- Violence - Canon-Level
- Canon Divergence
12 August 2009
Tony slammed the door to his apartment behind him after getting home from his run. He practically ripped off his sweat-soaked T-shirt making his healed arm twinge a little, but he didn’t really care about the pain. Tony stormed through his apartment until he was in front of his liquor cabinet. Pouring himself a more than generous portion of some whiskey, Tony started to down it in one go. Sighing, he slammed the half-full glass down on the table and bowed his head in an attempt to get his emotions under control. Jubal’s voice was in his head, admonishing him about drinking while emotional.
Grabbing the glass, Tony stood and poured the contents down the drain, not even mad that he was throwing out an expensive single barrel-aged scotch whiskey that was sent to him by Ducky. Tony still couldn’t think of him as Ilya. Leaning against the counter as he watched the alcohol wash down the drain, Tony’s thoughts turned dark.
An overwhelming sense of sadness crept up as he leaned forward and breathed through the panic attack he felt coming on. Walking over to his couch, Tony picked up the notebook he had been jotting down his thoughts, documenting all the offers, and putting it in stark black and white the pros and cons of each. Picking up the notebook, Tony felt a surge of anger and guilt. Vance and Gibbs had invaded Tony’s mind while on his run. Dark thoughts of what they had tried to do to him made him angry all over again. He had put everything out of his mind for weeks now, but as the job hunt began to feel slightly tedious, those thoughts had plagued him, and he was pissed off once again.
“What the fuck was it all for?” Tony finally voiced out loud to an empty apartment. Slowly standing, he was tempted to say fuck it all and get blinding drunk. Knowing that wasn’t going to solve anything, the next best thing was to go to the gym and beat the shit out of whatever punching bag was available.
* * *
The nightmares were inevitable. Horrific caricatures of Gibbs and Vance laughing at him morphed into Jeffrey White. Chained together, running, Tony’s fear he wasn’t going to get out of that situation, morphed again into Haswari and Kate’s death. The nightmares became worse and more terrifying until he was locked in some kind of cell, Eli and Ziva David laughing as images of torture and pain became gruesome. Tony screamed and bolted upright in bed, his head swimming, and his eyes crusty with bad sleep and the physical evidence of his overexertion at the gym. Tony’s hands ached from the epic punching bag session that did little to quell the anger that still ate at him.
Getting up, he got under a hot shower and tried to shake off the nightmares. After dressing in sweats and an old OSU t-shirt, Tony made it to his kitchen and started to make coffee.
“Well, I think I should come back at a later time, you seem to be having a rather rough morning.”
Tony spun around at the voice and grabbed for a gun that wasn’t there. His heart pounded, but outwardly he kept it together. Tony stared at the striking woman that looked suspiciously like a certain ME he knew and wondered how in the hell she had gotten into his apartment.
“How the fuck did you get into my apartment?” Tony growled, feeling very disingenuous. Any niceties he might have extended to a guest were out the window.
“I’m here because I think you need what I’m about to offer you.”
“Look, today is not the best day to be offering me anything, especially from people who break into my home.”
“I actually think this is the exact perfect moment to present my offer. I think you need a little…magic right about now, Agent DiNozzo.” The woman smiled in a way that spoke of a joke that no one else understood the punchline to.
“Fuck. You. Now, I suggest you get the hell out of my home before I call the police.”
“What happened, Agent DiNozzo was not your fault.” The soft tone and softer expression on the woman’s face made Tony fly across the room and grabbed her shirt in a tight fist. This was the last straw in the pile that had been building since he had made that first phone call to Harmon Rabb.
“You don’t know anything! You don’t know what they were going to do. How they were going to use me.” It all came pouring out. Everything Tony had not realized he had been holding onto since Vance and Gibbs tried to coerce him into going to Israel. “They were going to sacrifice me without a single thought. I thought…I thought Gibbs was more than my boss. He was supposed to be my friend…” Tony’s words died on his lips. He knew he was entitled to the sadness he felt at losing so much.
The woman’s kind expression pissed Tony off even more.
“Agent DiNozzo, you couldn’t have done anything different than what you did. It was what you needed to do to protect yourself, and no one can fault you for that.”
Tony deflated and took a shaky breath as he wiped his hand over his face. He had not even felt the hot tears as they fell.
“You still haven’t told me who the hell you are and how you got into my home.”
The woman smiled again as Tony walked away to continue making the coffee he desperately needed.
“My name is Mrs. Fredericks and I have an extraordinary opportunity for you. That is if you are willing to open your mind and believe in magic.”
Tony shook his head and thought the woman might be crazy, but she was right, he was mentally in a place where a little fantasy might go a long way to heal the guilt he was feeling.
* * *
Tony did not expect the heavy ball that flew at him when he stepped out of his rental car, but old reflexes kicked in, and he caught it. There was enough force behind the basketball that it almost knocked him off his feet.
“Oh. My. God!” an excited voice called out as a man Tony thought he recognized ran over to him and helped steady him. “That was an amazing catch. Hey, wait–don’t I know you?”
Tony smiled as he recognized Pete Lattimer, a man who had seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth.
“Pete? What the hell?”
“DiNozzo? Wow, this is a surprise.” Pete stood with his arms crossed over his chest and a huge grin on his face. “Don’t tell me. You got a strange visit with an equally strange but formidable woman.”
“Yeah, you could say that. She popped into my apartment, I think. She’s lucky my gun was locked away in the gun safe.” Tony handed Pete the basketball and looked around at the expanse of desert with almost no civilization in sight. The area felt like the dead end of South Dakota. “So, Mrs. Fredericks explained everything to me, but it all seems a bit…far fetched.”
“Oh, it’s all real, my friend. Come on, and I will show you wonders you’ll never see anywhere else.” Pete’s grin and over-enthusiasm helped place a balm on Tony’s battered soul. Smiling back, he followed the man towards the only building in the immediate area.
The long corridor had Tony wondering just what the hell he was getting himself into. They entered another area that was a long walkway with thick railing to keep people from falling down. Tony’s mouth dropped open when he saw the expanse of the Warehouse. He honestly was not sure what he felt at that moment. This far outweighed Eureka, MI6, finding out about UNCLE, and all of the other underground secret organizations he had come across in the last few months.
“So, you’re telling me that everything in here is not only magical–which really?–but they are potentially dangerous.”
“Yup,” Pete popped the ‘p,’ and his eyes shone a little too bright for Tony’s liking.
“This is mental, you know that, right?”
“You have no idea.” A weird noise came from Pete’s pocket, and Tony almost had a snarky quip on the tip of his tongue when Pete pulled a device out and flipped it open.
“Why have you not brought Agent DiNozzo to see me yet?”
“Jeez, Artie. I just walked him inside, give us a moment, will ya?”
The man named Artie let out a long-suffering sigh loud enough for Tony to hear, which made him laugh out loud.
“Fine, fine. Just get here as soon as you can. We may have a case.”
“I guess we have been summoned. Follow me.” Pete looked longingly out at the expanse of the Warehouse, and Tony wanted to laugh. He had a feeling that when Pete got bored, he played with the toys.
“Don’t sound so down about it, Lattimer. You can show me the Arc of the Covenant later,” Tony joked as he followed behind Pete.
“Do you know how many Indiana Jones jokes I’ve made that have gone completely over my partner’s head? Finally, someone who understands.” Pete wildly waved his hands as he moved towards an office with Tony still following him.
“So, what was that thing you were using? That ain’t no cell phone or two-way.” Tony stuck his hands in his pockets to try to quell the urge to go down to the Warehouse and touch everything. He somehow knew that was a bad idea, but he laughed to himself, knowing it would be one hell of a fun ride. That is if he believed Mrs. Fredericks in the first place.
“It’s called a Farnsworth and don’t even ask me how it works. Artie and Claudia could tell you, but just between you and me, when they start to geek speak, I tune them out completely. Just point me to the bad guys.” Pete turned back to Tony with the biggest little boy smile on his face, which made Tony laugh. “Come on before the boss sends out the killer bunnies.”
“Monty Python, I’m impressed,” Tony joked as he followed Pete inside one of the strangest offices he had ever seen.
“Hi, Agent DiNozzo, there is no time for niceties. I am Arthur Nielsen, call me Artie. I’m the custodian of Warehouse 13. Don’t have time to explain, we have three dead people in New Orleans under suspicious circumstances. All are fishermen working on shrimping boats along the coast. Myka has all of the files, you all need to go, like now.” Tony stood there looking at Artie like the man had three heads.
“Look, I came to find out what all of this was about, and if so-called ‘magic’ was real. I don’t know if I’m ready for a case.” Tony felt like he was out on the farthest limb he could imagine.
“Yes, yes, yes. We all got that lecture from Mrs. Fredericks. Still, I am more concerned about people dying under strange circumstances that could be an artifact. Now, Myka and Pete can fill you in on the way. Now go.” Artie started to make shooing motions as he began to walk towards Tony and Pete, with a beautiful brunette trying her damndest not to laugh. Tony assumed this was the aforementioned Myka.
“Come on, Pete. We can play with the new possible recruit later. Right now, case.” Myka seemed just as bossy as Artie. She reminded Tony of Kate, and his heart flipped a little. Sighing, he wondered just how weird this was going to get.
* * *
Tony really should not have wondered how weird this case he had been practically dragged out on could get. He almost laughed a little hysterically as they approached the crime scene, and he saw Dr. Loretta Wade sitting there on her kit with a sad look on her face. Tony was trying to decipher what this could mean when Pete, slack-jawed for but a moment, ran up to the woman and began to sputter incoherently.
“Oh, for heaven’s sake, let’s go save Pete from himself.” Myka sighed and shook her head as Tony and Myka approached at a slower but just as urgent pace.
“Really, Mrs. F, you didn’t have to come out here to check on us. I can promise you that no apocalyptic shenanigans are at hand…”
“Pete…” Myka ground out between her teeth to try to get the man to back off. Tony just locked eyes with Loretta and sighed. He knew where Loretta was, Dwayne Pride wasn’t far away. He did not need this.
“I am sorry, I think you have me mistaken for someone else.”
“No.” Pete shook his head, and Tony wanted to roll his eyes at the man. “No. I’m pretty sure that I know just who I’m talking to.” Pete began to laugh a little. “You didn’t have to be so elaborate, you know.”
“Pete..” Myka tried again, but Pete just wasn’t going to be persuaded.
“Pete, I take it? Well,” Loretta stood and smiled a smile that had Tony wincing. “I am sure whoever you think I am, I can assure you that I am not them. I am the chief medical examiner for Jefferson Parish. Now, I should be asking you what you all are doing here?”
Tony and Myka both sighed as Pete began to ramble and stick his foot firmly in his mouth. Tony could see that Myka had enough. She put her hands on her hips and shook her head in exasperation.
“PETE…” Myka yelled.
“That is not Mrs. Fredericks.” Myka and Tony said at the same time. They looked at each other and almost laughed, but Tony’s attention went to Loretta, who looked like she had a million questions.
“Agent DiNozzo. I had heard you were no longer with NCIS.” Tony knew Loretta was trying to deflect attention away from herself. It made Tony pause a moment and look her in the eye. She had a look like she knew a lot more about why they were there than she wanted to let on.
“Don’t tell me.”
“I’m afraid so. This young man was an off-duty Marine. His next of kin is over there.” Loretta indicated with her head towards an older man that was holding a hat and worrying it between his hands.
“Dammit.” Tony sighed as he saw Pride standing there, talking to the older man.
“You know him?” Pete asked.
“Yeah. He’s the SAIC of the New Orleans office of NCIS.” Tony took a deep breath and knew he needed to head this off right now. He walked towards Pride and the grieving man and stood with his hands in his pockets. Pride thanked the man who turned and walked away.
“DiNozzo. Never thought I’d see you here.”
“I’m not here for you. It’s a long, complicated story. Look, I don’t want to walk all over each other’s feet here. But there are three dead civilians and now an off-duty Marine who had probably died in the same fashion.”
“How do you know the particulars of this case?” Pride looked suspicious, and Tony didn’t blame him.
“On a hunt for a stolen artifact with the Secret Service.” Which was at least mostly true. That is if Tony actually believed that what they were looking for was some kind of weird magical mumbo jumbo. Which Tony was still having a hard time with.
“Secret Service, huh?” Which was still technically accurate. Tony learned that Myka and Pete were still considered on the payroll of the Secret Service. They were just in a department that was so classified that a person needed clearance to even get clearance to know about the Warehouse. Tony was still trying to comprehend all he was told on the plane ride from South Dakota to New Orleans.
“Yep,” Tony popped the ‘p’ and rocked back on his heels.
“And you have a bridge to sell me, I take it?” Pride joked, but it hit a little too close to home, and thankfully, Pride realized what he said. “Look, I’m sorry. That was a low blow.”
“Kinda was. But I’m serious. Pete and Myka are with the Secret Service, and we’re tracking a valuable artifact.”
“What does it look like, might be able to help you.” Pride kept his expression neutral, which made Tony wonder what the man was thinking.
“Well, that’s where it gets….murky.”
Pride gave Tony a look like he didn’t believe a word coming out of Tony’s mouth. Tony didn’t care; he walked away without explaining further and made it back to where Loretta was still talking to Myka and Pete. He could just make out the tail end of their conversation.
“Ahhh, yes. I understand now, Mr. Lattimer. But, I can assure you that I am not who you think I am.”
“Wait, then you…”
“I shall neither confirm nor deny, Mr. Lattimer. Now I need to get this young man to my lab if you’ll excuse me.”
Pete began to sputter, but Myka just smacked his arm and told him to shut up. Their camaraderie made Tony ache a little. They reminded him of how he had been with Kate near the end. However, Tony knew there was more to Pete and Myka’s relationship than they wanted to admit.
* * *
“How the hell did we get in this situation?” Tony wondered as they were out in the middle of the Gulf, the boat they were on pitching wildly from side to side, and Pete looking green enough that he was going to hurl over one side of the ship. That was if they could get themselves back up to the top where Pride and Myka were with the Unsub.
“I’ll tell you,” Pete ground between his teeth at an attempt to stop from emptying his stomach all over the floor in the room he and Tony were trying to escape from. “We got shanghaied, is what happened.”
“Okay, buddy. You gotta hold on for me, okay? You do not have permission to hurl, you hear me?” Tony had never thought in his life that he would ever utter those words.
“I’m trying not to, Tony, but this damn boat isn’t exactly stopping now, is it?” Pete pitched forward a little and leaned over, but he held it together. They were both tied to the small, yet heavy bed. Tony had been working on the knots in the rope that had him secured to the bedpost. He was almost done when he saw Pete’s eyes roll back in his head.
They had chased leads for two days when they figured out who was at the center of the murders. Four people were dead. Tony had not believed it until he saw it for himself. A small quartz crystal in the shape of a shark that had once belonged to the esteemed French explorer, conservationist, and filmmaker Jaques Cousteau. They knew it was the genuine article because there was an engraving on the bottom of the crystal from the person that had given it to Cousteau.
Tony still couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw what happened to the person that tried to hold onto the little shark once they were on dry dock. They all surmised that the crystal wanted to be out on the ocean. Tony scrunched up his face and was annoyed at himself that he was kidnapped once again. They tracked down the person who had been passing it around. The Unsub had hoped to cull his competition in the Shrimp Fishery industry. Katrina had hit all of them hard, then just a scant five years later, the BP spill. A good portion of fishermen had gone out of business, but more were still losing their homes, boats, and everything. The Unsub vowed to hang on by any means necessary.
“Come on, Lattimer. I’m almost done, hang on.” Tony yelled over the noise of the rocking ship and the loud sounds of a storm that wasn’t there. Tony grimaced as the ropes began to give way, then seconds later, he was free. The boat was listing wildly as Tony was attempting to stand up. Gripping the edge of the bed, he pulled himself up, stumbled over to Pete, and got him free. “Help me out here, buddy. We gotta get up there to find out what’s happening. Think you can make it?”
Pete clung to Tony, looking greener every second they were below deck. “Yeah, yeah. I’ll make it. Gotta get to Myk’s, ya’ know?”
Tony almost laughed. If this situation weren’t so dangerous, it would almost be comical.
“We get out of this, you’re telling her, right? That was the agreement?”
Pete waved his hand in lieu of talking. Tony got as good of a hold on his friend as he could and tried to haul ass out of the room and stumbled up the stairs, falling awkwardly as they both tumbled onto the deck. A shot barely registered, and it was like at that moment, Pete became a different person. He pulled himself up and, though his legs were shaky, determination lined his whole body. The storm that wasn’t raged around them, pitching the boat back and forth. Pete stumbled his way towards where the Unsub was with Myka clinging to the side of the ship.
“Myka!” Pete yelled and tried to run forward. Tony had regained his balance and went running ahead of Pete. He saw Pride laid out on the deck, bleeding. Tony was furious. No matter what he thought of NCIS, Dwayne had always been a friend. Tony dived at the Unsub, who was holding the artifact, laughing wildly as the boat made another wild pitch.
Not seeing what Pete was doing behind him, Tony grappled with the Unsub, trying to get his hands on the artifact. The two men were fighting hard, but slowly through the storm-not-storm. Then Myka was just there grabbing for the object and throwing it in some kind of weird silver bag, and everything stopped all at once.
Dropping down on his hands and knees breathing hard, Tony looked at Pete and Myka, shaking his head from side to side. “No. No, no, no, no. Not in a million years. I’d rather face demented robot cats again than to go through that!”
“No. Lattimer, nothing in the world you could tell me will change my mind. No matter how fun, or Alan Quartermaine and Indiana Jones all rolled into one it might be.”
Myka was looking at Tony then burst out laughing. They all started to laugh a little hysterically, then Tony remembered seeing Pride laid out, bleeding, and unconscious. Tony crawled over to Pride and breathed a sigh of relief that the man was still breathing.
“Anyone know how to drive a boat?” Tony asked and held himself up on all fours working on evening out his breathing.
* * *
Tony knew it was a little crass, but after everything they had been through, some levity was to be had as he walked into Pride’s hospital room carrying a stuffed shark.
“Ah, I see you have a visitor.” Loretta stood and walked over to Tony. “I’ll just leave you two alone for a few moments.” Loretta patted Tony’s arm and started to walk away.
“So, Loretta, I know the old ‘everyone has a doppleganger.’ Still, Pete wasn’t wrong to think you not only resemble Mrs. Fredericks.”
Loretta smiled a knowing smile, “There are some things in this world, Agent DiNozzo, that sometimes don’t need explaining.” The woman walked out, leaving Tony just as puzzled as before.
“She knows something.”
“Loretta knows a lot of things that she will never admit to.” Pride scrutinized Tony for a moment. “DiNozzo, I want you to know that I don’t agree with what Vance and Gibbs were going to pull.”
“Pride, I didn’t come for an emotional bloodletting. I’ve done that, and I’m done.” Tony set the shark on the small table, then sat in the chair next to the bed.
“You don’t have to. I just wanted to say that there was a time I wanted to lure you away from Gibbs, but he had warned everyone to back off. You’re a good agent. And caring. I would have valued you for who you are.”
Tony looked towards the window in the room and took a little time to gather his thoughts.
“You don’t have to say anything, DiNozzo. I have a feeling you want nothing to do with NCIS, and I don’t blame you. Just know I am in your corner if you ever need someone.” Pride winced as he sat up further in the bed. Tony knew he pulled on the stitches in his shoulder where the bullet had gone through. There was some minor surgery, but Tony had been told that Pride would make a full recovery, and his injury wouldn’t hinder him in the field.
“I don’t think I could trust NCIS as a whole. Too much has happened. Enough that I know a part of me should have walked away years ago. But I’m done with what-ifs; I’m only looking ahead.”
“As it should be. But–and I mean this–if you ever need anyone, you just call.”
Tony stood, and even though the conversation was short, this was one last piece in his closure with NCIS. Knowing there was at least one person who stood behind him, let him let whatever little pieces he was still holding onto go. NCIS was now firmly in his past. He said a final goodbye to Pride and walked away feeling better than he had days prior. Now he just had to get back to South Dakota and tell Artie thanks, but no thanks.
* * *
Of course, Tony didn’t get away as quickly as he had assumed he would. Artie wanted to do the hard sell, that meant spending a little time in the Warehouse itself. Which in hindsight, Artie should have been more careful about letting Pete lead Tony around the artifacts.
“Okay, Lattimer. You win, this stuff is pretty damn cool.” Tony was laughing as Pete was trying to extricate himself from the very first can of silly string that the inventor himself had kept. It was a never-ending supply.
“Yeah, well, I think both of us on the team might be a little much. You have almost as much of a knack for getting into trouble as I do. Now, help?” Pete pleaded, which made Tony laugh even harder. He felt lighter of heart and spirit. After spending a few days at the Inn under Leena’s very skilled care, Tony texted Hotch to see how the man was doing. Hotch had texted back that he was concentrating on work for now. He also checked his emails and saw the newest robot memes from Carter, which made him laugh. Tony let go of his anger over Gibbs and Vance, about the time that Pete let him play with Cecil B DeMille’s very own camera to amusing effect. Vance and Gibbs no longer had a place in his mind.
Tony pulled on the silly string helping to get Pete unstuck from one of the shelving units.
“Yuck,” Tony played at being annoyed as he shook the silly string off of his fingers. “I still can’t believe this place exists.”
“Yeah. It’s pretty great.”
“Which you are more than suited for, Lattimer.” The two men walked towards Artie’s office, still covered in the sticky stuff. “So, you going to keep your promise?”
“I don’t know what to say.” Pete looked and sounded uncomfortable for the first time since Tony had seen him again.
“Put on the big boy pants, Lattimer, and tell her how you feel.” They opened the door to Artie’s office, and Myka was there finishing up some paperwork. Instead of saying anything, Pete walked in, covered in sticky silly string, and went right up to Myka and kissed her. She yelped, and teasingly admonished Pete before smiling and kissing him back.
“Atta boy,” Tony muttered under his breath. He turned to head back towards the door that took him to the Inn. He wanted to get cleaned up before he left.
“There is just one regret I have for this whole crazy adventure.”
Pete had a cat that caught the canary look on his face as he turned towards Tony.
“What is that?”
“I didn’t get to say, ‘We’re gonna need a bigger boat.’”