Anything that's going to bite Maria on the ass? Yeah, that one. He ran into Maria's cab. Yeah, so I'm fighting the urge to go kill him. No, my last boss is here. He's keeping me in check. Because Gibbs is suspended thanks to the same boss." He smiled. "I know you did. And I'm the DiNozzo who was on his six all the time." He beamed. "Thank you." He listened to her running it down. "If that's your boss, tell him it's her family. Or tell him it's me, her employer. Thanks, Heaven. Love and miss you. Sure. I'm in town at the moment. Invite me out to anywhere but a cop bar. Love you. Thanks." He hung up and looked up. "Thank you," he said happily. "She'll be happier with that." He went to play some more music, making him a very happy and sated young man.
Gibbs looked up at the sound of the music, smiling at Abby's question. "That's him, Abby. Happier than earlier. He must have found something positive about his housekeeper's case. Thank you for running that down for me. Sure, I'll tell him you miss him. He's not sure yet, Abby. Because he doesn't want things to get weird, his words. Thanks." He hung up and went to listen from the hall again. Tony was definitely happier. It was nicely harmonious and upbeat. It was more like the Tony he knew at work.
Gibbs looked up from reading the reviews in the scrapbook when Tony wandered in rubbing his eyes. "I made coffee."
"What are you doing?"
"I realized how much I don't know about you."
"Ask, Gibbs. That's just reviews. Almost nothing of my life at the time is in there."
"It does say a lot if you think about it. This one while you were filming Rage. It said you drew from a pretty deep well to find that anger." He looked at him. "Mad at your family?"
"Very. My mother was being a stage mom. My father was starting to get interested in my money." He flopped down across from him. "Plus I was a teenager. Of course I was angry. I was surrounded by people who didn't want to understand me. People who thought I was a snot nosed brat. Plus a sergeant who was ordered to keep me from having sex. That alone made me really mad."
Gibbs let out a small smirk at that. "The one during the Ohio State shoot?"
"I was tired. It was my sixth shoot in a row. I'd only been home for a week. My family and I were fighting constantly. I...walked away and got disowned."
"Did your choice of roles have any relation to your life?"
"No. I went for ones that interested me. Something other than 'me action boy' roles. That's why I did Rage. It was an interesting role. It had a crappy leading man who the director catered to, but it was a good movie and good script outside that."
"I found it in the collection and watched it again. It was interesting and I did end up hating the leading man more than you." Tony smiled and shrugged slightly at that. "I also watched Silent Running." Tony moaned. "Some of those moves looked familiar."
"Yeah, well, I ended up bringing some into my real life," he said dryly. "It worked."
"It did. Did you do your own stunts?"
"Against union rules until I was eighteen. Then I did most of them unless they were really dangerous."
"Because I was already in the role. If my character could do it, I should be able to do it if I can pull the role off."
"Very interesting." He leaned back. "You won an academy award," he said quietly.
"And I never understood why." He shrugged. "I'm honored that they thought I was that good but I don't know why they did. What about my acting that was better than everyone else's. Especially since it was a dramatic romance. The PBS and British TV stuff was just as dramatic and no one liked it."
"You can't live on public opinion. What did your lover of the moment think?"
"That one of the historical drama miniseries I did for British TV was better. She didn't know why it was so good either." He grinned. "I was dating Brenda when I did them."
"Do you have copies of those?"
"I do but I think Ducky has them all on DVD. All I have is VHS."
"I'll have to ask him." He stared at him. "Do you think you grew up privileged?"
"No. My mother grew up spoiled. She used me to get more spoiled. I was her way of getting attention. I'm lucky she wasn't desperate enough to make me sick to get attention." Gibbs nodded at that. "My father made me use my mother's maiden name so I wouldn't impact negatively on his career. Then I made it onto a second soap in a more major role. The first one I was on for six weeks as a sub." Gibbs nodded slowly. "The other kid fell down and broke something so they needed a sub. They couldn't put the sudden body cast into the script." He gave him a shy grin. "It was kinda neat and someone saw me there, saw my smile, and I got cast as another kid on another soap. It's the one I eventually won the emmy for. That's the one I think I actually deserved. Did I get any phone calls?"
"Martha called and giggled at me. She said they're going with someone else for that role in the cartoon but there's an anime that you're suited for. She'll send you the script. Also, there's a small dramatic role in a movie she's sending over."
"Cool. What about the other one?"
"She didn't say more than that." He looked at him. "Does Maria usually play secretary?"
"No, Martha calls me at work usually."
"Oh." He nodded. "I guess that makes more sense. She said they'd be over this afternoon by courier."
"That's fine. That's how she usually does it. Anyone else?"
"Mary. She wanted to know if we're together."
"Did you tell her no?"
"No. I told her I'm your friend and boss, but nothing else at this moment. She said Molly was right, we're cute together."
Tony rolled his eyes. "Anything else happen?"
"What was the nomination for?"
"An art film that no one liked."
"It seems to go that way."
"True. Then again, I wanted unique, non-serial roles. If I had wanted a serial role, I'd have still been in films. Probably still doing the same role. I might've even went to Bond." Gibbs snorted. "I could."
"You probably could but your actual life is better than any of them."
"Don't tempt me to write it," Tony warned. "I've thought about that before." Gibbs groaned. "I've written two. The studios didn't like them but one got plagiarized. I'm suing him."
"Charming." He stared at him. "Do you actually think it'd sell?"
"Better than Mission Impossible."
"Anything was better than the one you made me watch last night."
Tony smirked. "I was in the same acting years as him, Gibbs. Just think where I could have ended up."
"Possibly. Then again, I had Sergeant Bricks on my six. Not likely while he was there."
"Point." He leaned back in the chair, studying him. "When is your actual birthday?"
"Why change it?"
"So I could have two separate identities and be my own cousin. It came in handy and I explained it for a long time that I was my own helper. Then again, I blew it a few times by bragging that I didn't use an assistant." He looked outside at the honk, going to check the camera and let the person in. He leaned out the door. "Mary, I love you but I'm in jammies."
"I can see that." She came over, getting an eyeful. "You're still very well built, Tony."
"Thank you." He blew a kiss. "Anything else?"
"Someone figured it out and spilled it. They know you're Brad."
"Crap." He let her in. "Study." She headed that way. "Boss, this is Mary."
"Mary," he said, nodding at her. "What happened?"
"Your director spilled who he also is." Gibbs moaned. "She's using it as justification."
Tony dug something out and handed it over. "From the head of HR personally." He stared at her. "Feel free to show that all you want."
"Which birthday did you put on your profile?" Gibbs asked.
"My actual one. I celebrate the one I made up as Brad's but that's because it's when everyone sends me stuff. Even my mother."
"Huh. No wonder." He looked at Mary again. "I'm still trying to figure him out."
"He's insecure in the fact that people love him. His mother's a using bitch. His father's a cold bitch. His little sister's a hippie and disappeared years ago. His self-confidence hinges on what he can do. How fast he can run, how well he can solve cases."
"I've noticed that."
"Good. That's the real Tony. He apparently shared that already." She looked at the letter, then at Tony. "Got a copy of your application?" Tony dug it out and handed it over. "Thank you. Should I handle this?"
"Done, sweetheart." She kissed him, hearing his moan. "I was so dumb," she said quietly.
"You're also married and I'm not going to interrupt that." She nodded, smiling and heading out. "Have fun, be mean," he called after her. He looked at his boss, who had an eyebrow raised. "I nearly married her. She had lip rights for a long time. Anymore she's like my sister. Speaking of, I haven't heard from her in nearly forever." he shrugged. "She'll get back in contact with me when she's ready." He sat down again, looking at Gibbs. "What else did you want to know, boss?"
"Was the you at work the real you?"
"Remember the day I came in wearing that blue silk shirt and the tan pants, the day I tormented Kate for hours on end and she walked off crying?" Gibbs nodded. "That's as close as you've ever come. She needed to let it go for a bit. I did that."
"So the you I saw during cases was the training and the you I saw during down times and after hours was the real you?"
"Mostly. There's still parts you didn't see."
"Have I seen them all now?"
"Nope. If I'm having a bad day I tend to get mean and evil. That bit of cackling a few months back that you got complained about? That was those moods." The gate beeped again and he sighed, getting up to answer it. He took the box from the courier and tipped him, getting all he needed for the next few weeks. He went back inside. "The only big problem I've seen is all the head injuries has meant I have short term scheduling issues," he said, coming back in. Gibbs was out on the porch on the phone, making him smile. "Charger would love the company," he told himself, sitting behind his desk to go over the top script. It was challenging. He liked that. It was also a more mature role, making him wince. "I'm not old enough for that." He called his agent using the speaker phone. "Martha, you know I'm only thirty-four and I don't even have gray hairs yet. Why did you send me one for a Donald Sutherland role?"
"Because someone wanted you to play Derek."
He looked at that one. "Oh, okay. All it said was Mr. Payne."
"No, the younger one. You're the right age."
"Thank you. Who else has been looking?"
"A few younger ones off recent series."
"Next week. Should I call to remind you?"
"Please," he moaned. "All the concussions has made it so I forget scheduling things."
"Fine, dear. Get a new appointment book, Tony. Look at the other three. One just came in and I want your opinion. It's a premiere ep and a trial."
"We'd get paid and I will. Thank you." He hung up and got back to reading, considering the role. It wasn't one he'd normally pick. He wanted to do something actiony at the moment. He put it into a maybe pile and moved on. He liked the anime and put it into the 'sure, I can do that' pile. Gibbs came back. "Hey, boss. She got it early." He looked at the next one, smiling and nodding. "I like that." He put it in the 'yes' pile and looked at the last one, which made him grimace and shake his head. He was not the sort to do television like that. He went back to the maybe, reading more of it. It was a good story line. The character was minorly evil. An annoying Draco Malfoy evil really. Not really his usual thing but he liked that. He called Martha back. "I love you."
"Which one didn't you like?"
"The premiere trial ep. I've got a maybe on the bad guy role and I'm reading further on it, and the other two, the first fifteen minutes looked promising."
"Read the anime all the way through, Tony. It's got some surprises. Including the character ending up, grudgingly, with a male."
"I am bi," he reminded her dryly.
"Yeah, but it's blackmail sex."
"Been there, done that once," he said patiently. "I'll read it all the way through. Do you need to know any of them today?"
"Nope. Tomorrow. Remind Gibbs if he wants you back he's going to have to work around this stuff for a while, like Peoria did."
"I know," Gibbs said from the doorway. "They any good?"
"I think he'd do stunningly well in the anime one. They're casting all roles but the secondary female. She's the author. The one in his maybe pile is mostly unlike anything he's ever done before."
"Reminds me of Draco Malfoy," Tony said dryly.
"I noticed that. The other one? You really want to do an action film?"
"With what I had been doing?"
"Point. Easy transition for you, Tony. What are we going to do about her outing your true name?"
"Bugger it. Not like I care," he said in an accent much like Ducky's. She giggled. "I can sue her for that too."
"I'll have Nigel call you. There was some sort of preliminary ruling in the plagiarism case."
"Cool. Thanks. I'll probably be here."
"No you won't. You're going to go buy yourself a scheduling book today."
"Fine, I'll go buy a new schedule." He hung up and looked at his boss. "She said so and she'll spank me."
"I should. You haven't had that many concussions."
"Yes I have. Or haven't you talked to Ducky recently?" He gave him an amused look. "Would you still want me back, even if I was doing acting on the side?"
"That depends on how much of your time it took up," he said patiently. "If you were doing more of that than office work? No. It's not fair to the cases or your teammates."
"I knew that."
"As long as it's a few weeks here and there, some weekends, an opening now and then I don't care, DiNozzo. The moment it starts being more important than your job with me I will."
"Sure, boss." He looked around then at him. "So, I should go do that now while I remember."
"Want to come with me? Abby will kill you if you don't at least bring her a postcard or a t-shirt."
"She's already given me an order about what she wants."
"Then let's head to do that. Let me get something to eat and put on clothes. Going out in jammies only works if you're Hef or a really cute girl in cute ones." He went to forage in the kitchen, giving up after a few minutes. Gibbs came in and handed him the plate out of the microwave, getting a smile. Then he ate it on the way up to his bedroom.
Gibbs just shook his head. Sometimes he wondered about that boy. He really did.
Gibbs looked at the setup Tony had created with two scheduling books and a desk calendar. "What is all that for?"
"One's a personal one, one's a work one. I'll end up making notes in both, this way I have the room. The desk calendar is the link between them. He finished settling everything in on the proper day and looked at him. "Sorry, I get a bit obsessive about my work sometimes."
"I find that a good trait." He went back to looking at the clippings, then at Tony. "What're you going to do if you do come back?"
"Well, obviously there's not going to be any more undercovers. I'll teach McGee how to do it and then run it for you." They shared a look. "If things get too uncomfortable with the other guys, I'm coming home again," he said simply. Gibbs nodded at that. "Anything from Ziva yet?"
"One short message saying she doesn't believe it and that you're not any good, even doing undercovers."
"Stupid...." He muttered, finishing it off under his breath. He finished fussing and stretched. "Ow." He stretched again and winced.
"That back problem?"
"Yeah. It happens."
"Let's go outside and I'll work on it for you."
"No, not outside. Someone will take pictures and then we'll have to fight that rumor." Gibbs gave him a look. "Seriously. It'll only complicate things back in DC."
"True. Not that I think most anyone would care."
"Yes they would, especially if I'm coming back, boss."
"That's a better point. Fine, where can we do this?"
"One of the beds would probably be best."
"Then let's go to your room," Gibbs ordered, waving a hand at the door. "Got any oil?"
"In my bathroom." He headed that way, going to get the oil. He came out and found Gibbs inhaling. "Maria found me that scent. You've probably smelled it when I got new clothes from the closet." He handed it over and laid down.
"Shirt, DiNozzo." He took it off and settled in again. Gibbs stared at him for a moment. The old cast iron bed suited him. It was steady, would hold up to whatever he did in here, and it had an open headboard design in scrollwork so you could grab onto it. It was masculine but just enough softness in the scrollwork to not piss off any female in his life. He settled in beside him and got to work on the older problem Tony had. This wasn't the first time he'd had to do this. Once before he'd had to head to his apartment to help him. He wasn't able to get off the couch that day. He smiled at the groans of pleasure, letting his hands knead as deeply as they could.
"If you end up retiring maybe you should take this up as a career, Gibbs. You'd make millions and I'd be your favorite client." He shifted, laying a bit flatter and spreading his legs. "Little higher on that same side?" Gibbs moved up a few inches and Tony yelped but relaxed into it. "There," he moaned finally. It was definitely one of the better massages he'd ever had. He drifted off under the callused hands, earning a smile. At least until the phone rang. Then he mumbled and batted at it.
Gibbs grabbed it. "Gibbs." He listened to the unfamiliar voice. "He's napping. No, I'm his former boss. I came out to check with him," he answered smartly. "Like I said, he's sleeping. I'm not going to wake him up for this." He walked into the bathroom to clean off his hands. "No, I'm not, lady. I'm washing my hands. Because I had something on them." He used a cloth to wipe off the phone once he had hung up on her spluttering. He didn't care who it was. He put the phone back beside Tony's head and smiled at the picture of comfortableness in front of him. Then he went down to go snoop in the study some more. He hadn't even realized Tony had a fully hidden life, just a past he didn't like to talk about. Now he was going to find out. The phone rang again and he sighed but answered it. "Gibbs." He listened to Mary. "No, I was working on that spot on his back that tenses up now and then. He's napping. I was rinsing the oil off, Mary. That's her issue. All in her imagination. No, Tony's never hit on me that way. Sorry." He hung up on her too. Now he knew why Tony had escaped Hollywood. Everyone was in your business.
Tony got the paper the next morning and sighed, going to call them. And Mary. "Dears, this is Tony DiNozzo. You have it wrong, people. I'm not dating my former boss. He's had three ex-wives." He listened to the first woman splutter. "Yes, he was. I have a small issue with my lower back that tenses and knots up now and then. He fixed it for me. Of course I did. I wouldn't expect a friend to have to hunt for souvenirs alone!" He rolled his eyes. "It's your overactive imagination, ladies. Really. Please correct this before it impacts his career because he can prove he's never slept with a guy. No, Mary, he'd probably sic his exes on you two. They're all mean bitches, even meaner than you." He smirked. "Yes, I do think you're a mean bitch, dear. That's why I nearly married you." He hung up on her shocked gasp and cackled. "Bitch."
Gibbs walked in with some coffee. "It might be hard to prove I've never slept with a man. One or two might come forward but it was only fooling around to relieve stress on a battlefield."
"I still think I should sic your exes on them."
"I don't like making them that happy."
Tony smirked. "Just think, they'd have fun."
"Phone?" It was handed over and he called one of his exes, the one who talked to the other two. "It's Jethro. Yes, I know that. No, because someone decided I was sleeping with my senior agent. I thought she should know." He smirked as her new husband handed over the phone. "It's me. Read the paper yet?" He smirked at her cackle. "Well, I do have the reporter's phone number, and the entertainment reporter's phone number." He sipped his coffee. "Well, that's one way to prove I wasn't sleeping with my senior agent. Yeah. Yup, she thinks I'm sleeping with DiNozzo." He withstood her cackling. "He made the same sound when he suggested you and she should talk about how I'm not gay? Want that or not?" He took the numbers Tony held out and read them off. "The first is to Mary?" He nodded. "That's the entertainment reporter. The other one wrote the story. Oh, and if you make me sound like I'm sleeping with him on purpose, I'll stop the alimony payments." He hung up and looked at him. "They would."
"I know but they won't. There's still Sheppard, who'll scream and rant about this."
"It'll probably get back to her too." He took another drink of his coffee. "Drink." Tony gulped his. "Call Martha."
"I know. It's written down." He smiled and emailed her then got up and stretched. "Ooh, that works. Thank you. Swimming?"
"Sure. It's supposed to be hot today."
"This time of year it's like the first ring of hell in LA. We had some mild weather for the last few days." They headed to change and then outside to lounge by and in the pool for a while.
Mary stomped into the house, slamming the door. She found Tony cooking. "Since when don't you poison yourself?"
"I had to do something after hours so I took a few cooking classes," he said absently while he worked. "What's wrong?"
"Those heathen bitches you gave my cell number!"
"I told you I could prove Jethro wasn't gay." He shot a smirk at her. "Do it some more, Mary." He blew a kiss and drained the meat, then added it to the pan of lasagna he was building. She pouted and huffed out to yell at Jethro, making him smirk. "You won't win that one," he said quietly once she was gone.
Jethro looked up when Mary came out. "What is he making? He won't let me help."
"Lasagna." She scowled at him and he smirked. "Those heathen bitches of yours...."
"Why do you think we got divorced, woman."
She let out a small shriek. "They have my cell number, Jethro."
"That's the one he gave me."
"No, I gave you her office number. Wife number three probably found her in the directory online," Tony called from inside.
"Whatever, they have it now!" she said hotly, glaring at them. "I do not like you with him."
"I'm not with him. I'm his boss," Jethro said dryly, staring her down. "Being in a relationship with my senior agent could hurt my team and both our careers, Mary."
She glared at him. "Fortunately your former boss publically laughed at that statement and then said she knew you were straight and how."
"She was bad in bed too," he noted dryly. "Fairly hard to make happy and low feeling levels." She gaped. He shrugged. "That's why I know sleeping with my people is wrong. It was part of the assignment."
She huffed and stomped off again. "Bastards!"
"It's the second 'b' in his name," Tony called after her. "But thank you, I needed the evil cackle this morning when I saw the headline." He heard her whimper right before she slammed the front door shut. "I really do need to get a new dog if I'm coming back here. Just so he'll protect me from her." He came out. "It's in the oven."
"Why can't I help?"
"You cooked breakfast, boss."
"Point." He shrugged. If Tony wanted to consider microwaving bacon and making coffee cooking that was up to him. He went back to reading the book he had picked up. Tony stretched out, closing his eyes and relaxing, going back to that blissed out state he seemed to live in around here. So when the oven timer went off, he looked over and decided he was asleep, even if he was smiling. He got up to take dinner out and let it cool on the stove, then went back outside. He saw movement down the hill, near the trees and headed that way instead of back to his book, scaring the older woman to death. "Hi."
"Oh, you must be Tony's new boy. I saw that in the paper," she said, smiling at him.
"Not technically. I'm his former boss. I came to check on him and see if we could work things out so he could come back."
She stared at him. "With as many injuries as he's had with you, what will that do to his film career?" Gibbs looked clueless. "The cameras don't like scars, young man. They never have. I saw that interview where one even partially destroyed that birthmark of his and you know that's famous thanks to a bathroom scene." She picked a few more pieces of fruit and headed back across the fence.
"How did you know he was injured?"
"He only comes home when he's injured or needs a vacation. It used to be once or twice a year. In the last three we've seen him about twelve times." She closed the gate and headed back to her house.
Jethro picked an apple and checked it over before walking back up there, finding Tony awake. "Your neighbor gave me hell."
"She's one of my bigger fans," he said sleepily. "Sorry about that, boss."
"I'm not. She's right. The fact that you get hurt working with me and how it could impact your film career is something you've got to consider."
"Gibbs, I can have scars removed. All but the ones around my birthmark. The others can be lasered off." He blinked and yawned. "You'll spoil your dinner."
"It's on the stove. You slept through the timer."
"Thanks for taking it out. Last time I slept through one the fire department wasn't very understanding." He got up and went to make plates, bringing out a tray with them and drinks. "Here, eat. Finish the apple for dessert." Gibbs took his and they settled in to watch the night air. They both looked up at the sound of fireworks, Tony using his fork to calculate where it was coming from. Then he got up and climbed on top of the changing area he had out there, staring down the hill. "Oh, hey, the park." He hopped down and came back. "It's in the park." He finished his dinner and relaxed again, falling asleep out there.
Gibbs shook his head. "He's like a giant cat," he said quietly, finishing up and eating his apple. No wonder he forgot things if he slept like this all the time.
Tony hung up with someone a few days later and gripped the counter, breathing hard. He looked up when Gibbs came in. "I've got to head out of town."
"My sister just called."
"Maybe." He shrugged. "Go pack a bag. She lives up the state a little bit." Gibbs nodded, going back upstairs to do that. Tony got his own bag packed and then set all the answering machine messages. "My sister needs me, I'm out of town for the next three days," he recorded. "Do not call my cell, Mary, Brenda, or Molly. Anyone else, leave a message and I'm checking nightly." He listened to it then nodded. Then he called Maria. "She needs me. I'm heading up to the forest." He smiled. "I will. I told them not to call my cell and I'll check messages nightly. I'll even remember to set the gate," he promised. "Thanks. Itching yet?" he teased, weathering her rant. "Well, yeah, they do that. Trust me. It'll be off in a few weeks, just relax and let them heal, Maria. Love you too." He hung up and hurried out. "Mustang or Z, boss?"
"Take your baby. You never get to drive her."
"The mustang might be more practical. We've got to head up to one of the state forests."
"Your other car can't make it?"
"It can but it's got lower ground clearance. Last time I scratched the paint on some road ruts."
"Should we rent you a hummer?" he taunted.
"She would scream like there's no tomorrow. My sister's a vegan hippie love child who's protesting using oil in cars." Gibbs shuddered. "She sounded weak and pitiful. I think she's sick again." He got into the mustang and backed her out, checking everything to make sure it was all right while Gibbs got in. Their bags went into the trunk and he drove them out, locking and sealing the gate so the security company would know he wasn't going to be home for a few days. He headed off, going to the back roads. It was a prettier drive and a bit shorter with freeway traffic. Gibbs shot him a look. "Unless you want to be stuck on the freeway?"
"No, not really." That got a smile and Tony shifted up, speeding up a bit. He rounded a corner and had to slow suddenly. There was a blockade for shooting. He leaned out the window. "How long?" he asked the guy who stopped them.
"Most of the day, sir. You can go around using the dirt road back about a mile and then take the third right." That got a nod and Tony backed up so he could turn around, heading that way.
"Don't they announce those things?" Gibbs asked.
"Most of the time but not always. Even if they did I didn't think to check the last three weeks' papers to find them all." He shrugged. "Usually they're pretty decent about it. Every now and then though...."
"Sure. Some guards are assholes."
"More like some directors are assholes and they tell them not to let any information out. Which if the guard does he's blacklisted from guarding any sets ever again because he's a security risk. The Secret Service has nothing on these guys about securing scenes and things, boss." He took the third right and headed off that way. It led him back to the highway after a few houses out in the middle of nowhere. "I thought about buying a place like this."
"Why didn't you?"
"Too long to commute and Bricks would've made me do more PT," he joked. He shifted back up once they hit the real road again and went on. It was a nice day for a drive.
Tony parked in front of the small wooden house, looking around it. "She needs to fix the roof again."
"She bought this place?"
"I'm not sure. I always thought she rented but she won some at bingo a few years back and may have bought it off the owner." A young woman came out of the house but not his sister. "Angela. She called?"
"She's sick, Tony. It came back." He nodded, coming up there. She stopped him. "She's still renting and about a year behind," she said quietly. "It's going to be cheaper to buy it."
"We'll see what I can help with. I'm not working at the moment." She nodded, letting his arm go. "That's Gibbs, my last boss." He walked inside, looking around and sneezing at the herbs. "Mags?" he called as he headed for the bedroom. "Want me to drive you to the hospital yet?" He found her and stared at her, arms crossed over his chest while he lounged in the doorway. "At least then you'd get painkillers that would work."
"I have them. I'm not going on chemo."
"That's your choice," he agreed, walking in to kiss her on the forehead. "You're running a pretty good fever. Want the window open?" She nodded so he did that. Angela came back scowling. "She's got a fever."
"Fine." She tucked Margaret back in and looked at him. "I can't call your family."
"I wouldn't call my family. My father might buy the land to destroy it." He shrugged. "I'll call him." He heard a car and looked out at the truck. "Hmm. Blue and green Ford?"
"The landlord," Mags moaned. "You passed her house on the way up so she's coming to nag."
"I'll handle her," Tony promised. He patted her on the head. "We'll talk in a few, Mags." He walked outside, smiling at her. "Hi, Tony DiNozzo." He shook her hand. "Mags just called me."
"I hope you have her rent check because I can't keep losing money. It's been thirteen months. I've been more than patient," she said bitterly. "Even if she is sick."
He nodded. "How much?"
"About the same as the state wants to buy it for," she admitted.
"Which would be?" She handed over the paperwork she had gotten, watching his face. He considered it and called Maria, walking off. He came back and wrote out two checks from two different accounts, handing them over. "Wait two days and put them in. I've got to move money into the other one. It's sealed in a CD at the moment." She nodded. "Anything else?"
"I'll do the deed later today, Mr. DiNozzo."
"Thank you." He shook her hand and she walked off. He walked back inside, showing Angela the figure on the eviction notice. She winced and hissed. "You're paying all the taxes, Angela."
"Yes, Tony." She went back to fussing in the kitchen. "Want some tea?"
"Ice water's fine," he promised, getting himself some and heading back to talk to his sister. "Next time, call sooner," he ordered.
"If there's a next time, I'm being punished by the Goddess," she moaned, shifting onto her side. He looked at her back. "I know. I move as much as I can and I'm still getting bed sores."
"Ya think? It's infected, Mags. We should get that looked at too."
"Tony, I'm not going to let them pump me full of chemicals."
He stared at her. "Then I'm assuming you've arranged stuff?" She nodded. "Fully? All laid out, all paid for, all of it?" She nodded again. "Then I'll make him accept it. Did you want to see them?"
"Nope. Just you." She smiled and reached out, letting him hold her hand. "Can I have some?"
"Just don't spit blood into it like last time," he complained. "The plague was bad enough." He let her have his water, helping her sip it.
"Plague?" she asked once she had finished it off and the glass was on the floor.
"Yeah, got it at work. Someone sent it to me. I got pneumonic plague. The Black Death."
"And I thought brain tumors were bad."
"They are," he agreed. "You don't get the pretty blue lights in your room." She smiled at that and nodded. "It was kinda freaky."
"I'm sure it was." She reached up to smooth down a piece of hair. "Have to look perfect for the cameras."
"I've got a few offers but I've still got to audition," he said quietly. "Plus Gibbs wants me to go back if they can get NCIS straightened out. I figured I've got time to do a few good things before then." She smiled and nodded at that, squeezing his hand. "How long?"
"I wasn't going to make you watch me die, Tony. It'll be soon."
"I would've come."
"You were making a difference in the world and I wasn't going to stop you from doing that," she said firmly, staring up at him with her mother's brown eyes. "That was more important than me having a relapse." She smoothed down that piece of hair again. "Mommy will scream if it's not perfect for the cameras when you go out tonight," she said weakly.
He kissed her on the head. "I know, Mags. It'll be fine. I'll spike it all up tonight so no one can tell." She nodded, her eyes fluttering. "You sleep, I'll bring you home stuff from the restaurant like usual. I might even be able to get Molly to come visit you again." She smiled and relaxed, letting herself drift off. He watched her, thinking hard. He finally got up and walked out there to talk to her girlfriend. "Angela?" She looked up at him, her eyes red. "How long has this been going on?"
"Sixteen months. She didn't want you to know, Tony. You were making a difference to the world and she said she wanted you to do that, not sit and watch her die. She doesn't want anyone to watch her shrivel up." He nodded, staring her down. "I tried but she stopped me. She even frisked me for letters a few times."
"I understand," he said quietly. "Did you send Gibbs into the woods?" She nodded. "That's fine. Everything's arranged?"
"Fully," she agreed. She sipped her drink. "I've tried, Tony."
"That's what she said when I saw the bedsores."
"I get her up and make her move. The doctor said her skin was brittle thanks to the last treatments your parents forced on her." He sighed and nodded. "When will you tell them?"
"It's her wish to not let them know until she's gone. I doubt they'd fly out here." She nodded at that, sighing a bit. "I'll call him tonight, let him know I heard a rumor that she was sick and I was heading up here." He walked outside, going to sit on the stairs and call his father's office. "Hildegard, you still work for my father?" He blinked. "No, it's personal. Tell him I heard Mags was sick again. A relapse. I'm heading up but it'll be a few days before I'll be able to get there." He held his head. "I don't care. It's his daughter. She's dying if it is," he said firmly. "Well, yes, he should know his offspring is dying. Just put it on a message pad and hand it to him with the others before he leaves. That way if he wants to do something he can tell me." He hung up and shook his head. Then he looked up. "Punishing her won't punish him. The same as punishing me won't punish either of them." He went back to watching the woods around him, looking down when his phone vibrated. "Hey, Abby." He listened. "No, I'm not at home at the moment. With my sister. Yeah, I knew it was going to take time. Really? Huh. I'll let him know. No, he's out in the woods. We get cell service to here for all of twenty feet into the house. Thanks." He hung up. "Gibbs?" he called. He came out of the woods. "Check your voicemail. That was Abby. Sheppard's still got her job and now you're blacklisted with Probie and her."
"That's fine," he agreed, sitting down to do that. "She going to be okay?"
"Nope. Brain tumor." He looked at him. "This is her second relapse. The first time they removed it. The second time mom and dad made her go on fairly extensive chemo and radiation treatments. It apparently came back again and she's refusing modern treatments. That's why the house smells like herbs." His phone rang and he looked then answered it. "Yes, mother?" He listened to her. "I heard she was. Angela called." He shrugged at her ranting. "Mom, it's her wish. No, Angela said she's dying. She doesn't want to, mother. Yes, I did talk to her on the phone. She said she didn't want to go back on the chemicals. I'm pretty sure Angela does, mother. That's why they're married." He snorted at her attack on that. "Shut up, mother. I don't want to hear it. Yes, and I nearly married two women and a man. Pity that you and the rest of my life drove them off. Now, are you coming up before she dies? Angela said Mags already made all the arrangements herself and then signed over power of attorney. Mom, when I talked to her, she retreated in time. It's not going to be long. Are you coming or not? No you can't stay at my house. My house is my sanctuary. Only myself, my lovers, and presently my boss are allowed to stay there. Because you'd bring work there," he said firmly. "Plus you'd fuss things around. Besides, it's four hours away from Mags. Not exactly practical. There's a town not an hour from here. Go there." He looked up and silently asked why.
Gibbs took the phone. "Mrs. DiNozzo, Special Agent Gibbs. No, I'm with Tony while NCIS's director is being worked on over firing him for having been an actor and not using it to risk his life in ways that I don't find acceptable." He snorted at her assumption. "I don't care if he won every single Academy Award, he'd never make it as a Middle Eastern fundamentalist or a terrorist. He's not from there and they'd never believe him. So no. I'm sitting here with him trying to keep him calm." Angela came out and whispered in Tony's ear, getting a nod and a sigh. "Hold on." He put her on mute. "What?"
"She took her meds and went to sleep," Angela told him. "We've got a spare room but it's only got one bed."
"I've had to share a tent with him before, I can share a bed." She nodded and went to fix it up. He took her off mute. "You still there? No, we're heading up tonight to see her. Because his schedule just freed itself with some poking. This is his sister, of course she's more important than a job. If she's not, I wouldn't want him on my team because he'd be a cold and unfeeling bastard." He smirked at her new tirade. "Mrs. DiNozzo, your son's a great agent. His sister didn't want to bother him because he was doing that. Now that he's not at the moment she sent for him. You can either join us up there or not. That's your choice, but I wouldn't expect to see you at her funeral if you don't." He hung up and handed the phone back. "Your mother is worse than all my wives put together."
"Yup. Which is why I help other stage moms calm down before they turn into her." He stood up. "I'm going to look in on her then head to bed. Come in whenever you're ready." He went to check on them, finding Angela hugging her pillow. "They'll find out if they do an autopsy," he said quietly. She stared at him. "They will." She nodded. "She's not in pain, Angela, and it won't be too much longer. With her fever, it's going to be days instead of months. She nearly died during the last treatments and they had to do some really fast scrambling to save her. This time we're not because that's what she wants."
"You're right. It's just hard to watch."
"I know." He kissed her on the forehead. "We'll figure it out in the morning, okay?" She nodded. "Watch her tonight and say what you need to say. Mom was ranting at Gibbs and he told her if she didn't show up before she died to not come to the funeral."
"Thank you." She smiled weakly. "Go rest. You look tired."
"I am tired." He smiled and went to do that. He got down to his boxers and climbed in, getting comfortable on one side of the bed so Gibbs wouldn't have to cuddle him.
When Jethro came in he found Tony spread across the whole bed, both pillows, and arms out wide. He shook his head and poked him. "Scoot, DiNozzo." He shifted over and Gibbs stripped down to his boxers and t-shirt, getting in and facing the other wall. He looked down when a hand hit his stomach, picking it up and putting it back behind him. He was nearly asleep when it came back, with the rest of the cuddly body.
Tony woke up to find Gibbs staring at him. "You're a bed hog."
"Sorry. I tried."
"To get under my t-shirt all night, Tony. You did try very hard." He handed over the cup of coffee. "I headed out for coffee. It's instant."
"Thanks." He sipped and sat up, running a hand through his hair. "What time is it?"
"Nearly ten. Why are you so tired?"
"Nothing's keeping me awake. No battles, no stress, no running after suspects." He shrugged. "I sleep a lot more whenever I'm home." They both looked up at the sound of a helicopter. "What now?" he moaned, getting up and sliding into clean clothes. He walked out and found his mother getting out of a helicopter. "Take Dad's gold card again?" he called. The pilot nodded and then took off again. He sipped his coffee while she lugged her huge bag with her. "You know there's only one spare room, right, mother?"
"You could help."
"Last time I knew I wasn't a servant. You packed it, you carry it. I carry my shit when I have to travel." He finished his coffee and looked at his boss. "Gibbs, this is my mother. Mother, this is Jethro Gibbs." He finished his coffee and went inside to make Angela untense. "It's all right," he said quietly. "Act like she's a giant bug." She smiled and relaxed, nodding while she worked on Margaret's hair. "Bed shampoo?"
"She hates it but it's more practical."
"That's fine. How is she this morning?"
"Asleep again. She's slipping." She glanced up when his mother walked in but went back to what she had been doing. "She's asleep."
"I will not," Angela said firmly. She glared at her and Tony's mother stepped back, hand on her chest. "She's dying. The woman should get some sleep! You can wait." She got back to work. "Help me turn her in the other direction?"
"Sure." He helped her roll Mags onto her other side, looking at the bed sores. "Eww."
"They only came up last week. The doctor said he expected them and gave me some ointment for it. I've already applied this time's treatment."
"That's fine. Let me know if you need help." He sat down to work on his sister's hands, making her moan and wake up. "Mags, Mother's here," he said gently.
"Why are you using the nasty smelling shampoo?" she complained.
"Because you're not strong enough to make it into the shower so I can use the strawberry stuff," she reminded her. "If you were, I'd use that instead and you could have a real shower."
"Screw that, I want a real shower. I should be clean before I die." She was helped up and Tony carried her in there, letting Angela set up the bath chair and all that. "Thank you, big brother."
"Welcome." He put her down and let Angela handle everything, coming out to find his mother staring at the sheets. "Angela, one broke open. She bled during the night."
"Tony, she still has periods. She's still female," Angela called back. She came out to change the bed and flip it. "Sorry. She's doing her own hair. I thought you were stubborn."
"He is," Gibbs agreed from the doorway. "Want me to put on some water?"
"Please." She smiled at him. He nodded and went to do that. "Mrs. DiNozzo, she'll be out in about ten minutes. Provided she doesn't open her skin again with the washcloth." She went back to help her while Tony finished making the bed. She came out with her. "Not the quilt. I'll never get it clean." Tony nodded, folding that across the foot of the bed again. They got Mags redressed in a clean nightgown then he and Angela took the sheets out to the washer in the backyard to start it. Then they both lurked and drank some tea while listening to mother complain at the daughter.
"Shut up, mother, I'm not like you. I don't want to prolong the agony of my suffering. Nor do I want to be pumped full of chemicals that are akin to torture! I'm dying here, where I lived, like I lived, with my wife and brother! If you don't like it, take the helicopter back!" She started to cough and Angela rushed in there. "Sorry."
"No, it's all right. You're allowed to yell and vent. If you keep it inside, you'll die with it still infecting you. You'd have to haunt her." Mags giggled at that, kissing her. "Shh, I'm here, Mags. I'm here."
"I know, Angel. Thank you for staying."
"You're my wife. It's not like I'm going to be petty and abandon you. I'm not like Gibbs' wives were." That got another smile. "Now, let's settle you back into the bed. Want some willow tea?"
"Please. I could use it." She nodded, going to get her some and bring it back. She looked at her mother. "Make your peace now, mother. I already have. I'm not leaving anything behind beyond Angela. I've lived my life the way I wanted to. I've followed my beliefs. My trust from Grandmother goes to Angela by my will. I've made my own funeral arrangements and paid for them. All I'm doing now and waiting on that final call." She took her tea and smiled at her wife. "She's been sent by the Goddess to help me and love me. I cherish her more than anything." She stroked her cheek and then kissed her gently. "Go pump the idiot out there for information. I want to hear stories about what he did at NCIS."
Tony leaned in. "All you had to do was ask."
"I doubt it's what she needs," their mother said.
"If she wants stories about me catching stupid criminals, I'll tell her however many she wants, mother."
"What about your career?"
"It's on hold why my former director bitches at me for not doing the impossible and dying because of it." He brought a chair in so Angela could have her hands to hold, propping his feet up on the bottom of the bed, under the quilt. "Hmm. Want stupid criminals who stole or stupid criminals who did other stuff?"
"Tell her about the guys with the body parts," Gibbs said as he walked in with a bowl of soup. "You should be able to drink this. Ducky said so." He put the tray across her lap, earning a smile. "DiNozzo, he wants a call as well."
"Sure, boss." He grinned at her. "Totally stupid criminals. They were boosting cars to chop 'em into parts using the tools they used on base in the auto pool. So they had to bring them back each day. Because no one on base would notice things like torches being taken and brought back."
She giggled but ate the soup, smiling at them.
Tony walked back into his house, finding his housekeeper there. "Shouldn't you be sitting?"
"I'm going insane. I called Martha to tell her."
"I thought I did."
"You did, she wanted an update because it's been over a week." She gave him a hug. "I'm sorry, Tony."
"Me too, but I'm going to let Angela live there as long as she wants as long as she pays the taxes." He gave her a squeeze. "I had to drop Gibbs at the airport. He had a hearing to go to." She nodded, stroking his cheek. "Did I miss all the auditions?"
"No. One's next week. The other one they heard you were interested but with your sister while she was dying so they'll get a call when you call Martha. The other one you missed."
"Ooops. Tough but oops. There's probably more action roles." He went to the study to call her. "I'm back." He listened to her excited babble. "Martha, I'm not twenty anymore," he complained. "I'm thirty-four. Can I even do that?" He smiled. "Thanks, dear." He nodded. "That works. Tomorrow would be fine. Gibbs had a hearing so he had to go home. That's fine. I'll be here. Make sure I know when and call me before. Gibbs decided I have some strange sleeping sickness." He smiled. "That's fine. I can go to Texas for the voice role. Whatever, dear. Sure. Let me know." He hung up and went back over the scripts she had told him to go over first.
Tony looked up a few months later from a break on the set, smirking at McGee. "Out here on assignment?"
"For Gibbs. He said to come arrest you and drag you back to DC. Your lawyer finally got you a hearing next week."
"I'll be done here on Thursday so no problem." That got a smile and a nod. "Go do something for a few hours then call. I'll drag you home with me tonight."
"Sure, Tony. I won't even bring work since he said not to." He nodded politely at the guard. "I'm here to drag him for a hearing about his former job."
"That's fine. I saw where you signed in. Mr. Nubbins, there's a rabid woman at the gates?"
"My mother?" That got a nod. "I'm not here. I've already left for the day."
"Thank you, sir. That's what I thought you'd say but I said I'd personally check the site to make sure so I could get away from her." He smiled as he walked off.
"Probie, go run and hide for a few hours. I'll be done by six."
"Sure. I'll go be a tourist." He smiled and headed off, checking back out. He did see Tony's mother and she did not look happy in the least.
Tony went back to his going over lines for his next-to-last scene. He walked back inside shaking his head. The director gave him an odd look. "One of my former NCIS coworkers just showed up. I've got a hearing about the blacklisting."
Tony looked at him. "She wanted James Bond and I'm not."
"That's very true, you are no Sean Connery," he said dryly.
"She might've tried to sleep with me if I was." He grinned at the laughs. "I told him I'd be done by Thursday since the hearing's early next week. So I'm probably flying back to DC this weekend if we need me to redo something. I'd be back within a few days. Just call."
"Sure, Tony. Go ahead and let's run this one through to make sure it's going to hit right."
"I was wondering about the scowl. Aren't I happy?"
"Yes, but that's your happy and unevil face."
"Sure." He walked off to let wardrobe check him over then to take his spot so he could scowl his way into America's hearts again.
Tim looked up as the gate was opened by an older woman. "Ma'am."
"You're McGee," she said, staring at him. He nodded. "Good. Get in here before the wicked bitch of the east sees the gate open." He walked through and she shut and locked it. "No car?"
"Cab." She smiled at that. "I didn't want to get lost. Tony said to meet him here?"
"He's already hiding inside from everyone. Come on. It's nearly dinner. You'll have time to clean up." He nodded and followed her, smiling at Tony. "He was cabbing."
"Cabs are nice. They go where you tell them to," he agreed absently while he read. She took the script and he pouted. "I need that for tomorrow."
"I don't care. It's dinner time and you have guests." She stared him down and he grinned, getting up to clean up and then meet her outside to eat.
He looked at McGee. "She's fierce."
"I can tell." He sat down. "It looks great, ma'am. Thank you."
"Welcome, young man. Make him eat more. He needs to eat more food." She walked off, going to bring out drinks. She looked outside. "Tony, there's a camera crew."
He came inside and went to the speaker for the gate. "Yes?"
"We'd like to talk to Mr. DiNozzo."
"He's busy at the moment."
"Is that his new boyfriend?"
"No, that would be one of his former coworkers from NCIS here to make sure he makes it to his hearing about his blacklisting."
"Oh." The reporter sighed. "Nothing juicy?"
"No, but if my mother sent you I'll gladly come out there and have her arrested so you guys can film that." That got a laugh. "I'm not kidding. Did she?"
"Then let me call someone so you can get pictures of my stalker." He let the button go and went to call the cops. "Hi, this is Tony DiNozzo up on 182 Poor Man's Lane?" He smiled. "That's me and my mother called them. She's stalking me and I want her removed from across the road please. They'll film it. She's stalking me." He smiled. "No, she's a bitch. She tried to get onto my set as well. Sure, send an officer out and I'll make a formal complaint. Thank you." He hung up and went back to the speaker. "Give them ten minutes." He went back to dinner. "Listen for the sound of someone at the gate. I'm filing charges against her since she tried to get onto the studio today."
"She is your mother," Tim offered.
Tony and Maria both looked at him. "She only likes him because it gets her noticed and into some of the higher profile places," Maria said, patting him on the hand. "Even your boss doesn't like her, McGee."
"Probie, Gibbs called her more evil than all his exes put together." He buttered some bread and walked out to let the officer in the gate. He walked out there nibbling, leaning down to talk to him, getting a smile. "I'm a normal guy who did your job for a while, guys. I have no problems with this." That got a brighter smile. "I've got my blacklisting hearing coming up."
"Why were you blacklisted?"
"She wanted James Bond and my Sean Connery isn't as great as it could be." That got a laugh and he signed the complaint, writing it out for them. He handed it back. "All properties of mine if possible. I've taken ownership of my sister's former house and her wife is up there. She hates her even more than me. My sister-in-law doesn't need the grief since my sister only died a few months back." They nodded and made note of that. He wrote down her phone number. "In case she wants to add to it."
"Thank you, Mr. DiNozzo."
"No, thank you. She's annoying the hell out of me and she called the reporters. It's only right they report her being sent off or arrested." He shrugged and stood up. "Have fun, guys. This is Hollywood." That got a smile and they backed out of the gate, letting him lock it. He even waved when his mother got out of the car. "Her." The officers walked over to talk to her, so he got to watch her shriek, attempt to hit one, and be walked off in handcuffs. Plus the reporters taping it. He headed back inside, smiling at Maria. He called his ex. "Mary, dear, it's Tony. My mother just got arrested. There's *wonderful* footage and I've started stuff to file a restraining order. Thought you might like that. No, she tried to strike one of the officers who tried to get her to leave peacefully. Sure. Have fun with that. NCIS hearing early next week. No, I fly to Texas next weekend. Maria, next weekend I go to Texas, right?"
"Yeah, next weekend. Thanks." He hung up and went to check his book, just in case, but he was right. He went back to dinner. "She tried to hit one of the cops."
"Assaulting an officer. A good charge to have," McGee said happily.
"It's her third time doing it," Maria assured him dryly, smirking at him. "She read Mommy Dearest and decided she was a role model."
Tony nodded. "Which is why I mentor stage companies so I can keep mothers from doing the same thing." Maria laughed at that. "I do."
"You do and you do an excellent job. Are you going to write up some of the cases as scripts?"
"Yup. The agency could use some publicity. Of course, it'll have one seriously incompetent director and one really super team who seems to do all the work."
"We do do all the work," McGee agreed. "I'm still getting called back to deal with the computer stuff. Speaking of, did you ever call Ducky?"
"About once a week," Tony assured him.
"Good. He's been pouting recently. Abby's worse. I almost thought she'd be sneaking into my bag to get here." He looked at him. "Speaking of, I got a hotel. Gibbs said to since you're hard at work."
"That's fine. I'll make sure my lawyer has the agency reimburse you for it since you're on escort duty." He finished up and leaned back, sipping his tea. "Does this stuff bother you?"
"No. Not really. It's not like I care and you used it to help us in the past."
"If I come back, there's not going to be any more undercovers, Probie. I'll be running you in the field."
"Sure," he agreed. "I could use the help."
"Yes you could," he agreed dryly. "We've got to teach you how to loosen up. It's the one thing that gives away that you're acting - if you're not comfortable in your role. It's got to be like it's part of you to be able to pull it off with any success."
"So you did all your own stunts?"
"Most of them." McGee smiled. "Barring union rules and some other issues like it was way too dangerous and the month I had the ear infection so I ended up with vertigo."
"Could have been worse, you could have been in the remake of Vertigo," Maria teased.
"True, that's a bad thought." He smiled at her. "For now, let's finish eating and then I'll go to bed like a good boy."
"You will," Maria agreed. "But I know you'll go over your lines at least once more."
"Of course I am. I still don't see why I have to scowl when I'm happy."
"Some people don't smile."
"Yeah, and they're miserable cranks. This guy's mildly evil and a crank." Tim laughed at that. "He is." He shrugged. "Where are you staying?"
"By the studio. There was a cheap motel the guard pointed me at. It's pretty nice."
"It is. It's probably where incoming specialists stay." He finished up too and smiled, handing Tony a letter before heading off. Tony read the letter, then smirked. "Gibbs said if Angela ever moves he and his boat are going up there."
"I'm sure he would," she agreed happily. "It would be good for him." She got up to put things away while Tony went to take a hot bath with his script for the next day.
Tony walked into the hearing room impeccably dressed. Not dressed to say he had money and influence, but dressed sharply. He sat down beside his lawyer, looking at him. "They sent another agent as an escort."
"Jethro told me."
"You've been talking to Gibbs?"
"Of course. I had to depose him a few times, Tony." He patted him on the back. "It'll be okay. I've requested the room be closed to reporters since she outed you. The judge thought it was a good idea." They both looked over as the judge came out. They stood when he approached his seat and then sat again once he had. "Your honor, they still haven't complied with your orders," he started off. "I have no copy of his file from them."
"It was sealed due to the sensitive nature of the terrorist attack he was hurt during," the NCIS lawyer next to the director said.
"Would that be the one where I got the plague?" Tony asked dryly. "Because that wasn't a terrorist attack, that was a mother with issues and too much money." He looked at the judge. "If they don't hand it over, we can sue them for that too, right?" His lawyer nodded.
"Is that the one you were concerned about?" the judge asked.
"Well," the lawyer said, flipping through something.
"Give it over," Gibbs ordered. "I was there for all of it but two cases. It's not going to upset anyone whose name is mentioned unless they're suspects."
"What about Agent Todd?"
Tony took a deep, calming breath. "Considering she died? I don't think she's going to mind all that much. Especially since the woman sitting next to you was running the guy who shot her." The lawyer gave him a heated look. "Ask her under oath." He shuddered and slumped away from him. "You have no reason to keep my service record. At all. Especially with my permission and a court order!"
"Tony, calm down," his lawyer said quietly, patting his hand. "It'll be all right."
"It won't be! I'm being blamed because she's got unrealistic expectations. I got blacklisted because our reality and her reality collided in a bad way."
"Enough," the judge ordered. "Hand it over. The full, unabridged version of his file. Now, or else I will put you in contempt and in jail for thirty days. Those are your only choices." They were handed over. "Please make sure...." Jethro snatched it to look over. "You are?"
"His former boss," he said as he looked. "This is still the abridged one. His evaluations aren't in here. His personal profile is blacked out." He looked up. "This is what's in the computer system, Your Honor."
"Where's the rest?" A thicker file was taken out of the director's bag and Jethro got up to get that one. "Is that one correct.... You are?"
"Leroy Jethro Gibbs." He looked it over. "It's fully there but it's been corrected. I never gave DiNozzo anything less than an average unless I was asked about his sense of humor." He handed it to Tony's lawyer. "That first evaluation was doctored."
"Can you prove it?"
"I'd need to get things from home but I do keep a copy of all my evaluations. I grade hard and others have complained."
"Can you send someone for them so we don't have to reschedule?"
"I can." He pulled out his phone and dialed. "Abby, get into the review folder and find all of Tony's evaluations. I want them here at the hearing room within an hour." He nodded. "That works. Thank you." He hung up. "She'll be right over. She saw that they were being doctored. It pays to have a hacker on the team." He sat down again.
"How did you get your phone in here? Security takes everyone else's."
"They weren't going to take it from me," he said dryly. "There's a reason why half the agencies in DC flinch at the mention of my name."
"Okay then," the judge decided. "We can start with what we have. The rest of the file can be handed over later as evidence." Tony took it to look through, sorting it efficiently. "You've seen your own files?"
"I was seeing the secretary in HR and she offered." He looked up. "I thought it might come in handy and I wanted to see what he said about me behind my back in the sealed ones." He finished up and handed the thinner folder over. "There. All the evaluations are out of there and the three sealed sheets that are for open cases had a corner folded down." He pulled something out of his pocket, handing it to the bailiff. "This is my personal copy, off the computer at work. I kept a file of all my reports and everything I did. I backed it up a week before I was fired."
"Thank you." He took them both and handed them to the judge, who marked them in as evidence. "Let's hear opening statements please."
Tony looked up from his beer as a body plopped down beside him three long days later. "Hey, boss."
"DiNozzo. What's your schedule like now?"
"Texas. Six weeks doing that voice role. Then three weeks back in LA to do the screening for the other film there and then Britain. Then I can come back." He looked at him and smiled. "Will she be there?"
"She won't be. She's retiring. For some reason she's had a lot of political pressure to retire."
"I never asked. The same as I didn't ask anyone to lean on the judge," he said quietly. "Those who love me know. I'm sure Molly said something at the very least."
"Oh, she did to a friend up here, who passed it on to the Appropriations committee. Then on down the Hill. It is not pretty for her at the moment." He got his own beer from the waitress. "Wings?"
"Hot, mild, spicy?"
"Mild." She nodded, going to get them for him. Tony paid the tab and gave her a tip, making her smile. "I could've gotten that."
"I've worked more recently than you have, boss." He stole a wing to nibble. "When are you coming back?"
"The same day you are. McGee is coming back sooner but he's going to computer services for a few weeks. He needed the paycheck. Abby's going back the same day he is because she needed hers too. Ducky's wondering why you didn't stop by yet."
"I was going to visit tomorrow before I fly out for Texas." He finished the wing and put the bones down on a napkin. "I can't believe it's finally over with."
"Now we've got to figure out how to fix your other job with this one."
"We'll see how it goes. Usually I don't have a lot of work offered to me. Then again, I am turning some of our cases into a movie." He grinned at him and got a smack on the head. "Well, at least I don't have a headache." The waitress came back. "We're good."
"We don't allow fighting, boys."
"That's a love swat. Let's me know he's fondly irritated at me. He's my boss. He did it at work for years." She snorted but walked off. Tony looked at him. "You don't think anyone would go? Some of our cases have been insane."
"You'd have to change facts. No one would ever believe them."
"They would. I can point out how it was related back to our cases. I'll even make them sound more normal, boss. Because you're right. No one would believe the body parts case or the Medal of Honor case and how you solved that one." That got a smirk. "Though I'm going to have to make Ziva a bit less ...painful to be around for the role."
"She's coming back too."
"Because she asked," he admitted, looking at him. "It's either that or I've got to hire."
"Brenda's looking to switch."
"Not your ex-girlfriend, DiNozzo."
"She's got a better record than I did."
"Charming but no. It'd cause problems. The same reason I can't move Cassie back."
"Pity. That'd be one ass I could stare at for hours on end when I'm bored."
"Well, now you have a project," he said dryly. "Also, Ziva claims she's been taking some ESL classes."
"Cool. Hopefully McGee can edit her reports?"
"Definitely." He finished his beer and another wing. "What's up for tonight?"
"Just this. A comfortable, quiet celebration. I told Maria and she jumped around and cheered." They both smiled at that. "She said she would've asked you out but you're too young and forceful for her. That and Mary infected her with the thought that we're together."
"Um, no," he said patiently. "I'll write her later tonight."
"That's cool." His phone beeped and he answered it. "DiNozzo." He smiled. "I'm fine, Ducky, I was going to stop by tomorrow morning before I headed down to Texas for that voice role. Yup, that's good with me. I fly out at four so I can find a decent hotel that night and start fresh the next morning. Sure, I'll see you then, Ducky. Pat the dogs for me." He smiled as he hung up. "He was going out with Abby for dinner and wanted to make sure I wasn't going to come over tonight."
"There's a decent game on."
"Yeah, but they're only showing it on the corner screen," he offered, pointing at it. "I've been watching the boxing match." Gibbs smirked at that. "Hey, I need pointers for the next time we end up sparring."
"You could use it." He smirked at him. "Do not let the evaluations go to your head."
"I'm not. I knew you loved me, boss." He smirked back evilly. "I'm having a cackling in juvenile anger moment. We should go egg her house."
"That's too teenager for me."
"Pity. Drive-by paintball?"
"That's more my speed but still not my style, DiNozzo."
"Fine, spoil my fun. I'll let Abby do it." He beamed.
"She already did. Twice."
"I heard. With sunny yellow ones even." Gibbs snickered at that. "Showed how upset she was."
"It did. She hates yellow." He ate another wing and signaled for another beer, getting this round.
Jethro held Tony up as they wobbled into his house. "Where did you stay last night?"
"Small motel by the shipyard." He flopped down onto the couch. "Thanks, boss."
"Welcome, DiNozzo." He headed into the kitchen to make the morning's coffee, staring at the pot. Something wasn't right. He sniffed and winced, then choked. "Someone put ammonia into the coffeemaker," he called.
"We'll snipe her tomorrow," he called back.
"I'll get you pompoms," he said grimly, coming back out. "Maybe we should go back to your hotel room."
"Maybe, but that means you're going to growl. All I have is a double bed."
"You may be a bed hog but I'll live." He hauled Tony up. "Come on."
"You don't want to check the boat first?"
Gibbs put him back down and went to do that, coming back looking furious. "Graffiti. Extra special words too." He helped Tony back up and back out to the car, taking him back to his hotel room. Where they both stayed. Even if Tony did decide to cuddle so much he didn't get more than a few inches of bed. Eventually he sighed and got up, walking around to get back in behind him. Tony sniffled then flopped over and curled up on his chest again. "At least you don't steal the pillows," he muttered, letting him cuddle. He probably couldn't stop him, even with handcuffs. Not that the headboard would accommodate them but it was a warm and fuzzy thought. Tony sniffed his throat then licked it, making him hiss and tense. "Not while you're asleep or I will handcuff you," he complained. The tongue got his upper chest this time and he heard a purr. He smacked him on the head and Tony quit, waking up just enough to come out of whatever dream he had been having fun in. Jethro shook his head but let himself drift off because Tony was cute this way; well, as cute as DiNozzo ever got.
Tony finally got done with all his prior commitments and got to restart his job. He walked off the elevator that first day and found his desk totally empty. Not even a computer. "Did they switch my desk on me?" he complained. Gibbs looked over and shook his head. "Then where's my computer?"
"McGee's fixing it again. Part of the ceiling fell on it and cracked something." He went back to work. "No new case yet."
"Good, that's always good on my first day back." He sat down and put his backpack behind him, putting out a few pictures. "Molly sent me an older one of her and I," he said when Gibbs looked over. He got up to come over and look. "She took me to my senior formal at RIMA. She didn't have a date for her prom and I needed one so we got back together for that week."
"You looked good in the uniform." He patted him on the back. "Try to find something to do."
"I am." He pulled out his laptop and got to work on the script he was writing, making Gibbs laugh. "What? I warned you I was going to turn that one case into a script."
"Would anyone believe in Abby or Ducky?"
"Yup. There's a tv director who's almost exactly like Ducky, boss, and plenty of goths in Hollywood."
"Hollyweird?" he countered dryly, shaking his head.
"Maybe we should send Ziva out there to up her acting skills with a few classes? Send her to West Hollywood to play with the queens of the old screens?"
Gibbs gave him a look. "Did you wake up cackling this morning?"
"Well, yeah," he admitted, grinning back. "You don't think Ziva could handle the queens in West Hollywood?"
"That's a thought I don't even want to try to explore, DiNozzo. Do something less evil."
"Sure, boss." He looked over as McGee came back. "My computer?"
"Tomorrow. They had to get a new case. It cracked that and the boards and your harddrive's connector." He looked at what he was doing. "A script?"
"Based on a case. It's my third attempt at one. Oh, boss, won the plagiarism case." He gave him a look. "He's begging for mercy. He took someone better's script too." Gibbs shuddered. "Remember the fireworks? His."
"Was he connected to the bad old days?"
"Kinda yeah. His daddy was a director back in the bad old days. Also, I was right, they're getting a divorce. He's found a younger showgirl." He got back to work. "I'm not that fascinating, McGee."
"Sorry, I never even knew you wrote. You pick one me about mine."
Tony looked at him. "That's because you really look like a Disco king in your turtleneck and jacket combo you write in."
"Fine. Can I see the others?"
"You've seen one in remake. That was the plagiarism case." He got back to work, frowning and correcting something. "Before you ask, yes I'm making you geekier. I'm having to stretch some so it's not quite the same."
"Will I have to sign a release?"
"That's fine. Which case?" He came back to look and giggled. "Make me a bit less geeky?"
"Remember seeing the Buffy show?" McGee maned. "I want the kid who played Oz to play you."
McGee laughed and walked off. "Him or the other one. Either's good." He sat down happily. The team was back together again. "Boss, what should I do until we get a case?"
"Something that doesn't get us busted by computer services," he said firmly. He saw the director coming and coughed. Tony saved what he was doing and opened a different window, getting to work on something else. "Play nicely," he growled.
"I am. I'm working on something for Angela. She's having a small problem with PG&E. They need to put up lines but they think it's cost efficient to move the lake. She about shot someone the other day when they trespassed."
"There was a road."
"PG&E never told the other people putting up the lines that it was there." He looked up. "It's the major conglomerate company who needs to put in the lines. They don't talk to each other."
"Pity. She going to be okay?"
"She called me last night. She said she nearly called you to come help her but she found one of them bothering the neighbors last night and walked him to the road and showed him the cleared spaces I helped with a few years back, including the test pylon they had installed. So apparently they're happy. They've helped her stop the logging crew that was logging where it shouldn't be. The temporary fence she had to put up to keep them off her land can be taken down once the lines go up and the logging crew go away. They were trying to extend their borders by another ten feet into her lands too. She's still not sure if she can stand to live up there or not."
"I can understand why. Her wife died up there. It's got to be hard."
"It is. She's not sleeping in their room either," Tony agreed more quietly. McGee looked at him. "What?"
"Sister-in-law. My sister died of a renewed brain tumor while I was gone."
"I'm sorry, Tony."
"Me too but this was the third time and she didn't want to go back on treatment. We were there when she died." Gibbs nodded at that. "She thought he was cute," he teased, making McGee splutter. "She said Gibbs was the only man she'd ever consider sleeping with and suggested her wife ask him to surrogate for her if she ever got to have kids." He went back to writing, hearing the unamused cough from behind him. "What did you want, Director? Is there a new case yet?"
"I don't want you here. You'll be gone at the first opportunity."
Tony looked up at her. "Then gee, I'll go to UCLA and teach this shit while I take frivolous classes and date pretty young coeds. How my life will suffer," he said sarcastically. She stormed off. He said something in German, making her flinch. Then he smirked at Gibbs and got back to work. "Bricks taught me how to swear in four languages," he said proudly.
Gibbs laughed. "Sounds like your personal drill instructor was a good nanny."
"Now and then but he still kept trying to make me not have sex. I hated the man for keeping me from having sex." He shook his head and got back to work on the script. "Gibbs, check your email? Angela said she was writing you to vent and see if you knew any way to stop the other idiots in her life."
"Sure. What other idiots?"
"Ex-boyfriend. He wants her back and she's discouraged him. He's not quite stalking her but he's being pushy. I suggested a restraining order and a shotgun but's just as non- violent as my sister was."
Gibbs got into his email, frowning at one. "Martha sent me one for you. They stole one of the reels of film?" Tony moaned and walked off to call her from the stairway. "Sounds like he might be a few more weeks." He found the one from Angela, reading it over. He smiled and wrote her back, giving her permission to use him and even sent her a picture of him that Abby had downloaded onto his computer of the group with Kate. Hopefully that would help cool the guy off and make him see some sense. If not see that he was an idiot and too pushy for his own good.
Tony came back and stood in front of his desk. "They have no backup footage," he said quietly.
Gibbs looked up. "How long?"
"Two weeks probably," he sighed, shrugging. "It's the center roll of the film. About half my scenes. They think someone like my mother took it. Or my last stalker."
"File for unpaid leave so the director can't say anything, get back here as soon as humanly possible, DiNozzo."
"Yes, boss." He shut down his laptop and put it back into his bag, heading down to do that with Human Resources.
McGee looked at him. "Can't they find the originals?"
"Probably not that fast and who said it wasn't burned?" Gibbs said dryly, looking at him. "They've got some insane people out there who haunt stars, McGee. I saw his last stalker and his mother both when I was out there. One I quietly had arrested before DiNozzo saw her and the other I made leave him alone while his sister was dying." He wrote an email to Martha and then found something he could do online. "McGee, find something to do."
"Yes, boss." He got onto his computer and found a chat room he monitored now and then, going to talk to the guys. They were military guys who RPG'd on the same site as he did.
Tony finally came back but he was limping. "Don't ask," he said when Gibbs stared at him. "Airport." He flopped down. "Please tell me we have a case?" he begged.
"We have a case but it involves you." He beamed it to him and Tony moaned once he logged into his computer. "Think she stole the film?"
"No, we think Brenda's new ex stole the film. I had to talk to her son Tim while I was out there too. He was trying to wear her love of me down and Tim was getting angry and frustrated. He started doing stupid stuff and headed off one night. So I had an assistant and we worked it out. Plus I had her new ex arrested for trying to molest him." Gibbs growled at that. "Seriously. He tried it once and that's one of the things that was making the kid angry. So he told his mother, who went off on them. It ended up in a small standoff for about an hour. Fortunately she had warned her boss something was up and I told him what was up so they were there to get her out of it and she's moving with Tim. They're moving closer to my end of the city and transferring departments. That way she's home more often for him."
"Good. I liked Brenda. She had some sense." He nodded at the computer. "Give me what you can on her."
"Have you called Martha? She's got a full file on the woman."
"I did, and I got that part. I also got the arrest report from Philadelphia and talked to your old boss. She tried to get in here and security stopped her. She had presents for you, daddy presents."
"Not like I've been within ten feet of the woman, ever." He got to work on her background, sending what he found over. "That's her medical file from the National Institute on Mental Health, boss. She was up for a study."
"Charming. They need to switch her to drugs that work." He wrote an email to the person listed as being over the study to tell him what she had done and to send them a major diagnosis and what they'd need to charge her. It was going to probably be a fight, but oh well. No one stalked his team except Abby.
Tony looked up when someone knocked on his hotel room door a few weeks later, opening to find his boss. "Hey, come in." He let him into the room and checked the walkway before closing it. "What's up?"
"Do you want to stay?" Gibbs looked at him. "Honestly?"
Tony sat down and looked at him. "I'd like to have both parts of my life, Gibbs. I've got work for this summer but I haven't accepted anything sooner, even though I got offered a prime action spot." Gibbs nodded at that, continuing to look at him. "I want to stay, boss."
"I know. I also know you've got conflicted interests." He sighed and handed over the email. "Angela's moving. She snapped and nearly shot the exboyfriend when he showed up again." Tony groaned. "So you've got that open if you wanted or needed it."
Tony looked up at him. "You could move the boat there, boss." He stood up again. "I heard what the director told you. I also know she'll cut the team's budget so one of us has to go."
"I'm close to retiring," he admitted quietly.
"Then take Angela's house, boss." Gibbs stared at him. "I'm more than close enough if you wanted to come down," he said quietly. "She left me a bitter little note in my desk that said the guy who she sent in my place had died and so did the ten people around him who were innocent," he admitted. He handed it over. "I pointed out I would've died within the day since I'm not that good of an actor. Not even Hanks could pull that one off." Gibbs did crack a smile at that one. "He couldn't. He couldn't play a terrorist if he had to. Neither can I."
"I understand." He looked at the note then at him. "Something else came up," he admitted. "She's filed paperwork with HR to have you suspended again for dating a guy last week."
"You said there wasn't a problem and we have an official non-discrimination policy."
"True, but that might not help."
"Good point." He sat down again, shrugging. "It's not like she didn't already tank my career. Did she like the flowers I sent her for giving me new publicity?"
"She didn't. She threw them at her secretary and the new director, who hates us both."
"You for being gay, popular, and having a life before us. Me for being older and more experienced." He shrugged. "He's sent Ziva packing back to the Mossad. I had to intervene and call in a favor with Fornell."
"McGee would do good as a security consultant," Tony admitted. "We should go have a pizza, boss. As a team."
"We should. He's forcing Ducky to retire due to his age. He wants Abby gone."
"Call them, I'll spring for a pizza."
"He had your accounts frozen from what I heard."
"Yeah and then Martha had them undone with a judge out there. The judge out there called him and pointed out that he had no logical reason and the accounts in my pseudonym's name wasn't really an issue in Hollywood. Plenty of us had them. He huffed and ranted but the judge laughed." Gibbs smirked at that. "Like I said, boss, the house where Angela and Mags lived is yours if you want it."
"Thanks, Tony. Let's go for that pizza and we'll call the others." Tony nodded and they headed out together, Tony having to come back for something. Gibbs looked at the script then at him. "New work?"
"Next summer." He grinned. "Even if I do retire tomorrow, I'm still not thinking too hard about the action spot. He's more action than thought and I like thoughtful roles."
"So would I. I got that one you did when you were eighteen." Tony moaned. "It was good."
"Thanks, boss." He grinned. "Does that mean you're turning into a squealing fangirl too?" Gibbs smacked him. "Couldn't resist."
"Uh-huh. Ask McGee that. He is a squealing fangirl at times." He pulled into the parking lot of the pizza place and got out, calling McGee and Abby. "Meet us at Dantello's." He hung up and walked inside. "It'll end up being four for non," he ordered. The waitress nodded and led them to a back table so they could talk quietly. He settled in to watch Tony read. "More anime?"
"Yup. I like voice acting work. I get to cut up majorly when I'm doing it."
Gibbs smirked. "Not like you're so straight on the set from what I hear."
"Oh, I am. Every now and then I crack some jokes with someone on the staff end. Who told you I wasn't?"
He shook his head. "She's never seen me on the set." He glanced over at the bit of silence that fell, waving Abby over. She bounced over and sat beside him, giving him a hug. "Thanks, precious."
"Welcome." She looked at the script. "If you keep doing anime I'll have to watch cartoons."
He grinned at her. "It'll broaden your horizons," he teased. McGee came in and came over, taking his own seat against the wall. "Hey."
"Hey. What's up?" He looked at the waitress coming over. "Pizza?"
"The quad special?" Tony suggested. "Or are we going half and half again?"
"Half it," Gibbs ordered. "Abby can get her fish on the side like usual." The waitress smiled at that. "Pepperoni?" Tony nodded. "McGee?"
"Supreme on our half please," he requested. "Coke no ice?"
"Whatever," he agreed.
"Beer me please," Tony requested. "Boss?"
"I'll have one. It'll be a while before I head home." She nodded. "Abby?"
"Can I have a chocolate milk?"
"Sure," she agreed, smiling and going to put in their orders then bring back their drinks. She walked off, ignoring the script on the table.
Tony looked at them. "Work crap," he noted.
"I heard," Abby assured him, slurping some of her milk through McGee's straw. Since she had stolen it. "What are we going to do?"
"He wants to push the whole team out," Gibbs told her. "He's trying to make Ducky retire too."
"Ducky's got a standing offer at Bethesda," McGee reminded them all. "It's closer to his house anyway. I have no idea if I'd go back to computer services or not."
"Or you could design security systems," Tony pointed out. "You have the skills and the experience for that, Probie."
"Thanks, Tony." He smiled at him. "I don't have to ask what you'll be doing."
"I'll be doing more work out there." He looked at Abby. "You could join him. Your computer skills and other forensic skills would come in handy."
"Are you sure?"
"Yup. I can put you in touch with my company if you wanted to talk to them."
She shook her head. "I like DC."
"They've got a branch out here, Abby."
"Really?" He nodded. "Wow. That's kinda cool." She looked at Gibbs. "What about you?"
"I've got a standing offer to take over Tony's sister-in-law's house since it's all woods and has a lake."
"Wow," she said, pouting at him. "So we'd lose you to California too?"
"It's quiet and peaceful there, Abby. Plus he could consult for the local PD a few miles away when they needed him to." He sipped his beer. "I'd be a few hours away from him. Two if you take the freeway if there's no tie-ups, four if you take the back roads like I usually do."
Gibbs nodded at that. "It is a wonderful drive."
Tony nodded. "She had good taste and the neighbors are all very nice," he agreed. "Mostly families who're out there to get away from people and do minor, self-subsisting farming and the like. The town's pretty nice. I don't think you did more than hit the grocery store."
"I didn't but they were nice," he agreed. Their pizza was brought and he nodded, letting Tony get the check when she put it down. He smirked when the card got declined, watching him pay cash. "Told you so."
"The judge said to leave me alone and he hasn't yet."
"I'll check on that later for you," McGee offered. "Tony, have you been watching the news? There's a fire up near your place."
"It's the third one and I know. Maria's already cleaned out the house and moved everything to storage. That's her second most important job." He pulled out a slice and took a bite, smiling in appreciation. "I'm out of town so often she's there alone eleven months out of the year. I even told her she could move in but she said no." He took another bite. "If my new script does get accepted, anyone want to ask for a specific director?"
"Can I have someone funny play me?" Abby asked.
"Sure, dear." He kissed her on the temple and looked at his boss. "Boss?"
"Not like I know the various people."
"Any movies you liked recently?"
"I liked the one he shot at Ohio State. It was well done," he admitted.
"I liked him," Tony agreed. "He's a good one and not as high budget as everyone else." He grinned and ate another bite. "And hey, if the fire does eat my house, I'm going to have to find a new one. The fire would destroy anything there, including the peace and serenity."
"You could move onto that back road," Gibbs teased.
"Only if I'm going to commute in daily, boss. I do still work in LA itself now and then. I'd have to hire a driver so I could get stuff done on the drive in. Then my ego would swell again and I'd have to call Bricks back from the dead to knock it down."
"I'm sure we can help you with that," Gibbs said dryly.
"Maybe but he did it better."
"No swatting?" Abby asked. Tony shook his head. "Who was he?"
"My personal tutor from the Rhode Island Military Academy," he said dryly. "He tried forever to keep me off the girls." He took another bite. "I'll let you guys help me look." That got a nod. "So, boss? Plans if we do stay?"
"It's looking more and more doubtful," Gibbs admitted. "He and Sheppard are cutting my team's budget so I'd have to get rid of you or I to afford anything else," he said bitterly.
"You retire I retire," Abby said firmly. "Can I come visit your new lake and woods?"
"Sure. There's almost no electric."
"She gave them road rights if they'd run new lines to the house and pay for the small bits of land they'd have to dig up," Tony told him. "So you'll have more consistent electric plus the solar system as a backup." Gibbs nodded at that. "Plus the lake and the fish. Angela restocked it last year."
"That's fine," he agreed, smiling some. He looked at McGee, who didn't look happy. "You could move with us, McGee."
"I know but that would leave Abby and Ducky here alone, boss."
"Not really. Ducky's mom isn't going to last too terribly much longer," Tony reminded him. "A few years at most. Then he'd be free to travel or move again. He said he was going to when she was at peace."
"I hadn't thought about that," he admitted. "Abby, are you sure you want to stay?"
"Well," she said, nibbling on a piece of green pepper. Tony handed her the slice she had been picking off of, making her smile. "Thanks, Tony." She looked at him. "I might not mind but LA is really nasty from what I hear."
"Their main office is closer to where Gibbs will be," Tony admitted. "About forty-five minutes really." She smiled at that and so did McGee. "It's also a small city. So you'll have clubs like you're used to. One of the major goth festivals is another two hours away from there every year." She smiled at that. "Who knows where I'll end up living if the fire does hit the house. Last time it got within a few blocks. This time they're not sounding too hopeful considering they cleared closer to the park this time."
"The insurance people have got to be cringing," McGee complained, taking another piece. "Eat, Abby."
"Yes, McGee." She finished that slice and got another one then went to get herself some more milk since the waitress hadn't come back yet.
"No, they cringed a few years back when parts of Malibu started to slide," Tony assured him with a grin. "Malibu is the only place in this country where a double wide mobile home can go for half a mil or more, depending on acreage around it." McGee moaned at that. "So yeah, they're sweating some but not like during the last mud slide. My house is only worth a few mil at most."
Gibbs choked at that, staring at him. "What?"
"I bought it for just under half a mil back when I was eighteen weeks from my sixteenth birthday, boss. It's went up in value. I didn't look at my last insurance estimate but it's not worth what the house that had the fireworks is. That one's nearly an estate and that close to the park was worth a good few mil when I bought mine." He ate another bite, chewing slowly. Eventually he swallowed. "So I'll be able to find somewhere nice." He ate another bite.
"I thought you only made little bits of money," Gibbs said, staring at him.
"I did. I also worked straight since I was nine," Tony reminded him. "They had to, by law, put at least fifty percent of what I made away until I was eighteen. I used the other half to buy the house. My father had to cosign since I needed a small mortgage, but I paid it off two years later with the paycheck from one of the movies." He grinned. "It wasn't that expensive of a place but it was somewhere my parents weren't allowed. Ever."
"That's a good idea with how bad your mother is," Abby complained. "Speaking of, Brenda put an announcement out on your fanclub's bulletin board. She's been seen snooping around your house again."
"Pity. Did Maria have her arrested?"
"Yup. They took her off but since you weren't home they couldn't do much more than that. The restraining order doesn't cover property. She said Martha and Nigel are working on that."
"Who's Nigel?" McGee asked. "I know Martha's your agent."
"Nigel's her exboyfriend and my attorney for whatever I need," Tony told him. "He's the guy who found me the guy for my hearing out here." He sipped his beer and looked at him. "You've got your own choices to make, McGee. Are you going to go with it or not?"
"Not. I'm not working with someone who's that petty," he said with a small shrug. "It's all their own fault. She had a break with reality. I mean, you're good but I wouldn't call you great enough to do the stuff off Pretender."
Tony giggled. "I wish but I'm not," he agreed. "Nor have I ever been." The waitress came back. "What's up?"
"Are you famous?"
"Oh." She nodded and smiled. "Would you sign your stub for me?" He took it and signed it, smiling at her as he handed it back. She smiled and walked off looking at it, then back at him, getting a wink. She stuck it in her pocket and went back to work.
"Do you sign those Bradley or Tony?" Abby asked.
"Bradley. It's what name my union card's in. It's what name I'm listed under. Ooh, someone told IMDB so they've updated my profile there too." He ate another piece. He looked at Gibbs again. "I'll follow the lead, boss."
"Write out a letter, just in case." Tony pulled it out of his wallet and handed it over. "Classy."
"Thank you. Had some experience," he said dryly, finishing his beer. "If you need help with all the paperwork, let me know. I've done them before too."
"Rollover forms for your retirement funds, those things, Gibbs."
"Oh." He nodded and shuddered. "I don't even want to think about that."
"Also, there'll be moving your reserve status to a new state," Abby reminded him. "Unless you retire there too?"
"I don't know yet."
"The nearest one out by the lake is about six hours away," Tony told him. "I checked on NCIS units out there. There's one position for that base. At one point in time you nearly drove me to transfer, boss. I could've went home and worked there too."
"Then I would've kicked your ass, DiNozzo."
"Yeah, well, I got over that frustration and got annoyed even more by Kate the next morning." He grinned sweetly. Then at the waitress. "What's up?"
"Need anything else, sir?" Tony shook his head. "So, who are you really?"
"Special Agent DiNozzo, NCIS, and Bradley Nubbins. Former child star."
"Oh." She nodded and walked off, understanding more now.
Tony took McGee's soda to sip, shaking his head. "I expect more of that since she outed me."
"We'll have to see but you're still my favorite action star," Abby teased, giving his arm a hug.
"Thanks." He kissed her on the forehead. "Behave or I'm spanking in unfun ways." She laughed and dug in again, bouncing some.
Tony looked up when the two directors came down the stairs, going back to his searching. "Boss, I've still got nothing on that address. Other than a PO Box attached to it, there's not even a registered owner. It says the IRS owns it and it's supposed to be up for auction in a few months." He looked over at him. "Do we have another address or name to go on yet?"
"Still waiting," McGee offered. "Local LEO guys said they're still pulling up the file on activity at that house since we can't search it directly. It's all older. None of it's computerized and all based on the former owners. They're also asking the gang unit and others if they've got it on their watch lists. They said it'll be about an hour."
"That works well," the new director noted. "Will we have this one wrapped today?"
"We're finding out who kidnaped a young cadet and left her in that house," Gibbs told him. "LEO found her in her uniform. They called us right after the ambulance. She couldn't identify them. Do we have anything else?"
"Abby's said that the DNA results should be back in another hour too, boss," McGee reminded him. "Then we'll be lucky if they hit a match in the system."
"One should," Tony offered, glancing at him. "It's not like newbies pull off kidnapings like that, Probie. That was too pat, too good. They covered their tracks really well."
"So we'll hopefully be lucky," McGee agreed. His phone rang. "NCIS, McGee speaking." He listened then smiled. "Thank you, let me give you the fax number." He nodded. "That's us. Thanks. I'll go down there now. No, that's really helpful. Thank you." He hung up and looked at them. "One of the gang units has put the house on a watch list, they think someone's trying to use it right now. They're faxing over the pictures they've had. Plus all the other things they've had on that house." He got up and headed to the fax machine, finding it coming over. "We have names," he called. "And pictures."
"Thank you," Tony yelled back, opening a new search form. He stood up when McGee came back, getting his part of the stack to sit down and start. He called Abby. "We have known gang members and others who've been at the house so we may be able to give you a name to search against." He smiled. "Thanks, Abby." He hung up. "The tape finally gave her a fingerprint using something she saw on the Discovery Channel, boss. She's running it now." Gibbs nodded, heading down there. He got to work searching and cackled. "Ooh, yeah, one's got a record," he said happily. "Even with DNA profile included." He sent that to Abby, getting a squeal back. "She's in high squeal."
"She found something," McGee said happily, finishing up his searching. "I think I've found a connection. One of these guys lives next door to where our Cadet did before she joined the Academy." He came over with it, letting Tony see. "He's not the usual gang sort."
"No, he's more the dealer sort. Check with Gibbs, then go question her to see if she knows any of these people." He nodded, going to gather up what he and Tony had pulled up then take it down there then out to Bethesda, where their victim was. Tony looked at the directors. "I know I'm fascinating, but what? You're distracting me from the work I'm trying to do."
"You can't work with people watching you?" she sneered.
"Not like you two. That's why I'm not on Broadway." He got back to work, noticing Gibbs was coming back. "Boss, found something else about those names. Two are under different pictures and have alternate ID's in the system." He showed him, getting a nod. "This one has military service under his second ID."
"We'll search him out, see if we can pin this on him. Where is he now?"
"Still searching. That one's not coming up at the moment. It says the database is down."
"I'll call over if I can't get it within five minutes, boss. The other two Probie took to the hospital to ask her."
"So he said, good idea." He sat down and looked over his own stack, nodding. "I've got another one with the same thing," he admitted. "I can't find his present location either," he complained.
Tony called over to the office in the Pentagon who was over that. "Hi, this is DiNozzo at NCIS. The database is down?" He groaned. "Boss, it'll be down for two days. Someone tried to hack it again. Okay, Corporal, can I have you search two for me the old fashioned way? No, we may have uncovered two under the wrong identities since their driver's licenses don't match their intake photos we could find. Thanks. Um, Melvin Doshwin. Boss?"
"And the other is Tovan, Richard. Thanks. Yeah, I'm here until we figure it out. Thank you, Corporal." He hung up and looked at him. "She said it'll be a few but she'll try."
"Good. Any others?"
"I'm not finding anything under one's ID," he admitted, walking it over. "He might be too young but I'm not finding him under the DMV one either."
"Not everyone drives," the old director noted. "He may not."
Tony looked at her. "He'd still need a State ID to do most anything, including apply for jobs or travel. That's a fact of modern life unfortunately." He went back to searching, frowning. He mistyped the name and groaned. "They input it wrong, boss. If you switch the letters around, it comes up."
"Which end did it?"
"We'll have to ask him. He's on Disability for mental issues." He sent it over. "That's him, right?"
"Looks like him. Interesting. Is anyone else registered for checks?"
"I'm looking but I'm not coming up with any." He shrugged. "We'll get it from them when we get them." He looked up as Abby popped up. "Got anything?"
"I have a match," she said proudly, holding it up so he could see it.
"Goodie. We've got him on other things too. Did it come out of the military database?"
"It did. I got a hit there too and I was wondering about that but I thought you guys should deal with that issue." She handed the form to Gibbs. "See?"
"I do see," he agreed, smirking at her. "Thank you."
"Welcome." She grinned. "Also, the one bullet we found on the floor? It's a fairly common one. You can buy it at any of four places in the city. So you may be able to see which one bought a box recently if you have a few suspects." She skipped off. "I'm going to get a drink."
"Sure," Gibbs agreed. "Get me a coffee."
He looked at Tony. "She's hyper."
"She needs more caffeine." He got to work on that ID, answering his phone. "DiNozzo." He smiled and made notes. "Thank you, Corporal. That's very welcome news. It does weed down our suspects for us. When did he ship out?" He nodded and made notes of that and the other one. "Thank you. I will. Thanks." He hung up. "Boss, the second one, the one you found, has been on a ship for the last week. The other is presently listed as confined to base but she didn't know why." He presented it with a flourish and a grin. "Which is very near the Academy and about halfway across town from the house where she was put."
"Let's go talk to him," he agreed, heading out with Tony.
"Wait," the new director called. "We have to speak."
Tony looked at him. "You want a suspect to potentially get away?"
"No, but we have to speak to both of you." He motioned them closer and they came back. "Rumors have been circulating about you two dating?"
Tony burst out laughing. "I'm bi but the boss likes women. As the old director can tell you since she announced it on national news." The man went fuschia in rage. "The same as she made sure I can't work undercover for the agency ever again. It was her problem that led to that and she's the one starting the rumors."
"I saw it in the paper today," he said firmly, handing over the printout. "He was staying at your house?"
"He needed a vacation, I have one out there, have since I was sixteen." He handed it to Gibbs. "Everyone out there who suggested it got laughed at too. Even if we were, it's not like it's affecting the work, Director. This team has always been a family. Which is why her ploy to stick Ziva here with us didn't work as well as she had hoped. It's not like we were going to replace our fallen sister within two weeks with another female agent."
"Fine. I understand that. You do know there are no fraternization rules?"
"I do and we don't. We occasionally go out for beers and pizza after work with the rest of the team but we're not like that. My housekeeper was hitting on him but that's about it." Sheppard snorted at that. Tony looked at her. "Maria's a very nice woman," he said firmly, glaring at her. "She's been like my mother. I'd kill to protect her." He stared her down, made sure she understood what he was saying. The new director got between them. "She started it and I'm making sure she knows where the lines are drawn, Director." He looked at him. "Is there anything else? We've got a suspect we need to interview and probably arrest."
"You are keeping us from doing our jobs," Gibbs agreed dryly. "It's not like my former sex life has positively impacted the job. It never mattered that I slept with her when she was a rookie."
"Fine. We still have to talk today. Your team is responsible for a lot of damage."
"Sure, blame me for someone slamming into the truck while I was stopped at a red light. Not like the insurance company thought it was my fault." Tony gave him a look. "It wasn't. Sorry but not my doing. Anything else?"
"You're also responsible for the agency being over budget."
Tony stepped closer. "Whose fault was that?" he asked, looking amused. "I didn't ask for her to discriminate against me for what I used to do. Nor did I ask her to have a break with reality and think that somehow I could act well enough to go in as a terrorist as part of a cell. By the way, she didn't ask, she tried to order it. I pointed out, quite rightly, that I was on Gibbs' team and I hadn't asked for a reassignment. That there was no way I could do what she wanted. She's the one who cost the agency money for her break with reality. Have her pony up for the legal fees and to reimburse the agent that got sent to make sure I could get back on time and safely. Since he did have to defend me twice from someone trying to shoot me after that first day," he finished coldly.
"I didn't hear about that," Gibbs noted impatiently.
"It was handled, Boss. DC PD and McGee handled it." He got popped on the head. "Ow." He glared at him. "It was handled and I knew they weren't going to try you. They're not that stupid." He looked at the new director again. "I didn't make you go over the budget for that. She did. I just sued to get what was mine back. I'm sorry if you don't like it but her actions were prejudicial and unfair. Also, you might want to note that her blatantly hitting on the boss? Not how supervisors should act. That's sexual harassment. Thankfully Gibbs laughed at her." He walked off. "Now if you'll excuse me, I've got to do my job now. Before this suspect gets away again."
"Calm down," Gibbs ordered as he joined him. "You're being a drama queen."
"Fine. Just try to stay calm."
"I am calm!" He got onto the elevator. "She's the bitch forcing me to react. If she wasn't, I'd be happy and bouncy again." The doors shut and he looked at him. "Two steps," he said quietly. "Two more steps and I'm handing you the letter formally."
"Hand it to HR with a letter of complaint," he said dryly as they descended to the garage. "The same as I will be."
Tony looked up once he had finished his last report, looking at his boss. "Well."
"Definitely," McGee offered, sending over his report. "One more case behind us."
"At least it was solved quietly," Gibbs offered, reading them casually then sending them on. An IM message appeared on his screen, groaning. "We're wanted in the director's office."
"Joy," Tony sneered, grabbing his backpack and packing everything he had brought. Then he followed Gibbs up there, taking his jacket on the way. McGee had done the same thing so he was a few minutes behind because he had to download off his computer. They sat down at the table when motioned too. "What's up this time?" he asked, putting his feet up.
"There have been complaints about your team and the lack of cooperation," the new director said. "Many complaints."
"We get the job done," Gibbs reminded him. "That's what I'm supposed to do, sir."
"True, but that doesn't mean you've got to do it and run roughshod over everyone else in the city."
"It gets the job done when they're trying to stonewall us," Tony said with a confused look. "Baltimore tried it during the case he recruited me after. Most people on the job are territorial about their cases. Unfortunately most of them are also more overloaded than we are. Us taking the cases get them done faster, easier, and we do share credit."
"That's not what I heard," he said, looking at them. "Agent McGee, this doesn't really concern you."
"Yes it does, they're my team." He stared at him. "We've all had to run over someone to get the evidence we needed to solve a case, Director. What did you expect us to do? Sit and wait on them to nicely say 'here, you can have it, we're done with it now' and accept it like presents? Doing that means nothing would get solved." Gibbs gave him a look and he calmed himself. "Sorry, boss."
"No, you're right, nothing would get done," Gibbs agreed. "The same as nothing gets done when you force crap on my team for no reason other than your petty little plans, sir. The last director tried that with Ziva. I accepted her because she had helped with the Ari situation. I even accepted she had a lot of faults, even for a rookie agent. I did not accept that she lied about things, tried to create division on my team, and tried to get Agent DiNozzo killed a few times."
"She did," Tony assured him. "Quite a few times." He stared him down. "Just spit it out."
"Fine. I'm cutting your team from the agency. You're all going to be reassigned to new team leaders," he told them. "Unless you can come up with some very excellent reasons?"
"You mean besides our solve rate?" McGee asked. "Or our clearance times? Or how hard we've worked? I'm still waiting on overtime checks for the cases a few months back, sir."
"Which is why you cost us so much money," he complained.
"Yeah, because we get the job done," Tony assured him. He stood up. "We do realize that reassigning us probably won't make it any better? And that I've got the time in to run my own team? That you can't put someone with Gibbs' experience on someone else's team? That McGee would get moved back to computer services and therefore get the higher pay rate again?" He looked furious. "I've turned down offers twice now to lead my own team, both from the director before Sheppard. He actually respected us for our solve rates and our focus on the victims. I'm sorry you don't. Oh, and I wouldn't try to blackmail or blacklist us again either." The man went pale. "Anything else?" He shook his head. "Then effective today I'm handing in my retirement letter and I'll do the paperwork tomorrow with HR."
"I can fire you."
"You can try but you still don't have a reason." The man went even more pale. "That's right, my lawyer can come back again," he agreed with a grin. "He enjoys you guys." The man nodded quickly. "Is there anything else? I've got to monitor the fire situation out near my real home."
"Go," he said weakly. "I will allow both you and Agent Gibbs to retire," he decided. It would cause less of a stink for the agency. I'll have the packets delivered to Agent Gibbs' house tonight."
"Gee, boss, can we come out tonight?" McGee asked. "I know Tony's living in a hotel and I'm still at my place." He looked at the old director. "I'll be quitting too, thank you. Send mine as well. At the very least I can pick them up in the morning." That got a nod. "Beer tonight, boss?"
"No, bring one," Gibbs ordered. "We'll need them while we fill out forms."
"Sure, boss. I'll pick up the good stuff. McGee, get dinner," Tony ordered. "Thank you, Director. It's been an honor to work with NCIS and if I ever finish my present script, I'll send you an approval copy." He grabbed his bag and walked out. McGee right behind him.
"Don't try what she did. It's the best advice I can give you," Gibbs said dryly. "Especially with some of his contacts." He walked off, unhappy but at least it was done. There was no way he was going to be under another team leader. He finished gathering his things, taking the papers when a secretary brought them up. "Mine, DiNozzo's, and McGee's?" She nodded, giving him a look. "Don't worry about it."
"Who else will joke with us?"
"Someone else always does," he reminded her. He finished up and grabbed his jacket. He checked the drawers one last time then nodded, walking out with her following. "Thanks."
"Welcome, Gibbs. We'll miss your team. The paperwork was hell now and then but Tony made it fun and you're the reason so many of us found religion on the bad weeks." He smirked at that, shaking his head as he got onto the elevator. "Not like I'm kidding," she muttered as she headed back downstairs. She decided to put together a packet for Abby too, just in case. She knew there was some freakish connection between Gibs and Abby, though she didn't believe the rumors that he was sleeping with her. Now, the ones about him and DiNozzo.... Maybe.
Tony got out of his car and looked at the wreckage of his house, then at his insurance agent since he had said to meet him there. "Hi."
"Tony," he said quietly. "Can you undo the gate?" Tony input the code and they parked, then got out to look at the former house. He looked it over. "The stones are going to need to be strengthened." Tony slumped some. "You've had this house for a long time and it's going to be a lot of work to fix it."
Tony looked back as Gibbs pulled in then waved a hand. "Well, the fire hit here too."
"I heard." He came over to look. "There's no way some of that can be saved."
"Everything important was. She had movers in to move all the furniture and everything." He looked at his agent. "Truth?"
"Truth, it'll be easier and cheaper to destroy it and start over or to let you have the check and sell it to buy somewhere else."
Tony nodded. Then he looked at Gibbs. "Well, it was home."
Gibbs patted him on the back. "You'll find a better one, Tony. You know you will." He nodded and sighed, going to try to walk around the house. He heard a key hit and groaned. "They didn't move the piano?"
"They moved everything but it. They said they couldn't get it out." Tony came back out. "They moved everything but it."
"She told me. I can buy a new one. It wasn't special that I had *that* one, just that I had *one*." That got a nod. "Do we have offers for the land from FEMA or whoever?"
"No, but one of the neighbors was making plans about annexing anything that came up to make a bigger estate." Tony nodded and signed the papers he pulled out. "I'm sorry, Tony. I know this was your home."
"Yeah, well...." He pointed at the figure. "You're kidding?"
"No, I'm not. The house and the piano, just the structures, was worth that much." He nodded, finishing the paperwork on the hood of his car. "Should I put you in touch with the people who want to extend their grounds?" Tony sighed and nodded. "It'll be all right, Tony. You'll find somewhere just as comfortable and just as much home. Hopefully somewhere without as bad of a fire risk." Tony looked at him. "Really."
"I'll try. Thank you." He shook his hand. "When?"
"Within the week. Are you going to be here in town?"
"I'll be up at Mag's place. Tell Maria if you need me." That got a nod and the agent headed out. Tony looked again then sighed and slumped, shaking his head. "I hate LA."
"I know. Come on, you can help me set up the boat in the woodshed. The movers should be there today."
"Tomorrow morning, early." He looked at him. "I can go camp at a hotel tonight, boss."
"Not the boss now, DiNozzo."
Tony snorted. "Shut up, Gibbs." He cleared his throat and tipped his head back. "I can't live here anymore!" he yelled.
Three minutes later two people were at the gate to talk about selling the land to them. Fortunately one behind him and one beside him. They could split it and not start a war.
Tony looked at the new house prospect then at his realtor. "Not even close," he complained. "I want something *comfortable*. Something I can play my piano in, have a pool in, grow some trees around, but nothing this huge. This is an estate. I'm not making estate money. I'm making voice actor money." She shuddered. "Tough. Really. Something family sized? Just above family sized? Something that feels calm and peaceful?" She shrugged and they drove on, heading to the next one on the road. It was even worse. That night when he got back to his hotel, he went out for a drive. That's how he had found his last one, out for a drive illegally. He kept going, avoiding the pricy sections of the city, but not feeling it anywhere. So he moved outward. Still nothing. He headed through a small town around dawn the next morning but it was giving him the creeps. "Must be where they filmed Buffy," he complained, driving on. He found a townhouse he liked but it was in a development, which would make his skin crawl from the lack of privacy. He didn't want *neighbors*. He kept going, toward the other side of the city, then out past where he used to live. The roads out there made him yawn so he went back to the hotel to sleep for a few hours and try again the next night.
Gibbs came back to LA to stop him, making Tony come home with him for a weekend. He was burned out. Maria had called to complain he wasn't sleeping well. He wasn't eating well either from the looks of him. He tapped on the door, getting a lethargic Tony. "Come on. Let's go."
"Go where? Did you find me a house?" he asked, looking confused.
"No but I'll help you look. After this weekend. For right now you need some peace and there's a nice walking path through the woods." Tony nodded, following him out to the car, curling up in his seat once they were underway. Gibbs glanced at him a few times but there wasn't a hint Tony was going to wake up. He didn't even wake up when he parked. He got out and walked around to get him out, walking him inside and onto the couch he had gotten out of Tony's stored stuff since Angela hadn't had a decent couch and neither did he. Tony curled up on his side, blindly searching the back of the couch for a blanket. Gibbs smirked and got him one, watching as he fell deeper again. Then he went to make some more coffee and dinner. He grabbed the phone when it went off. "Gibbs. Hi, Abby. No, I'm back with him. He's napping on the couch. Sure. Just do it quietly until he wakes up. That's fine." He hung up and added more soup mix to the pot and more water. It got chilly up there at night.
Abby walked up onto the porch and saw Tony napping, cooing at that and taking a picture. "He's adorable when he's not moping." She pounced Gibbs. "Congratulate me, I've now got a real job again and I can even do it without having to wear clothes."
"You're working from home and becoming a nudist?" he asked.
"No, not quite. I can work from home most of the time but they're not going to make me wear icky clothes, like suits and stuff."
"Good." He put her down and led her back to the kitchen. "McGee?"
"Somewhere behind me but I think he stopped in the town for some reason." Tony wandered in so she gave him a hug. "I'm sorry your home got eaten, Tony. You'll find a new one."
"Haven't so far," he complained.
"This is the same feeling that most people get when they leave home to go to college or join the service," Gibbs pointed out. "You'll never have the same thing but you can make a new one."
"Yeah but it still won't *feel* the same. When I found my house it called out to me, like a little voice going 'here, I'm the home you wanted'. I can't even find one that's calling out 'I can be made into a reasonable facsimile'. All I'm getting are places that were built for someone to eat and sleep in, not to live in." He leaned on the counter. "I miss my sense of peace and contentment."
"You know, they're selling an old monastery near LA," Abby offered.
"Not that sort of peace and contentment," he complained.
"You have enough to look at bigger places."
"I need to save some of that for land taxes. They're horrible around here."
"I looked at the ones for this place since you said I'd have to pay them and it's not too bad."
Tony looked at him. "Was she behind again?"
"No, she was working. I had to arrange to pay it the week after they're due since the money for the sale of my old house won't be in until then. It's not due until the first." Tony nodded at that and slumped some more. "You'll find it, DiNozzo. Even if lands around LA are really outrageous."
"What's your preferred commuting distance?" Abby asked. "I can ask Brenda to help."
"She hated my house. Said it looked funny."
"She'll still know what you want," she pointed out. "She can ask the other two heathen bitches you dated." Tony smiled at that. "They are! Especially Molly." She pinched him, making him wince. "You have better taste than that."
"We were kids, she was my first one," Tony complained, rubbing his arm. "Meany." McGee knocked then came in. "In the kitchen." He walked back with the sheriff, getting a nod from Gibbs. "Problems?"
"Wondering." He smiled at Tony. "So, you bought it for your sister?"
"Right before she died. This is my former boss, Jethro Gibbs. Former NCIS and Marine. These are Abby and McGee, our former coworkers."
"Hey," he said, nodding politely at them. "I wondered who was moving out here. Janice and Paul said they heard cars."
"It's a welcoming party," Abby said with a grin. "The bossman here just finally got unpacked. I'm unpacked. McGee's unpacked. Tony's still looking but he's got to be nearer to LA. Otherwise he'd probably build a small cabin on the other side of the woods."
"There's one of those but it needs fixed up," the Sheriff told her. He looked at Tony again. "Where did Angela go?"
"Not a clue. She said she'd call when she finally quit traveling in a few months. Is there a problem? I've got her email address."
"No, Janice wanted a letter from her sometime soon."
"I'll let her know. What happened to her ex?"
"He lit off one night. I sent one of my boys out here to make sure he hadn't killed her with the way he took off. He tried but not quite. She's a tough young woman. Nearly killed him from what we saw when we got him for assault a few days later." Tony and Gibbs both smiled at that. "Don't worry, he's back in jail."
"Anyone comes trespassing here, I'll shoot them and then call," Gibbs promised.
"Fine with me. Most of the folks around here are the same. You go by Gibbs or Jethro?"
"Either's fine." He shook his hand. "Feel free to call if you need my help."
"I'll do that. NCIS?"
"Navy Criminal Investigative Services," McGee told him. "We had to explain that all the time, even in DC."
"DC's like alphabet soup, son. No one there knows what words they're spelling when they pull up a handful of letters." He nodded again. "I'll let you guys have some peace. You need anything, 911 works in the county now. Let us know." They all nodded. "Should I expect to have to give more directions than to the young'n here?" he asked with a nod towards McGee.
"If you see an older guy who tells a lot of stories and is named Ducky, him," Tony offered.
"Ducky Mallard?" Tony just nodded at that and grinned. "Sure, next time I see him I'll let him know. He was through here a few weeks back heading north." He shrugged and walked out, going back to his truck and his office to make notes on the new residents. Apparently he'd have some backup if something really big happened. It was a good feeling to have.
Tony looked at Gibbs. "Does that surprise you?"
"No," he admitted. "Ducky's been to some of the oddest places."
"So, Ducky was the inspiration for the Where's Waldo books?" Abby asked. "Because if he was, I'm so getting him to sign my copy." She hugged Tony again. "Come on. I've got my laptop in the car and McGee's got a satellite antenna I can steal and use."
"You can?" McGee asked.
"Yes, I can!" she said, kissing him on the cheek. "Because Tony still needs a new home. I'm about to start putting up notices like the pound does." She led Tony out by the hand, going to get the things she'd need to log them onto the internet and help him search.
Gibbs and McGee shared a look. "Does that mean he'll be on the noon news with a collar and leash on asking to be adopted?" McGee joked. Gibbs just moaned and smacked him on the head for it. "Sorry, boss." But he was grinning and went out to help them.
Gibbs shook his head, going back to finishing the soup. Some days he wondered how he managed to surround himself with people like them. He really did.
After another fruitless week of searching, Tony went to a psychic he knew, flopping down across from her. "I need to find a new house."
"What was your old house like?"
"On Poor Man's Lane. I had that calm, peaceful one."
She nodded and pulled out a book, thumbing to the back index. Then she looked at the other pages, getting up to photocopy it and hand it over. "These are from the psychic's real estate guide to the local area. Those are the ones listed with the same qualities as your old house. If you need more help, I'll let you borrow the guide." He smiled at that. "We were aware of your house. If you remember, we wanted to do a solstice rite on your lawn one year."
"I remember," he agreed quietly, staring at her. "I'm sorry about that but it was my sanctuary."
"We understood. A home is a precious thing." He nodded, handing her a twenty for the time and heading out. She smiled as she wrote it in her book so she'd remember. Then she went to see her next client. She had known this one wouldn't take that much time.
Tony drove around to the various houses, feeling them. A few were closer. One was way far out of town. It took him nearly an hour to get there from the exit on the freeway. Too long to commute in. He flipped to the last page on his way back and found an odd looking one. It was listed differently than the others. The words used to describe it were different. He headed there anyway and it gave him the creeps. So he moved onto the very last house on the list. It too gave him the creeps. He went back to the shop and found her getting ready to close. "Well, I liked them, all but the last two," he offered, leaning on his roof so they could talk.
She went inside and came back out with the guide, handing it to him. "I'll need that back."
"Thank you. They were right, the last two on that one page were creepy." She smiled at that and nodded. "Have a nice night. Hopefully I'll have it back by the morning."
"Don't get caught. People are fussy if you stop in front of their homes these days." Tony nodded at that advice but he took off to search anyway. "I do hope you find it, Tony." She went home, content in her good deeds for the day.
Gibbs woke up to a phone, something he hated. "What?" he complained. He listened to the excited babble from the unusual source. "What do you mean Tony's stalker burned down the house he was thinking about putting in an offer for? When did he find a house?" He listened to McGee tell him that Tony had found it last night and she had tried to burn it a few hours later. "Is the house still standing?" He nodded at that. "Anyone hurt?" He nodded again. "She back in custody? Is DiNozzo all right?" He smirked. "That's fine. Tell him to call me today." He hung up and wiggled back under the covers. LA was full of weird people. He was glad he lived hours from there. They wouldn't infect him. He finally got up and went to work on the boat, taking the cordless phone with him. Tony would be calling later he was sure.
Tony found the perfect spot and smiled in happiness. He called the realtor on the sign. "Hi, I'm standing in front of your house and I want it. Today." He nodded. "It's got a small number on the bottom of the sign. Would that help?" He read it off. "Yeah, that's where I am. Is it still for sale?" He beamed, then his joy was a bit lessened when he heard what the owners wanted to sell it for. "Can we talk to them?" He nodded. "I'm here right now. Sure, I can wait." He hung up and watched the house, just staring at it. It had a fence, which he considered essential. It had a yard. It had trees, including a lemon tree he could see. It looked like it had the sort of rooms he'd like from where he was. A black towncar pulled up beside him and he smiled at the man getting out. "The realtor?"
"I am. I'm Mr. Buck." He shook his hand. "Let's go look, shall we?" Tony nodded and led him inside, going to prowl around. The former owners clearly had children and clearly had a fascination with astrology by all the star-related things around the house. He frowned a bit. He'd have to do some remodeling. The kitchen was tiny and there wasn't any room to put a new piano. He looked at the realtor. "What are you looking for, sir?"
"I lived up on Poor Man's Lane. I'm looking for this same sense of calm and peacefulness but I've got to be nearer to the city. I'm an actor."
"I understand. I have somewhere but it's a bit farther out. Follow me." He walked Tony back out, closing back up the house on the way. They headed back to the property from the night before, the one that was too far out but then they took a right and headed back toward town. He stopped them in front of an older two story house with a lot of trees around it. He got out and looked at Tony. "There's a shortcut."
"I have a Z-28 and a Mustang."
"It'll go," he promised, letting him inside. Tony winced at the smell. "The former owner died with her cats in here. It's a bit musty. Sorry." He let him look around. "How does this feel to you?"
"The lands feel good, the house feels odd but the lands are perfect. The only problem would be the commute and I have a piano habit."
The man stared at him. "Do I know you from something?"
"I'm also known as Bradley Nubbins."
"Ah. So you'll want some security as well. I read about that NCIS stuff." Tony nodded. "Gt it fixed?"
"I did but my house got eaten by the fire."
"I heard about that as well. There is one and it's not in the psychic guidebook I saw in the car." He nodded and Tony followed him out, taking the backway down to the Valley. Then through it to the other side, closer to the studios. He pulled into a driveway. "This one's a bit expensive," he called, "and it's not cursed. Other actors have lived here and thrived. It's only the greedy ones that haven't." He got them through the gate and into the modest, for LA, small estate. Tony gaped at it. "I know, it's a bit famous."
"It smells like death," Tony said quietly. "Where's the last owner?"
"Disappeared two months ago."
"Not with that decomp smell," he offered, going after it. He found him in the basement and slowly backed out, calling the cops. "Here, give them the address." The officer did that and they had to stick around to let them in and show them. Tony felt the ground then looked at him. "I liked the last one but it'll still be an hour and a half commute, even taking that shortcut."
"Point." He considered it. Then he smiled at the CSI walking past. "He followed the scent and found it."
"I worked with NCIS," he offered, shaking her hand. "We've had a few of those."
"So have we," she agreed, smiling at him. "Looking for a new place?"
"I want somewhere that's calm and peaceful feeling."
"They're selling that monastery...."
"Too far away and that should stay religious," he admitted. "I'm still an actor." She smiled at that. "Got any good suggestions?"
"The Cymbori house," someone called.
"No security," the realtor called back. "He's a former federal agent."
All the cops stared then just nodded mostly as one.
"The Tucker house," the CSI with them said quietly. "It's about this size but it's nice. It's got good fences and security. It was owned by a starlette a few decades back. It's up for sale I think." Tony beamed at that. She could see why he was well liked as an actor. "Go there. It might suit you." Tony nodded, shaking her hand again and letting the realtor lead him off. She went to look at the body then grimaced. "He was right to follow the smell. Anyone search out any other stinky things?"
"We're waiting to remove this one to make sure it's not carry-over," one of the officers offered. "What about the estate on the other side of this one? For an actor it'd be great. Plenty of room."
"He was looking for a family home sort of place, not a showpiece." She got down to work taking pictures. "Now we know what happened to the owner and what that poem meant."
Tony pulled through the double layer of gates and up to the house, staring at it. It was a gorgeous house. Mediterranean Villa style. Some limited ironwork around it. It had a lot of trees around and it felt wonderful to him. This house sung like his had at first. He got out and walked around with the realtor. "How much is this one going for?"
"One and a third." Tony hissed. "How much do you have?"
"More than that but land taxes are killer. I don't have anything lined up at the moment so I have to worry about those things."
"The land taxes will be paid with the purchase for the first six months," he pointed out. "Can you afford them?"
"For the next two years probably. I don't want to bankrupt my savings over the house though."
"I can understand that. You want to enjoy your home, not have to worry about it." He led him into the conservatory, smiling at the look of joy on his face. "The piano is going."
"I need a new one. My last one couldn't be moved by the moving company so it got eaten by the fire too." He looked at him. "I love this. How much are the land taxes?" The realtor winced. "Okay, what percentage of the cost is taxes?"
"It's on top of the asking price." Tony winced at that. "Let me log into my laptop and see." He led Tony back to the car, letting him wait while he looked it up in the system. "A hundred-twenty thousand a year based on the current worth of the property." Tony whimpered. "But it does have everything you wanted. Including trees."
Tony sighed and pulled out his phone. "I found it," he told Gibbs. "It's two-thirds of what I got for the house plus the taxes. You're right." He looked at him. "Do we have a recent appraisal and structural evaluation?"
"Neither one but I can get someone here tomorrow. Are you sure? You'd have to pay for it." Tony nodded at that, staying silent. "Then I can register you as a client and get them out here." Tony said something quietly and hung up, coming over to do that with him.
Tony flopped down in front of his boss at the diner by the cabin. "I found one. It's one and a third, but it needs a new roof and part of the attic replaced thanks to water damage."
"Will they bring down the price?"
"Nope." Gibbs moaned. "Which means I can't move in for another month with the time to put the sale through."
"Can you afford that?" Tony nodded. "And the taxes?"
"A hundred twenty thousand a year," he said grimly. Gibbs whimpered. "But I can break that up into payments over the year if I need to." He looked at the waitress. "Hey, Kelly, can I please have something to drink?" She nodded, getting him some coffee and putting it in front of him. "Thanks. Did Jethro introduce himself yet?"
"He did. I was wondering how he and Mags were connected, Tony."
He grinned. "Jethro's my former boss."
"Ah." She nodded. "Director?"
"NCIS and Marine," he said, grinning at her. "Hollywood's too strange for my blood."
"That's great," she said, smiling at him. "Can I get you two anything else?" Tony shook his head. "Yell if you need me, boys." She went back to the counter.
"You visited your sister often?"
"Yup, and a few years back I stayed for nearly a month before moving to Baltimore. My house had a roof leak then. That's how I know it'll take three weeks to fix that damage." He sipped his coffee, adding sugar to it. "I'm not sure if I want to buy this one or not."
"The taxes are going to eat you alive, unless you make at least that much a year?" Tony shrugged. "If you're going back full time."
"Probably not from just doing voice work but I haven't found anything smaller either. I even looked in the Wiccan and Psychic Real Estate Guide."
"They have.... never mind, that's LA." He shook his head.
Tony grinned. "Actually they have them for other cities too. My old house was listed in there. Unfortunately when you find a house like mine you don't give it up. You keep it and cherish it. So all of the ones like mine are taken. Now if I wanted creepy, some of them are open. Or if I wanted to, I keep being told that someone's selling a monastery."
"What if you look further out?"
"It's a hell of a commute. I don't want to have to commute over a half hour. There's mornings when a half hour can turn into four thanks to accidents and stuff. It makes the directors very upset when you have to commute so far. Plus there's 'please come fix this scene' calls too."
"Move the radius out to forty-five minutes. Anything more than an hour...."
"I'll end up having a house and an apartment. Traffic can be that bad. Oh, Maria's mad that I'm still paying her." He finished his coffee and looked at him. "I don't want to live in the Valley."
"You said there were two nice houses up in the hills."
"There are but they're in the middle of nowhere. Over an hour away from the places where I usually work, boss. That's taking the back roads and shortcuts that are easily going to damage my cars."
"Oh." He considered it. "Did either of those speak to you?" Tony shrugged. "Yes, no...."
"One was okay but it didn't have any security." Kelly came back and refilled his cup. "Thanks, dear."
"Welcome. You know, they're opening that new road in a few weeks."
"I heard. That's still not going to help me much. I work on the other side of the city most of the time." She pouted at that. "But I'll look." She smiled and walked off again with a wink at Gibbs. He texted his real estate agent, getting a 'nothing out that way' from him. "Nothing nice out that way. All housing developments probably and I'd die or go nuts living in one." Gibbs nodded at that. "If I knew I was going to make that much a year I wouldn't care about the land taxes on this one. It's just....too high for land taxes."
"Is there any way to reduce them?"
"Nope. Not unless I turn into a charity. Then it'd only be half." He added more sugar and sipped again, shaking his head once his cup was down. "It's bigger than I want anyway but it was nice. Maybe I'll get lucky and one of the minor stars will start divorce proceedings so they'll have to give up their houses."
"That's a mean thought."
"No, it's pretty practical. It happens all the time," Tony said with a small shrug. "I even looked at the house where we saw fireworks. Almost no security but it was a nice house." His phone rang and he answered it. "DiNozzo." He listened then he smiled. "How does it feel?" He rolled his eyes. "Remember, I want somewhere to be my sanctuary. Where is it? I can....no, I'm upstate at the moment. About four hours away. Which house is it?" He gaped. "I know that house. It's been in a few movies....." He nodded. "I've heard good things about it. First thing tomorrow? Let me talk to her if you want. Hi, this is Tony... Also known as," he agreed happily. "No, the fire ate mine. No, my house is like my sanctuary. I had my last one since I was almost sixteen." He smiled at her description of it, nodding slowly. "I'd be honored to look at it. No, right now I'm looking at my former boss and I'm about four hours upstate. How about tomorrow morning? Eleven's great, ma'am. Thank you, I'll be there." He smiled. "I've enjoyed your work and I've seen it in a few movies if it's the one I'm thinking of. It's always been a very beautiful house." He beamed. "I'll see you then. Thank you." He hung up and looked up. "Thank you, and thank the Wiccan circle among my fans for sending up the many prayers on my behalf." He looked at his boss again. "It's a great house. It's on a hillside but anchored in the stone so it won't slide." He finished his coffee. "So I've got to get up at dawn tomorrow."
Gibbs nodded. "You will. You still staying over tonight?"
"You promised to make me catch fish. Of course I am." Gibbs snorted at that but he finished his lunch and they went to get the rest of the supplies they'd need. Gibbs was still deciding about gardening being worthwhile since he lived alone.
Tony looked around the house and sighed. It wasn't quite.... He smiled at the actress, who was looking nervous. "This is huge."
"It is," she agreed. "It's too big for me and my cat. I should let you know you're not the only one who's looking today."
"No, I understand that. This would be a great place for any of us who're overstressed." He looked out at the view, smiling when he saw the ants moving below him that was the city's activities. He looked at the hopeful realtor then back at her. "I'm single at the moment too. It's me and my housekeeper. She's like my mother. Has been for decades." She smiled at that. "Nearly two of them now." He looked out again. It wasn't quite it but he was feeling pulled. "Let me think," he told her, shaking her hand and kissing her on the cheek. "I'll let a few others that I've worked with know. I know St. Germaine was looking for one." Her face lit up. "I'll call his assistant." He walked out doing that.
"Stephni, it's Tony DiNozzo. Is he still looking for a house? Because there's one up on the ridge that's open. Yeah, that one. She's showing it today. It's a great house and has a wonderful view," he offered. "I did but it's too big for just me and my housekeeper. Where he's got the kids now and then...." He smiled. "Yeah, exactly. Yup, there. Welcome." He hung up. "I told his assistant. He's got the kids this weekend so it'll be a few hours," he called. She nodded and smiled. He looked around and took a deep breath, then wandered off, walking since he had gotten a ride from his real estate agent. He followed the feelings, ending up at the end of a small side road. It was almost hidden from view. He walked past two houses that had the good feeling but were apparently occupied. There was one on the very end of the road though.... He looked at it, nodding at the guy who paused beside him. "Does anyone live here? I'm looking for a new house." He smiled at the silent guy. "I'm a former Fed and an actor. My real estate agent's up the hill with a few other clients."
"All these are going up for sale within the year," he admitted. "That one's empty."
"Do you know which one has it?"
"Not at the moment."
"Thanks." He called his agent. "Come get me. I'm staring at a great house just down the hill. On a little hidden road...yeah, there. One of them is." He smiled as he hung up and looked at the gateway. It was a good one. She pulled in a few minutes later and he pointed. "This one?"
"Isn't listened yet, Tony." She looked at it with him. "There's one that's a bit further down the hill, on the other side, that's better." She led him back to the car and turned down a driveway he hadn't seen. "It's an access road," she admitted. She drove him down a few more feet, then onto the main road again and then onto another small road. It ended in a gate and she input the code. The driveway was shaded by trees. A small but manageable security risk. They drove through and Tony fell in love. He even moaned. She smirked at him. "I love it when my clients make that sound." She parked and Tony hopped out, heading for the house. It was smaller than most people in Hollywood wanted. Only three guest bedrooms and a master suite. She followed him, letting him look around the yard and the pool area.
"Are any of these fruit or nut trees?"
"Most of them are fruit and nut trees. Some are maple, a few around the drive were types of pine or evergreen." He grinned and went back to prowling. She looked up the asking price and information sheet. "The land taxes are nice since you're technically not in LA proper. Is this going to be in commuting distance?"
"Yeah, head down the road and then onto the main road, take two rights and I'm at Warner Brothers," he said as he looked in the cabinets. "These are kind of tiny but Maria can figure that stuff out." He ran a hand over a door, then looked at her. "Can I afford it?"
"Land taxes are sixty-two a year." He blinked at that. "Not in LA proper." He grinned. "The house is listed as being eighty-three. It's also listed as being haunted."
Tony looked up. "I won't bother you if you don't bother me," he called. He went up to the attic, where most ghosts seemed to hide as far as he knew. He found the small cold spot in the hallway and felt the sadness. "I'm sorry, little one," he whispered. "I was an officer." The ghost faded out. He went back to looking. He found the perfect spot for his new piano too. He came down and looked at her. "Done." She smiled and started the paperwork on her PDA. She offered the owners seventy for it; she had said it was reasonable with today's real estate market and sine no one seemed to be able to find the house. Which was a positive in Tony's book. He found whole new reams of paperwork he hadn't realized his father had filled out for him before, but it was good. The owners accepted the offer within hours since it was the first one in three years. He signed the paperwork and called Maria. "We've got a home!" he said happily. "Yup, I'll come pick you up tomorrow." The realtor smiled. "How long? I'm living in a hotel." She hung up on him, making him smile. He'd tickle her later.
"Another week, Tony." He nodded at that. "Pick Maria up tomorrow so she can look around and see what she'll need."
He nodded again and he let her drive him back down to the city and go back to her other clients. He made it back to his hotel and told them he'd be leaving hopefully in a week, making them sigh at the good news. "Sorry," he offered sheepishly, going to his room to call the others. "I found it," he crowed. "It's like living in the woods. Near there, boss. Yeah, just down the hill. Fairly cheap and the taxes are a lot more reasonable since I'm not in LA proper. Nope, more risk of others sliding into me than my new one sliding. Just signed papers. Down the hill from the one I got called about." He beamed. "Thanks, boss. Sure, she said I could probably move next weekend. More than and I need to find a new piano too." He bounced some.
"I know, I should wait. It'll be fine. The owners already agreed. No, I didn't have them do a new appraisal or a structural review. It's fine, Gibbs. I'll have someone go with Maria tomorrow if she isn't. I promise. No, it's *perfect*," he moaned, flopping down on the bed. "Absolutely perfect. Plus it's hard to find." He grinned. "Sure. Just as soon as the furniture's put up you can come down for the weekend. Well, you know that back road we had to turn onto due to the detour the first time we went up? If you head the other way down it you end up on the right road where I'll be living. Yup, that part of overlooking LA. It still looks like ants moving below you." He beamed proudly. "Lots and lots of trees too." He nodded. "Sure." Someone knocked on the door. "Gotta get that. I'll call when Maria's told me I did a good job. Sure. Thanks, boss." He hung up and bounced over, finding his stalker standing there. "You do know there's a restraining order?" he asked. She pulled out a revolver. "Hmm, how old school of you. Security!" he yelled. "She's got a gun!"
"Shut up! I'll hurt anyone who tries to take you from me!" She forced him back inside. "You're mine!"
"I'm not yours."
"Yes, Bradley, you are."
"You know Bradley's only a stage name, right?" She gave him a horrified look. "It is. My father made me take a stage name so my career wouldn't hurt his."
"No! It can't be!" she shrieked. "You're Bradley! Say it!"
"I'm not. My actual name is Tony. See, if you meant anything to me, you'd know that." She shrieked again and someone pounded on the door. "Please come get her. She's got a gun!" he called. "I don't feel like being shot again today!" Someone went running off but someone else was still out there. "See, I'm not who you think I am," he pointed out, sitting down and putting his feet up. He had played this game before on the job. Time to redo this scene. "The same as you coming to Philly meant that I had to move departments. I should be very angry at that." She trembled, her lip quivering. "Why don't you put it down?"
"Because it's mine, the same as you are!" she shouted. "You're lying!"
"I'm not lying." He pulled out his wallet and his driver's license, tossing it onto the bed. It was his one from DC, no harm in that one. "See? They don't issue driver's licenses in stage names."
She let out a wail and sank to her knees. That's when the door splintered inward and she was pounced. "Put it down!" the guard ordered, banging her hand on the floor.
"Squeeze her wrist," Tony called. He did that and she had to let it go. He reached down and took it, putting it onto the dresser. "Thanks, guys."
"Welcome, Mr. DiNozzo. Is this the stalker you warned us about or your mother?"
He nodded, using the plastic ties someone had gotten him to restrain her hands behind her. "I'm sorry she found you here, sir."
"That's fine. It's not your fault. She probably followed me around again today somehow. Oh, I've put down papers on a house," he said proudly. The guard smiled at that. Two officers came in and he waved. "I've got a restraining order against that woman. She knocked and the doors don't have peepholes. She forced her way in here and had a gun." He pointed at it. "She threatened me and the guard got her down while I was working on her delusion."
"Have many stalkers?" one asked, looking amused.
"No, I'm a former cop and Fed," he offered with a grin. "Just ask her." She whimpered and nodded. "She made me switch departments once by showing up. She's been my stalker on and off since I was twenty-two."
"Charming of her, sir," the second officer agreed. "Let me get a bag for the gun." He went to get one and bagged it up, taking it and her with them. "We'll be right back for a statement."
"Sure." He grabbed some paper off the desk and got to work on one, making the security guy laugh. "Done many, many reports in my life," he said dryly. "I think I did less paperwork as a fed. At least when it didn't involve damage to the truck or something." The guard walked out laughing. The officers came back once they had sent her back with another officer, letting him hand them his statement. "Like I said, I wore the uniform for a few years."
One looked at him. "She said you're going under an assumed name for that?"
"No, she believed my stage name was my real one. I was hammering on that weak point when the security guard came in." He pointed at the door. "She was wailing in distress when I tossed my DC license over in front of her to prove my real name was different."
"Good job, sir." He looked over the report. "Including other instances. Thank you. Oh, she's on bail?"
"For burning a house I was thinking about buying." He frowned. "I'm sorry you guys have to deal with her."
"It's not a problem, sir, it's what they pay us for," the other one offered. "Let's work on the top part of the report."
"Sure. My last license is on the bed behind you." That got a smile and he read it over. "This was my last ID locally," he admitted, pulling out that license. That got another nod and they took both. "I just found a house today."
"That's fine. What name do you go by for your stage name?"
"Oh, no wonder you looked familiar, sir." Tony grinned and nodded. "In town for good?"
"Yeah, NCIS got very uncomfortable after I had to sue them. The former director found out I had acted and was decent at it so she wanted me to be her James Bond."
"You're not British," the first one offered.
"Yeah, I know, I pointed that out to her and she was not appreciative. I ended up blacklisted for a few months until I sued the agency and her. Now I'm unblacklisted but not particularly happy since they decided my whole team was effective but expensive because we were effective." That got nods. "So my team all retired. My boss lives up on my other property. He'd just shoot her." That got some laughs. "He would. I would have at home." He shrugged. "I hate shooting review boards though. They really do suck."
"They do," the first officer agreed grimly. "Had one of those a few years back."
Tony looked at him. "I lucked out. I didn't have to pull my first or second year, but my third one I ended up pulling twice and shooting once. Then I moved to Philadelphia and homicide. I ended up pulling more often but only shooting twice in eighteen months. Then in Baltimore I had to do it a few more times. But man, I had to pull about once a month at NCIS, at the very least, and then I had seven review panels in the last three and a half years." They stared. "The beauty of being a Fed working in DC."
"If I ever go fed, I'll stay here," the second one decided. "You worked at NCIS?" Tony grinned and nodded. "Then you know Gibbs."
"He was my team leader."
"Good to know. The local office said something about you guys when we had to hand over some irritating drunks on leave the other day."
"Tell them to blame the director, guys. Really wasn't our decision." That got a nod and he looked over the report, signing his statement and the report. "There you go. Have a better night and laugh at her if you want, guys."
"We will, sir. Thank you for your help and be safe."
"I will." He let them out, seeing if the door could close. It would, barely, so it was all right since it'd lock too. It'd be fine since no judge would give her bail. He went to bed, going to get happy with himself. It took him a while to decide on which fantasy to use but that one was okay. Even if Gibbs wouldn't agree.
Tony walked into his house officially for the first time, smiling at Maria. She had driven his other car over earlier in the day. "Are we here?"
"We're here," she agreed, kissing him on the cheek. "You have very good tastes."
"Thank you." He beamed and went to see if his piano was in. It was but it needed tuned. He got to work doing that then sat down to play, liking how the sound resonated around the sliding glass walls. They were mostly open tonight to get some fresh air in there for his new plants. Not that he minded. He didn't even mind when Maria put food in front of him and stuck a forkfull of it in his mouth. He chewed once he had removed the fork. "I take it you called six, seven times again?"
"More like ten or twelve. Are you letting the other two come here?" He shrugged and nodded. "Are you sure?"
"They're not going to bring work here. No work to bring. Did we get the security system switched over?"
"We did. Everything's set up, Tony." She stroked over his hair. "Gibbs called. He'll be down Friday. He wanted to know if he should bring McGee and Abby."
"If he wants. We've got the spare rooms." She smiled at that. "They're still like my family." She stroked his hair again. "I'm being a good boy."
"You are but if I die you cannot bury me on the lawn like you did Charger." He shook his head. "Good boy. Now you eat. Let me finish putting up the groceries I went out to get." She left him there, going to call Gibbs back and tell him it'd be fine while she finished putting up the groceries. The gate buzzed and she answered it. "Yes?"
"Is Mr. DiNozzo here, ma'am?"
"He's.... Would you please put your ID up to the camera." The officer did. "That's fine, officer, let me let you in." She let him in and walked out. "What's happened?"
"I'm assuming the music is him?" he asked. She nodded. "We need to get him to contact the local NCIS office about an older case and they couldn't find him."
"Gibbs wouldn't have that problem."
"True but he said not everyone could live up to that standard. Can you get him to call them?" He handed over a card. "Thank you, ma'am."
"You're welcome. I'll tell him and Gibbs."
"She had a violent reaction to Gibbs' name, ma'am."
"Was it one of his ex-wives?" She loved those stories.
"No, I think it was their former boss actually." Tony came out of the house. "Special Agent DiNozzo." He nodded, strolling over. "The local office needed a call about a former case."
"Sure." He took the card. "Was she a redhead? Loud?" He nodded. "Why was she there?"
"I don't know but she was shrieking in the background that Gibbs wouldn't have these problems and that they had to be better."
"Sure. I'll call and have him call too. Thanks, officer."
"Welcome, sir." He smiled and backed his car out, letting them close the gate behind him.
Tony pulled out his cell and dialed. "Can I speak to Mayfield? Thank you." He was put through. "Do not say my name out loud if that's Sheppard screaming in the background unless you want a larger fit," he warned. "DiNozzo." He listened to the problem, nodding as he paced around the driveway. "I'm in LA but she hates me. That's her own fault, man. I don't know. Usually, yes I am that petty. Let me call Gibbs. Is it my mother or my stalker? My stalker should still be in jail." He smirked. "That's my mother. Let them scream at each other and eject them both from the building. Gibbs might say the same thing but I'll call him. Give me ten. He's upstate." He hung up and called up there, getting Abby. "Put the bossman on." She did that. "Bossman, Sheppard's at the local NCIS office screaming that you'll save her from my mother. No, I heard her screaming at someone that they weren't as good as you. Yeah. That works, I've got the spare rooms and all. Sure. Let me know, bossman. Need the number?" He smiled. "I thought you might have. Have fun with that. Mayfield. I told her not to say my name out loud unless she wanted another fit. Sure. I'll be in on my piano. I don't mind. They're not going to bring work or anything, right?" He grinned. "I'll even have a cold beer waiting since you're dealing with both them." He laughed as he hung up. "He said he might need more than one."
"I got a six pack," she sighed, heading back inside. "Why is she bothering the nice people there?"
"Not a clue. My mother's irrational and Sheppard's not much better. I'm starting to wonder if it's exposure to me that makes women unhinged."
"Don't worry, Tony, I was unhinged when you met me," she said, giving him a pat on the back. "Bring me your plate for seconds." He smiled and went to do that, presenting it to her. She dished up more food. "There, now go play. I've even got your clothes hung up and your sheets on your bed." He beamed and went to watch a movie. This house had a small theater. She had picked out some recliners for his pleasure and went to cover him an hour later since he was napping in there. Her boy napped like a cat. She went to get the door when Gibbs rang the gate a few hours later. "Did you teleport?"
"Flew. They sent a helicopter." He walked in with his bag, nodding at the cabdriver, who sped off. "How is he?"
"Napping in the theater."
"He's got his own theater?"
"It came with the house," she offered with a smile, leading him inside to where Tony was napping in the comfortable recliner. "See?" she said quietly. "I'll be back in the morning."
"Thanks, Maria." He kissed her on the cheek, making her smile and head out. He looked at Tony, then sighed. "I do too much carrying you to bed, DiNozzo. It's not like I'm sleeping with you."
"Could if you wanted to," he moaned, shifting onto his side. "These are comfy. You should try one, boss." Gibbs smacked him lightly, getting a confused look. "What? I woke up when you came in."
"Was that an offer?"
Tony shrugged. "Up to you." He stood up and stretched, putting the blanket back in the cabinet and closing it. "Come see the house?"
"Sure. Give me the nighttime tour." Tony grinned and took him around the house, letting him stop to get a beer. "So, what did the director want?"
"Me to save her from your mother. Who was less rational than usual. She decided the reason you weren't doing real movies was her fault."
"I just finished one a few months ago," he complained. He shook his head and led the way up to the bedrooms, letting Gibbs pick the one his bag would sit in. "Mine's the one with the door under the stairs," he said with a grin, heading down there to go bathe and get ready for bed.
Gibbs stared after him, then snorted and shook his head. It was tempting. Very tempting. But DiNozzo was his .... Well, then again he wasn't his agent any longer. He went down to look at this new room, finding the same scent floating around. The bed was between floor- to-ceiling windows and the bathroom had steam coming out. He tested the bed. It was as nice as he remembered. Maybe with a king sized bed he wouldn't be subjected to the Tony bedmonster? Tony came out wearing only a towel and he stared. He was very good looking. He cared for him. He was welcoming. Tony walked over to kiss him, and it was good. So it was enough for a casual thing. He tossed him onto the bed and stripped to follow. "Casual, DiNozzo."
"Boss, use my name or else I'm doing dirty and kinky things," Tony chided.
"Fine, we'll use real names."
"Works for me, Jethro." He took a kiss and pulled him down on top of him, getting comfortable and used to the weight. Jethro shifted and it was all good.