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Coda

by: ksl (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 3526
Rating: TEEN
Character(s): Tony DiNozzo
Category(ies): Episode Related
Pairing(s): - No Pairing -
Episode(s): 5-14 Internal Affairs
Summary: After Internal Affairs, Tony needs to talk to someone. He goes back to the one person who understands.

Author Notes: This is another companion piece. It relates to Music and Memories, Con Affecto, and Adagio.

Chapters: 1

To process everything that happened in the last twenty four hours, Tony fell back on a tried and true method of working through his thoughts and emotions---he went for a drive. He wasn’t entirely surprised to find himself heading for Patty O’Malley’s Pub. He’d come to this out of the way little bar the last time Jeanne Benoit had turned his life inside out. It had helped then, and he found himself wondering if it was hope or desperation that brought him back a second time.

Tony could have told Fornell where he’d gone when Gibbs, Ziva and McGee had been on La Grenouille’s yacht. He didn’t doubt for a second that Bridget would have given him a rock solid alibi. Just the travel time it took to get there and the hours he’d spent napping in the back room would have made it impossible for Tony to have shot Renee.

But Bridget and Patty O’Malley’s Pub weren’t things Tony wanted Fornell to know about. He didn’t want his team to know either. He wasn’t interested in explaining how a small bar in the middle of nowhere had twice become a personal refuge. Nor did he want to explain how a veritable stranger had been more accepting and offered more comfort and insight than his teammates ever had. The bar and its bartender were secrets Tony intended to keep for as long as humanly possible.

He stepped inside the cool interior, blinking as his eyes adjusted to the change in lighting. Tony frowned seeing the room was empty. It was still too early for anyone but a die hard alcoholic to be hanging out, but he’d expected to see Bridget behind the bar. He sighed softly, disappointed by her absence. He wasn’t entirely sure why. It wasn’t like he even knew why he wanted her to be there or what he expected her to do that everyone else he knew some how failed to provide.

A sound from the narrow hallway back of the bar made him tense. He instinctively reached for his gun before relaxing when he spotted Bridget, her silver hair a little longer than the last time he’d seen her but otherwise unchanged. She was pushing a small dolly loaded with several cases of alcohol.

“You know it is dangerous to leave the front unlocked when you’re in the back.” Tony said as he stepped further into the room. “Anyone could walk in here.”

“I’d rather risk facing a foe than have a friend face a locked door.” She smiled warmly at him, her faint Irish brogue full of good humor and welcome. “Hello, Tony.”

He smiled, pleased to be remembered. “Hello, Bridget.”

“Be a good lad, and make yourself useful. I could use a hand stocking the shelves. I’ll give you a dram of the good stuff for your trouble.”

“I’d help you for free.”

“I know.” She grinned, giving him a saucy wink. “But it never hurts to sweeten the deal.”

Tony helped her stock the shelves with bottles of vodka, whiskey and scotch. He eyed one of the bottles of scotch. It was the only one of its kind in the case, and when Tony realized what it was, he wasn’t surprised there weren’t more. Sixty year old single malt wasn’t cheap. Thinking back on it, this was undoubtedly the same single malt Bridget had given him the two other times he’d been in Patty O’Malley’s.

“Do you sell much of this?”

“Not really, no.”

Tony frowned. “They why stock it?”

“I keep it for me.” Bridget shrugged one shoulder. “When I have a nip, I prefer it be the good stuff. Life is too short to bother with bad booze.”

Tony nodded. It was hard logic to argue with.

“So was this bad day worse than the last one?”

Tony gave her a sharp look. Did it show that much? Had he slipped that much in his ability to act ‘normal’? “What makes you—“

“My gray hair might make me look older than my years, but my memory is still sound.” Hazel eyes met green. “So far, you’ve only come calling when the shit’s hit the fan.”

Tony flushed, swallowing hard, looking away. When she put it like that, he felt like an ass for showing up expecting her to make him feel better the way she had the last time. It suddenly felt like a huge imposition, like he was using her.

“Stop that.” She lightly slapped his shoulder.

He blinked. “What?”

“There is no shame in seeking solace when and where you need it.” Her gentle smile reassured him that coming here had been a good choice. “I am honored to be your safe harbor.”

Tony found himself smiling back at her. He couldn’t remember anyone ever saying that to him before.

Her eyes drifted to the piano. “Would it help to play?”

Tony looked at the upright. It had helped before; the keys speaking better for him than anything he might actually try to say. But this time, Tony thought he might actually need to talk to someone. His thoughts and emotions were too scattered and discordant, all jumbled pieces and sharp edges. The music he made would reflect that, and he wanted more than to simply expel his feelings. He wanted to make sense of what happened between him and Jeanne. He needed to find some sort of closure.

“Could we talk?” He asked, tone hesitant, uncertain.

“Certainly.” She pointed to one of the tables. “Go sit. I’ll bring glasses and the bottle.”

Tony sat down, faintly amused to realize it was the first time he’d sat at one of the tables. On his other visits he’d been either at the bar or the piano.

Bridget set two glasses with ice on the table, pouring a shot into each one. She took her seat, placing the bottle off to one side, within easy reach. Tony’s fingers curled loosely around his glass. He didn’t really want a drink, but somehow it felt better to have one to hold.

The silence between them lengthened as he struggled to figure out what to say and how to say it. He didn’t want to really go over everything that happened. Some of it probably wouldn’t make much sense if he didn’t, but then maybe it wouldn’t have to make sense to Bridget. She hadn’t exactly asked for much information the last time and still managed to give him what he’d needed.

Unlike Abby, Bridget didn’t try to fill the void for him. Nor was she like Ziva, jumping into a situation she probably couldn’t fully understand, offering advice in a manner that implied she knew more than he did. Bridget didn’t offer anecdotes the way Ducky might have trying to encourage him to speak, or look nervous by his lack of animation the way McGee often did. And her silence wasn’t judgmental and impatient the way Gibbs’ usually was. She simply waited, sipping her drink, giving him all the time he needed.

“Have you ever wondered about the right thing?” Tony finally asked. He’d done what Ziva had all but ordered; he’d given Jeanne the answer he thought would make it easier for her to move on and forget about him. But he wasn’t sure he’d done the right thing. He wasn’t certain he wanted to be forgotten, wasn’t sure he wanted to let her walk out of his life, and he couldn’t help second guessing himself. A lie had gotten him into this situation; it seemed almost too ironic for a lie to be what got him out.

Bridget pursed her lips, considering his question. “You mean have I wondered what the right thing was, if I should do it or have I wondered if I did the right thing?”

Tony bit his lower lip. “All of them.”

“Most of the time, when given a chance to think about it, I do what I believe to be right at the time, and hope when the dust settled I made the right call. It can be a bit of a crap shoot really.”

Tony grimaced. He’d hoped for something more definitive. But he appreciated her honesty.

“However, when it came to those damned if you do and damned if you don’t sort of situations, I’ve always known immediately when I did the right thing.”

“How?” Was there some obvious sign he’d missed? Some litmus test that would make it clear?

“It hurt like hell. Each and every single time.”

Tony found himself nodding. Telling Jeanne that nothing between them had been real hurt more than he’d thought possible. It wasn’t easy to deny loving her. Hell, it hadn’t been easy admitting it.

Bridget sighed softly, turning her glass between her fingers. “And knowing how much it would hurt is what usually made me hesitate to do it in the first place.”

Tony nodded again. He’d needed Ziva to prod him into it. He’d needed her to force him to take that last step and kill any hope of having anything with Jeanne ever again. What did that say about him as a man? That he couldn’t do what was necessary without a push.

“In the end it didn’t matter if I hesitated or not.”

Tony blinked. “Why not?”

“Because the end result is the same. The right thing got done.”

Bridget had a point. And it wasn’t like he’d left Jeanne dangling for months. He’d hadn’t even known where she’d gone, much less how to get in touch with her. And when it came right down to it, he’d given her the clean break she needed almost as soon as he had the opportunity to do so. He sighed. Her clean break left him with a lot of ragged edges.

“Did you ever regret it?” Tony toyed with his glass. “Doing the right thing, I mean.”

“Many, many times. It’s hard not to when you feel like you’ve been kicked in the chest.” She gave him a rueful smile. “After awhile though, I realized doing the right thing is its own reward. I suppose it only makes sense that it would take time to get anything good out of it. Have to balance that initial punishment somehow, right?”

“Right.” Tony snorted. He didn’t think he’d see the reward for giving Jeanne what she needed for a long, long time. Assuming Bridget was right and there was a reward to be had.

Tony finished his drink, and Bridget poured them both another shot. He watched the light play off the amber liquid and heavy crystal. He finally looked up, making eye contact to ask, “Have you ever been in love?”

“A few times.” Bridget smiled. “Both kinds actually.”

Tony cocked his head. “Both kinds?”

“There’s the kind that’s like a wildfire. A force of nature…raw, powerful, and hotter than the hubs of hell.” She shook her head. “It’s wonderful in the moment. But its more lust than love and it doesn’t last.”

She sipped her drink. “And then there’s the kind that’s more like a candle. It’s not overly bright or terribly hot, but it’s warm and comfortable. It makes the thought of promising to forsake all others seem like an easy one to make, and that in ten years you would have no regrets about doing so.”

Tony knew a lot about the first kind. It was basically all he knew until Jeanne. He thought what he had with her might have been the second kind. But her card asked him to choose, and even if she hadn’t really meant anything by that note, forsaking all others to go with her wasn’t the choice he’d made. Not that he had any sort of romantic interest in his team…but they were his family. And unlike Jeanne they at least knew who he really was. They knew about Jeffery White, the plague, Paula, his father---they knew more about Tony DiNozzo than Jeanne ever did or every would. He couldn’t be who she thought he was, and she couldn’t love who he really was. Tony rubbed his face. The whole operation was fucked up from the beginning.

“I never meant to hurt her,” Tony muttered, staring into his glass.

“But you did anyway?” Bridget asked softly. There was no censure in her question, no judgment or blame.

“Yeah.”

Bridget reached across the table and took one of his hands in hers. “From the look of you, I’d say pain wasn’t all one sided.”

“No, not all one sided.” Tony sighed. She’d tried to frame him for murder. Maybe he’d deserved that. He’d hurt her first, it was only fair for her to return the favor, right? Thinking that was one reason he’d taken Ziva’s advice. He felt like he owed it to Jeanne to give her whatever she needed to move on with her life. It wasn’t her fault her father was an arms dealer or that the Director had an axe to grind. She’d been an innocent bystander.

He grimaced. Maybe Jeanne wasn’t all that innocent since she saw nothing wrong with giving false testimony to the FBI. He still didn’t know if she really believed he was somehow responsible or if it was just a way to get back at him. But if she even thought him capable of that certainly spoke volumes about how little she knew him. He didn’t kill people without provocation. And he’d liked her father, damn it.

“Did she mean to?”

Tony frowned. He’d been so lost in his thoughts he wasn’t sure what Bridget was asking. “Mean to what?”

“Did she mean to hurt you?”

“Oh yeah, she meant to.” Being accused of murder was definitely premeditated and deliberate. It was no accident.

Bridget leaned forward, her eyes searching his. “That she got hurt doesn’t give her carte blanche to return the favor.”

Tony shook his head, still feeling guilty. “Most people would disagree with you on that score.”

Bridget gave an unladylike snort. “I’ve told you before, most people are idiots.”

“Eye for an eye—“

“Will leave us all blind.” Bridget pointed out dryly. “Some times the only way to get ahead is to let it go.”

Is that what I did, Tony wondered. By telling Jeanne that nothing between them had been real, had he let go? It had felt like it at the time. It was what he’d been trying to do. To let her go and make it easier for her to let him go and get on with her life, to go find happiness and love and forget about him. It was his intent, but he had no real idea if he’d succeeded.

Tony sighed. His intentions hadn’t seemed to matter before. The outcome was far from what he’d hoped for.

“Our intentions always matter,” Bridget said quietly, making Tony wonder if he’d said what he was thinking aloud or if she was just that good at reading him. He decided he didn’t care either way. He had a more pressing question to ask.

“Why do they matter?”

“Because our intentions are the only things we have complete control over. The outcome isn’t always ours to dictate.” Bridget let go of his hand, reaching up to cup his face. “Not knowing how things will turn out…meaning well at least gives us a fighting chance of getting good results.”

She patted his cheek. “You are a good man, Tony.”

She’d said as much before, but Tony wasn’t entirely certain he believed her. “How can you be so sure?”

“Because, it is obvious, even without all the details, you tried to do the right thing, for the right reasons. That it didn’t turn out quite the way you’d hoped isn’t something to be ashamed of.”

“Not so sure of that.”

She smiled. “It took Edison more than two thousand tries to get a light bulb that worked. The many failures don’t negate his success. And without his drive and determination to get it right, we’d be sitting in the dark.”

Tony rolled his eyes. “If at first you don’t succeed—“

“Try, try again.”

“How is it that so much of life can be boiled down to a few old adages?”

“Because something never change.” She shrugged, sitting back and sipping her drink. “The best advice I can give you…if you know what went wrong, don’t make the same mistake twice.”

Tony had already decided he wasn’t going undercover without better back up and full disclosure of the mission ever again. At the time, with Gibbs gone, he’d been flattered by what he thought was a show of faith. It felt good to have at least one person in the agency think he was capable. In hindsight, Tony realized he was just as gullible as he accused McGee of being. He should have looked deeper, and asked more questions. It made no sense that his team wasn’t involved. But he’d been a good little soldier and had done what he was ordered to do. He wasn’t going to make that mistake again.

Shepard’s obsession had gotten him into something he never should have been involved in. Her motives were anything but pure that was for certain. He wouldn’t be surprised to find out she’d been the one to shoot Renee. Kort was more the sort to blow up the boat. Surgical precision didn’t seem to be the CIA agent’s forte. Tony didn’t regret punching him in the nose. Even if he hadn’t killed Renee, the son of a bitch deserved it.

Tony felt better than he had since….well, since his last visit to Patty O’Malley’s. “You’re good at this.”

“I’ve had practice, laddie.” She grinned at him. “Lots and lots of it.”

Tony hesitated for a moment before asking, “May I ask you something personal?”

“Sure.” She shrugged. “If I don’t want to answer it I won’t.”

Tony dipped his head in acknowledgement. “You said you’d known both kinds of love?”

“I did.”

“What happened with your candle?” She’d described it as the sort of love that lasted, yet there was no ring on her finger. And she didn’t have that married vibe he’d always been able to sense from women.

Her lips curled upward in a sad smile. “The warmth and light of it was enough for me, but he wanted something that burned hotter and brighter.”

“He cheated on you?” Tony guessed.

“Yes.”

Tony wanted to punch whoever the guy was…just on general principle. “What did you do?”

“I blew out the candle and I let him go.”

Tony knew he looked skeptical. “You turned off your feelings just like that?”

“Not just like that, no. Took a lot of time and more effort than I’d expected. But I refused to be petty and small about it. I gathered up what was left of my pride and dignity and went on with my life and let him get on with the one he’d chosen.”

She sighed softly, finishing her drink. “But blowing out the candle makes for a lovely analogy doesn’t it?”

“It does.” Tony had to agree. “But—“

“Not to worry, my friend, love is still a wonderful, beautiful thing to me. I’m bit older, a little wiser and not afraid to light another candle.” She laughed softly, reaching into her shirt pocket to toss him a pack of matches, giving him a pointed look. “You might get burned, but most of the time, it’s worth it. Don’t be afraid to light another candle of your own, Tony.”

He had caught the pack easily. He smiled when he spotted a leprechaun peeking out from behind a shamrock. The logo matched the sign above the door.

He shook his head. “Not sure I ever had a candle.”

“You will some day. Trust me.”

It wasn’t like with his team where he knew he could trust them to look out for him in a firefight or on the job. But he did trust her. Bridget asked little of him, and only seemed to have his best interest at heart. And he could honestly say she was only one of a handful of people he’d met he could say that about.

He got up and kissed her cheek. “Thank you.”

“Any time, my friend, any time.”

Chapters: 1

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