Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 4471
Character(s): Tony DiNozzo
Category(ies): Episode Related
Pairing(s): - No Pairing -
Episode(s): 6-25 Aliyah
Summary: After getting back from Israel...Tony still needs to process things. He goes to the one person that helped him the last time his world turned upside down.
Author Notes: Companion piece to Music and Memories, Con Affecto, Adagio, and Coda
Impromptu - A short piano piece, often improvisational and intimate in character
Tony studied the heavy oak door of Patty O’Malley’s Pub, silently wondering what he was doing there. The last time he’d been there, over a year ago, was right after Jeanne Benoit had accused him of killing her father. He’d considered going after Shepard’s funeral, but he’d been reassigned as agent afloat and was shipping out too quickly for him to make the drive there and back.
He sighed heavily, shrugging his shoulders to relieve some of the tension that had settled in. He winced as broken bones, bruises and stretched ligaments let him know the movement hadn’t been appreciated. Ducky had wanted to x-ray his arm again to make sure he hadn’t done any further damage while away, but Tony had put him off. It could wait until tomorrow…or rather later today, Tony amended looking at his watch and realizing is was just after two in the morning.
It was past last call. By all rights the doors should be locked. But a lamp was still on in the window, and since he’d already come this far, Tony figured he might as well at least try the door.
He was not entirely surprised to find it unlocked. He hadn’t been to the place a lot, but the door had been open every time he’d stopped by. Stepping inside, Tony let the door close softy behind him.
The room was empty, but faint traces of smoke still lingering in the air indicated the patrons had left a few minutes ago. The only artificial light still on, other than the lamp in the window, was above the bar. A few candles remained glowing softly on several tables. They flicked for a moment, reacting to the draft the opening and closing of the door had created, making shadows dance across dark wooden table tops which gleamed with a high gloss polish that only came from diligent effort and care.
Tony smiled when he spotted Bridget behind the bar. Her short silver hair looked almost like a halo as it caught and reflected the overhead light. He stepped forward making his footsteps deliberately heavy, not wanting to startle her in case she hadn’t heard the door. He was hesitant to move to fast or say anything, unsure if she’d even remember him. It had been awhile after all. It wasn’t like he was a regular or had even stayed in touch since his last visit.
She looked up from whatever she was doing, hazel eyes finding him quickly in spite of the low light. As he stepped closer, Bridget smiled. It was warm and welcoming. Tony felt something inside of him uncurl seeing it. She did remember him.
“Well hello there, laddie.” Her accent was just as gentle and warm as her smile. “Tis been awhile.”
“Yes, it has.” Tony agreed, with a sigh as he took a seat in front of her.
She studied him intently, head cocked to one side. The sling he still wore made it obvious there was something wrong with is arm, and Tony was sure his slow, careful movements were made it equally obvious it wasn’t just his arm that hurt. Bridget clucked her tongue, brow furrowing in a frown.
“You look like nine miles of bad road, Tony.”
Tony chuckled, amused in spite of himself. “Feel like it to.”
Her expression was sympathetic. “I’m guessing you’ve had yourself a new worst day.”
“You could say that.” It was actually more than one, but Tony had lost count somewhere along the way.
She stretched across the bar and planted a quick kiss on his cheek. “I wish I’d been wrong.”
“So do I,” Tony said with a sad smile, warmed by both the gesture and the sentiment.
After his car had blown up and Jeanne had vanished, Bridget had told him the worst day of his life might be yet to come, and she hadn’t been wrong about that. Ending things with Jeanne had figuratively cut him open and left him bleeding---but having someone he cared about, someone he worked with for years question his motives, say she didn’t trust him, threaten to kill him---that was so much worse.
“You haven’t had your best day yet then either?”
Tony shook his head. At least he didn’t think so. He couldn’t honestly say for sure if any from here on out was going to qualify as his ‘best’.
Bridget patted his right arm, squeezing once. “Well there is some hope for that then. The best is yet to come.”
Tony’s lips curled in a wry smile. “Trying to put a silver lining on my cloud, Bridget?”
“If I can.”
If anyone could, Tony thought, it would be you. She had every other time he’d been here. Which was probably the reason he was here now.
“Will you be wanting a drink?”
“If you’ve got some good stuff lying around, I would love a glass.”
“I always keep the good stuff on hand.” She winked at him, reaching for a bottle and setting up two glasses. She poured a shot into one and offered it to him. “Sporting that sling, I’d say you playing my piano is out of the question.”
Tony nodded, accepting the glass. He wouldn’t be playing for at least six weeks, but it could be as much as two months or more. The doctor who set his arm said it would be fine. The break was bad, but could still heal without help as long as he took it easy. A long ass flight to Israel and back in a military transport with a pilot incapable of missing any turbulence, dealing with hostile agents of a foreign power, and getting knocked on his ass by his partner probably didn’t qualify as taking it easy. Tony had a feeling the pin the doctor thought might be needed would be something Ducky confirmed with a new batch of x-rays.
“You want to talk about it?”
Tony could readily appreciate that her question was a genuine offer to listen, not a demand for information. Funny how different the two can sound, Tony mused silently even when the same words are being used. He took a sip of his scotch, taking a moment to savor the aged, smoky flavor.
“I killed a man.”
Tony didn’t realize until after he’d said it out loud how blunt that declaration was. He shook his head, calling himself a moron. You don’t just say shit like that, Tony told himself, it scares people. And with good reason. He opened his mouth to explain, to ease any fear or worry he might have unintentionally created, but stopped when her eyes met his. There was no alarm or panic in her eyes, no wariness or tension in her expression.
“I’m sorry you were forced to do that. I know it couldn’t have been easy for you.”
“How do you know I had to? That it wasn’t easy?” Tony asked, his tone more harsh than he intended. Since killing Michael Rivkin nearly everyone he spoke to seemed to think Tony had seen a golden opportunity to kill a romantic rival, or they implied Tony was too scared or inept to have merely wounded the man opting for lethal force rather than risk sustaining any more injuries of his own.
“I’ve run into all kinds over the years.” She sipped her drink, hazel eyes fixed unwaveringly on him. “Tony, you are not a cold blooded killer. You aren’t petty, spiteful or mean. You are not weak or cowardly. If you killed a man, it was because you didn’t have a choice.”
Tony shook his head. “People who have known me longer, know me better, would disagree with you.”
She snorted derisively. “I’ve told you before—“
“Most people are idiots, I know.”
“It’s good you know; it would be better if you agreed.”
Tony smiled sardonically. “I should just accept, oh wise one.”
“Yes, Grasshopper, you should.” She grinned brightly.
Tony smirked, delighted with her pop culture reference. It was amazing how much better it made him feel to know someone had faith in him. That someone believed he wasn’t capable of cold blooded murder.
Bridget’s expression became serious again. “Another thing I know is people have a tendency to assume what motivates them also motivates others. That what they are capable of doing, others will do as well.”
She gave him a pointed look. “Whoever thought you killed this man for any reason other than defense of self or someone else, likely ascribed to you motives they would consider valid for killing another human being. It says more about them than it does about you.”
Tony frowned. He hadn’t thought of it that way. Director David had used his own son like a weapon, and then had his daughter execute him when it looked like Ari might not be completely under his thumb. Tony was pretty sure that put Eli David in the cold blooded category. Eli David was mean and spiteful enough to send Rivkin to seduce his daughter, testing her loyalty. Using his own father as a benchmark, Tony had a feeling Ziva staying behind didn’t mean she’d permanently passed the old man’s test. He wouldn’t hesitate to test her again and again. Nothing she could do now would be enough for him. Why she didn’t get that, Tony didn’t know. Tony had realized when he was twelve he’d never be good enough for his father; at that point, Tony recognized gaining his father’s approval was like chasing a shadow, and he simply walked away.
Vance hadn’t thought Tony should have won the confrontation with Rivkin. Hell, Vance probably would have preferred it if Tony had lost. It would have made things much easier for him. It was a safe bet Rivkin wouldn’t have been called in for interrogation to answer for his death. Vance might have made a show for political reasons, but it was far more likely Tony’s death would have been swept under a rug, conveniently written off a love triangle gone bad. Vance sure as hell wouldn’t have mourned Tony. Did that make him spiteful or cold blooded? Tony didn’t know. Either way, the lack of faith in Tony’s abilities spoke volumes. It wasn’t like he hadn’t known Vance had no respect for him, but that he would willingly feed Tony to the wolves was another matter entirely.
Ziva had the skill and training necessary to hold her own against Rivkin. Maybe she could have simply wounded him and assumed Tony should have been able to likewise. Except that she had the same disregard for his abilities Vance did. She assumed Michael had Tony outclassed---Why then could she not understand deadly force was necessary to stop him? Michael wasn’t going to stop just because Tony asked nicely. Hell, he’d begged the man, damn it.
Would Ziva have begged Michael to stop before she put him down if she’d been in Tony’s shoes? Would she have hesitated over killing a lover? She hadn’t flinched when it came to killing her own brother. To Tony’s knowledge Ziva had never backed down from killing anyone. Yet she thought Tony should have been able to. Did that make her a hypocrite? Or just cold blooded?
Maybe she truly loved Michael---even if she claimed not to be sure, it was still likely she cared deeply for him. For all her training, her skills and ability, Ziva did have a heart---Tony knew that. She could fall in love and be just as blindly angry over seeing a loved one hurt as anyone else. He just wished she’d have understood that he was only trying to protect her. He hadn’t set out to kill Rivkin, he just wanted to keep Ziva from being hurt by him the way Tony had hurt Jeanne. As stupid and implausible as it sounded to Ziva, he really had been watching out for his partner. If she couldn’t see that, was it because she wouldn’t do the same for him?
Ziva really hadn’t done much when it came to Jeanne---before or after knowing about the case and how Tony felt. She had suspicions things weren’t right with him---she knew his disappearing during an active case, his being tired all the time, his running errands for Shepard, not talking about his girlfriend…none of that was usual for him, but she never followed up. Did that mean she trusted him more than he trusted her? Or just that Ziva wasn’t as nosy as Tony? Maybe being a partner didn’t mean to her what it meant to him?
And after she found out, knowing how having Jeanne walk away had hurt him, Ziva had been anything but supportive. Her little pep talk in the men’s room was certainly proof of that.
Gibbs hadn’t said much of anything, as usual. Tony didn’t know what the man thought, except that like Vance, he didn’t think Tony had the skill or ability to take Rivkin. He was right. If the man hadn’t been drunk, Tony would have been the one to die. Tony liked to think Gibbs would have taken his death as personally as he took Kate’s, but he couldn’t help doubting that would be the case. Rivkin wasn’t Ari. He wasn’t some rogue assassin, or double agent. Rivkin hadn’t made Gibbs look bad by holding people hostage at NCIS headquarters or kidnapping one of Gibbs’ people or threatened innocent civilians. His killing Tony might not have inspired the same sort of righteous fury.
Tony sighed softly. At least Gibbs hadn’t acted like he blamed Tony. Hell, he’d ordered Tony to keep an eye on Rivkin. The only censure he got from the former Marine was over his failure to take back up. Gibbs understood he was trying to look out for his partner…and that counted for a lot. Knowing Gibbs still trusted him, still expected him to do his job, made taking one for the team possible.
Tony had no idea what motives McGee and Abby might have assigned to his actions. They no doubt thought he had the hots for Ziva the way everyone else seemed to. It made Tony want to bang his head against the bar. Other than Paula Cassidy Tony had never dated or even been seriously interested in someone he worked with. Apparently all the flirting he did made it easy to overlook that fact. Not to mention the fact Ziva wasn’t interested in him, and never had been. He might chase the unobtainable at times but he’d never obsessed over it. He’d always, always respected a woman’s right to say no and mean it.
Ducky and Palmer seemed to believe Tony had killed Rivkin because he had no other choice. But then neither was skilled at self defense so they wouldn’t just assume something less than deadly force was an option. And they knew his relationship with Ziva had never been even remotely romantic.
They were the only ones to ask if he was all right. Everyone else seemed to think that since he was upright and mobile he was fine. He hadn’t bothered to say otherwise. What was the point? Rivkin was dead; obviously Tony was better off than him so he had no business whining. He knew Ducky’s report had said the injuries both he and Rivkin had sustained were consistent with Tony’s recounting of the events. Ducky hadn’t asked how Tony had managed to be victorious, and Palmer was the only one to tell Tony if it had to be him or Rivkin that he was glad it had been Tony. Jimmy really was a good guy, a good friend. Tony made a note to buy him his favorite cup of coffee as a thank you.
Tony finished his drink, grateful Bridget was willing to wait patiently for him to work through his thoughts. He was grateful she hadn’t pressed him to respond. She hadn’t pushed for more information or insisted he stop being so damn cryptic.
Tony cocked his head to one side, staring at her. She stared calmly back. He’d never told her everything about Jeanne, and she’d helped him more than any one else. Her show of faith in him, her willingness to simply accept what he had to say and not demand more information suddenly made him want to share all the sordid details about what happened with Ziva and Rivkin. He really didn’t care that it was once a matter of ‘national security’ and that she didn’t have clearance. He wanted her unique perspective on everything that happened.
Tony started talking before he could think of a good reason not to. He took his time, organizing the details into a timeline that made sense without having to tell her everything that had happened over the last few years. He wanted her to understand about Ari and how he fit into it. He wanted her to know who Kate was, so Bridget would understand whose place it was Ziva had taken. He wanted her to understand how long he’d worked with Ziva, what she’d been to him---and everything she wasn’t. He wanted her to know politics played such a large part in things, so much grandstanding and posturing going on everyone seemed to have lost sight of the fact Michael Rivkin was spy who’d killed more than one man in the US.
Tony sipped on his scotch occasionally, not really noticing how often Bridget refilled it. What he was aware of was that she never interrupted, and never stopped listening. He couldn’t remember ever having such a devoted audience. If he’d let himself think about it, Tony would have been embarrassed. Usually the only time people gave him such undivided attention was when he was acting out or was being punished for something. As it was, he was just grateful to have the chance to work through so much crap which had been festering.
By the time he was done, Tony felt drained. Catharsis, he thought vaguely, was the right word for what he’d just done. He sighed tiredly.
“May I ask you a question?” Bridget asked after several moments of silence.
Tony nearly laughed. She had listened to everything he’d spewed, letting him rant and ramble, without once interrupting. She’d earned the right to ask him anything she wanted.
“If you had it to do over again, would you do the same thing?”
Tony opened his mouth to growl out an immediate, defensive answer, but stopped himself before he could say anything. Her question didn’t have a judgmental or demanding tone. She wasn’t looking to interrogate him. She really wanted to know. And he decided it was worth thinking about before answering.
He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, weighing his thoughts and feelings with more care than he had when facing off against Eli David. “The only thing I’d have done differently….I’d have taken back up to Ziva’s apartment. Other than that, I wouldn’t change anything.”
“Well, with backup I might not have had to—“
“No, not that. Was protecting your partner that important?”
“Because it’s the right thing to do,” Tony answered with out hesitation.
From the day he started as a cop, Tony had always looked out for his partner…regardless of who they were or whether or not they needed it. He just did. Tony wasn’t sure he’d be able to look at himself in the mirror if he became the kind of man who just ignored or overlooked his partner being in trouble. He’d looked the other way once with Shepard and she died because of it. He was never doing that again.
“Would you still have confronted Rivkin?”
Tony frowned. He pursed his lips, trying to find the right words. “Once I found him at her apartment, I didn’t really have any other choice. I couldn’t just walk away without taking him in for questioning.”
According to Ducky, the ICE agent’s death was likely an accident but the fact remained Rivkin had killed him. Murder was the sort of thing Tony was paid to investigate and make people answer for. The fact Rivkin had killed the agent while spying on a top secret meeting made more than merely murder; it was damn close to an act of terrorism. Had Rivkin been anything other than Israeli, Tony would probably have gotten a medal for keeping tabs on him and trying to take him into custody.
Tony sighed heavily. “I would have preferred things turned out differently.”
“Yeah, I know.” Bridget nodded. “But regardless of the outcome, if you did what you believed to be right, what you believed necessary, you have no cause for regrets.”
Tony wanted to believe that. He really did. He sighed, rubbing tiredly at his eyes.
“If I’d have minded my own business, Ziva wouldn’t have gotten hurt.”
Tony blinked. “Excuse me?”
“Whether it was you or someone else, eventually she would have learned the truth, because in spite of our best efforts the truth is damned hard to keep buried.” Bridget stated with quiet authority. “She was going to get hurt…it was a question of when and how bad.”
Tony knew she was right. In time, Ziva would have found out Rivkin was playing her. Still, it could have been delayed or handled better. He said as much.
“Delaying the inevitable never makes it hurt any less.” Bridget shrugged one shoulder. “And there is never a good way to find out you are a pawn on someone else’s chessboard. Particularly when the people using you are supposed to be people you can trust.”
Her reference to trust made Tony flinch. “She told Gibbs she couldn’t work with me any more because she didn’t trust me. She said I betrayed her. The worst of it is, I don’t know if I did or not.”
“You didn’t,” Bridget stated with conviction. “You can’t betray a trust that was never given any more than you could leap off the roof of this building and fly.”
“She didn’t trust you enough to be honest, to share her secrets, to listen to your concerns or even hear what you had to say. She claimed to trust your boss, but she didn’t tell him either.”
Even after Rivkin had killed a terror suspect, Ziva had told Gibbs only that she knew him…Not how well. Tony knew she hadn’t contacted Mossad to find out what the hell he was doing in California Had Rivkin left when ordered to, it might have all come to nothing. But his being in DC when he should have been in Tel Aviv was the core problem---and Ziva never said a word. And that was exactly the sort of thing she should have told Gibbs. She should have been willing to question what Rivkin was doing there---a woman so suspicious of everyone’s motives to Rivkin at face value. Maybe she really did love him, or at very least she wanted to.
“It’s hard to serve two masters and still be true to yourself.” Bridget said philosophically. “What is good for one, is bad for the other. You do what’s right for you, you can’t honor commitments to either. Something has to give. No one wins.”
Tony smiled ruefully. He’d had a taste of that. Working for both Shepard and Gibbs hadn’t been nearly as extreme as what Ziva had attempted or for nearly as long. He never, ever wanted to be in a position like that again.
“Even knowing she’s a pawn on her old man’s chessboard, she opted to stay in Israel.”
Bridget shook her head. “I have never understood why it is blood so often trumps common sense.”
“Me either.” Tony shook his head. His family was made up of the people he picked, not the ones he’d been saddled with at birth. Maybe that was why he didn’t get it.
Tony sighed deeply. “I hope she’s okay.”
Bridget raised her glass in a toast gesture. “May God shelter in the palm of his hand all those we hold dear.”
Tony clinked his glass against hers. “Amen.” They both downed the remainder of their scotch in one swallow, and then their glasses were set down on the bar with a definitive thunk.
Tony felt much better for talking with Bridget. It hadn’t changed anything. Not really. Rivkin was still dead. Ziva still hated him, and she probably wasn’t coming back. But getting a fresh perspective had helped a lot. Realizing he truly had done what he thought was right, that he would do it again lessened the guilt he felt over being instrumental in hurting his partner when all he’d wanted to do was protect her.
“Thank you, Bridget.”
“No thanks necessary.” She smiled gently. “I told you before I was honored to be your safe harbor. That has not changed.”
Tony leaned forward and kissed her cheek. “I’m still grateful.”
She dipped her head in an abbreviated bow. “In that case, you are welcome.”
Tony yawned widely, belatedly covering his mouth. He was suddenly overwhelmingly tired, and feeling the effects of the scotch he’d consumed. He gave Bridget a sheepish look. “Sorry. It’s been a long day, and I probably shouldn’t have had so much to drink.”
“No need to apologize. Cot is still where it was the last time if you want to make use of it.”
“You don’t mind?”
“If I minded, I wouldn’t have mentioned it.” She made a shooing motion. “Go.”
Tony went. He hummed quietly to himself the lullaby Bridget had played for him the last time he’d stopped by. As he lay down he could hear her singing the same song, and he smiled.
“Pleasant dreams,” he whispered, sending it out as both a wish and a prayer for everyone he knew.