Monday, August 19, 2013

Shards To A Whole: Chapter 178

McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.

Chapter 178: Gear Up

"McGee, DiNozzo, gear up. Dead Marine out of Chapel Hill," Gibbs says as he puts his phone down.

"Gibbs?" Ziva asks, perfect inflection of why aren't you bringing me along in her voice.

"Gonna be at least overnight, and I need someone here to keep an eye on things."

Tim glances over and sees Tony grabbing his go bag looking mildly pouty. He's been talking all day and all yesterday about how Ohio State is playing tonight and he can't wait to see it. Stuck in a crappy motel room dealing with a murder is not the way he wants to see that game.

When it hits him that Ziva's not coming, mildly pouty switched to downright unhappy.

"Boss," Tim says, hoping he sounds convincingly whiny. Ziva had gotten her part right, he's got to do his.

"One night alone won't kill her, Tim. Ziva's here, and so is Palmer. She'll be fine."


"Head down, say goodbye, and we'll meet you at the van."

He glares a little at Gibbs before grabbing his go bag and heading down to the lab.

Abby sees him and bursts into a huge grin. "Does Tony have any idea?"

"None." The smile that's been trying to break out since Gibbs' phone rang (Palmer calling to let him know he was on the road.) spreads across his face. "We pulled it off perfectly. Utterly clueless. He's silently pouting about missing the game and sleeping alone." He steps in close and kisses her. "Are you going to be okay on your own?"

"Are you kidding? Ziva, Breena, and I have a fabulous night planned. It's going to be an absolute blast. There's a new gay club out on 10th and we are going to dance until our feet won't hold us up anymore. You guys go, have fun. See you tomorrow."

He kisses her again, slow and deep. "Tomorrow."

They were driving past UNC's stadium. Tony eyeing it longingly as Gibbs drove. "This is so wrong. I'm supposed to be at home, with Ziva, watching this game in high def on a sixty inch screen. Cold beer in one hand, Ohio State t-shirt on, cheering my guys to victory. Of all the bad times to get murdered. Where is this guy supposed to be?"

"Tony, check your go bag."

"McGee?" He stopped gazing at the stadium and flashed Tim his annoyed and confused look.

"Just do it."

Tony did, and his eyebrows drew together. He always keeps a change of clothing in there, they all do, that's the point of a go bag, but his has… "My Ohio State shirt?"

"See an envelope in there?" Tim asks as Gibbs pulls into the UNC stadium parking lot.

Tony dug around for a minute longer, and Tim started to get a little nervous, getting everything packed was Ziva's job, and he didn't get a chance to double check and make sure everything was in there the way it was supposed to be.

But Tony came up with it after a minute and looked inside.

For another minute, as Gibbs parked, Tony just stared at the tickets, eyes wide and disbelieving. Finally he looked up at them and said, "Four court side seats?"

"Jimmy's waiting for us at the gate." Tim smirked at him. "Still think you don't want Jimmy or I planning your bachelor party?"

Tony looked back down at the tickets in his hand. When Ohio State made it to the final eight and got slotted into the UNC stadium, he had tried to get tickets, and they were completely sold out. "How did you get tickets to this?"

"Remember, I've got that cousin, and he knew a guy, and… I don't pay attention to basketball, but Jimmy noticed Ohio State made March Madness this year, so we put this plan into action."

Tony turned to Gibbs. "You knew?"

His expression said, of course. "You didn't think they'd take you out to a strip club and buy you lap dances, did you?"

"Well, no. That's why I didn't want them planning this."

"You'd rather be watching strippers?" Tim asked. He'd been hoping Tony'd like this.

That jerked Tony out of his shock. "No. I mean, this is beyond awesome." And Tim can see that's genuine. He just hadn't been expecting anything even remotely like this and it was taking him a minute to get his head out of pouting mode into celebrate mode. "I just… Jimmy came up with this?"

"Yeah, so let's get him so you can say thanks, and then watch this thing."

"McGee, do you even know enough about basketball to follow a game?" And that sounded a whole lot more like normal Tony.

"It's soccer with hoops. I'll do okay."

"Soccer with hoops?" Tony looked appalled and launched into a detailed exposition on the finer arts of basketball while stripping out of his work clothing into his fan clothing. He had half-noticed that Tim and Gibbs had both been a little more casual than usual for work clothing today, but not so much so that it was worth mentioning.

They found Jimmy a few minutes later, looking fairly relaxed, tucking his cell back into his pocket.

Tony smiled at him and said, "Tim tells me this was your idea?"

"Breena's really."

Tony nodded in appreciation of Breena. "You have the coolest wife ever."

"I agree."

"McGeek thinks this is soccer with hoops. Do you need a primer on basketball, too?"

Jimmy looked at Tim like he's a twit. "Soccer with hoops?"

Tim shrugged. "Eleven guys, start in the middle, run to the end, get the ball into the target, don't tackle each other, don't pick the ball up and carry it. Soccer with hoops."

Jimmy sighed and shook his head. "Lord, someone messed up your education. I played in junior high. I wasn't good or anything, but I at least know it's not soccer."

"Good." Tony said with a very wide and happy grin.

By conservative estimate there are nineteen million people in that stadium and they are all rabid UNC supporters. Home team at the home stadium and they are going bonkers.

To say they've gotten a few dirty looks, and some choice verbiage as they head to their seats due to Tony's shirt is an understatement.

But they are courtside, and luck had it they are on the Ohio State side of the court.

They get settled, comfortable, beer and dogs in hand, and are watching the pre-game show when the Ohio State Coach turns around to talk to one of the players and notices them.

"Tony DiNozzo?"

"Mark Ratham?"

Mark came forward and wrapped him in a back slapping hug. "What are you doing here, man?"

"Watching the game." He pulled back from Mark holding his shoulders. "Are you coaching?"

"Yeah, Bob Gilman got hit by a car last night, so I'm up."

Tony looked worried at that. Anything this close to a big game can mess with the cohesion of the team and that's a very bad thing. "Is the team going to be okay?"

"Oh, yeah, he'll be fine, so they'll be fine, but they want to keep him under 'observation' for twenty four hours. Those bastards at the hospital are UNC supporters."

"Oh." Tony nodded along. "Guy driving a UNC supporter, too?"

"Can't prove it, but I wouldn't doubt it. Look, game's starting in five, but if you want me to introduce you at halftime to the team, I'd be happy to."

"That'd be great."

Tim, Jimmy, and Gibbs are all giving him the fill us in look.

"Mark was my roommate sophomore and junior year. Seniors got singles in our house, so we split up then, but… yeah… a lot of my better college memories involve him. Wow. Haven't seen him in... twenty years."

"Spring break in Mexico?" Tim asked.

"Yeah. He got married and stopped coming. He was assistant coach for… I don't remember, some little school in corn country. Looks like he's moved up in the world."

Tim's, of course, heard all about Tony's college exploits. Everyone has. He'll talk your ear off about them. Though Tim has noticed the focus on what Tony did in college has shifted over the years. When he first started NCIS, he heard a lot more about partying and girls, and these days he hears a lot more about basketball.

Actually, these days, he hasn't heard a whole lot about Ohio State, period. It's probably been four years since Tony's brought it up, though he'll mention it when they're talking college type stuff.

Still, there's hearing the stories, which, Tim had figured were about two-thirds bullshit, and then there's seeing the guys on the team stare at Tony like he's some sort of mythological figure stepping out of the book and shaking their hands.

Twenty college kids are looking at Tony like he's some sort of God. One they pray to regularly.

And Tony is basking in it.

"Haven't seen you in forever, what are you doing these days?" Mark asks after introducing Tony around.

"Believe it or not, I'm a cop."

"You're a what?" Mark looks like he'd more readily believe Tony was a woman than a cop.

"Work for the Navy. I investigate crimes involving Navy or Marine personnel."

"You became a cop? Tony 'let me see how many laws I can break per night' DiNozzo became a cop?" Mark's laughing like this is the best joke ever.

"Not that many!" Tony's looking a little embarrassed.

"Dude, you didn't turn twenty-one until the end of your junior year, and good two-thirds of those girls were under eighteen." A little embarrassed had morphed to distinctly uncomfortable. Gibbs' eyes narrowed a little, and Jimmy crossed his arms. And Tim is suddenly understanding that there is a very big difference between having a daughter, and possibly having a daughter. Because while he definitely considers fooling around with underage girls a problem, he doesn't appear to be having the same sort of visceral reaction Gibbs and Jimmy are.

"So who are your buddies?" Mark asks, finally noticing there are three other guys here and two of them don't look even remotely happy about him.

Tim grinned. But there's no warmth there, and anyone who knows him knows that's not a friendly gesture, and he's kind of hoping Mark takes the hint to pull back after this. "Two more cops," he gestured at himself and Gibbs. "A medical examiner." Pointed to Jimmy. "And, oh" here he pointed back at Gibbs. "His father-in-law."

"You're married? You gonna tell me you've got the house, the dog, and the white picket fence next?"

"Not that far along yet, it's my bachelor party. Last I heard, you were married, too."

"Married didn't work out. At all. And, not that we aren't happy to see you here, but this is a lame-ass bachelor party. Hell, bachelor party is the best part of getting married. A bachelor party is the reason to get married! I was still drunk at the reception from mine… and the girls!"

Tim was deciding that Mark was the kind of guy he hated in high school, and fortunately didn't see much of in college. Tim can also see Tony's trying to figure out how to get out of this. There's only a few minutes more of halftime, and then they can get back to watching the game, hopefully without this clod hanging onto them.

"I'm having a great time."

"Oh." There's pity on Mark's face, and he's got a very clear expression of you're so whipped. "You want to come with us after the game? Turn this into a real bachelor party? There'll be pretty little girls begging for attention and booze galore. And I'm sure the boys would love to see you in action."

"Not my thing anymore." Tony flashed his patented DiNozzo charm smile and had stepped back from Mark.

Mark said, "Come on man, your pic, the one with the six girls and the beer bong, is still up on the wall of fame at our frat house." Mark turned toward the Tim, Jimmy, and Gibbs. "This here is the only man who made the wall of fame every single semester he was at Ohio State. There's still a little shrine to him at the Alpha Chi Delta frat house. So, come on, relive the glory days with the team? You're a hero, well, a myth, to these kids."

Tony sighed. "Mark, you see these three guys? They love my fiancée, almost as much as I do, and if I fool around on her, they will kill me and lose my body somewhere between here and home."

Tim and Jimmy are nodding and Gibbs is just coolly staring at Mark, very clearly signaling Get the hell out of here before I arrest you for statutory rape, and probably shoot you for resisting arrest along the way.

"Two-thirds of them under eighteen?" Gibbs asks Tony quietly, as Mark backs away from that stare and returns to his team.

The look on Gibbs' face is terrifying, so Tony answers honestly, "Yeah." Jimmy looks ready to hit Tony, too. "It was the '80s. We lived in a party frat. Girls are what make the party fun. ID checks were shaky at best back then, and we were famous for never, ever doing it. As long as you were cute enough that the guy at the door liked you, you got in. And Bob never saw a girl he didn't like. And we were all drunk, too. And when you're nineteen the idea that fourteen or fifteen is too young is silly because you still remember being fourteen and all you wanted to do then was get laid, and she's there, rubbing up against you, kissing you, tight and tiny little skirt, low cut top, clearly she knew what she was doing, so why not make some sweet young thing's night?"

Gibbs looks at Jimmy and Tim, letting them know they were about to see a practical application of instilling the Fear of Dad in someone, and then says, "You're gonna have girls. And so are they. Daughters and nieces, and they will be the light of your life, and you will love them more than you can even imagine, and assholes like the guy you used to be are going to be chasing after them. I hope you get an ulcer from worrying about them for each and every single one of those little girls you fucked!"

Tim's heard Gibbs swear before, he's fairly sure Tony has, too, but not sure about Jimmy. But, it's one thing to say fuck and mean I am irritated by the current set of circumstances and want something to express that and a whole other thing to say it and mean I am thirty seconds away from smacking the living hell out of you and the only reason I don't is because I know the man you are is not the man you use to be but so help me God if it ever looks like you are going to revert back to that guy I will kick your ass so hard you will limp for the rest of your very short life.

And Tim is deeply, sincerely, fervently glad that he's never had Gibbs that pissed at him, and that he's never done anything that will ever get Gibbs that pissed at him.

"Oh shit oh shit oh shit!"
Tony looks really disturbed and tries to laugh that off. "Come on, you were a Marine, you must have—"

"Stayed a virgin until my wedding night, when we were both twenty? Yeah, I did. And those two weren't fucking any little girls, either."

Tony's a little irked by that. He's fairly certain Tim or Jimmy would have happily slept with a fifteen or sixteen-year-old when they were nineteen if there had been one available. "Those two weren't fucking anyone period."

"Hey! I had a steady girlfriend junior and senior year of high school, and two more in college," Jimmy says. Tim cringes at that, now really wasn't a good time for Jimmy to forget his mental filter.

"Your high school sweetie, was she twelve?" Gibbs asks, eyes on Tony, very intense expression of pissed off not wavering. He's not looking at Jimmy at all.

"What? No!" Jimmy's utterly horrified by that idea.

"You love her?"


"You go to her house, look her dad in the eye when you talked to him, and treat his daughter with respect?"


He glanced at Jimmy for a second, face relaxing a little. "Then we don't have a problem." Then he turned back to Tony, eyes hot and angry. "You do any of those things, Tony?"


"You get their names?"

"Some of them."

Gibbs looks disgusted as he says, "You at least make sure they had a good time?"

"Too drunk and too full of myself to ever think they might need more than me just being there."

Gibbs eyes narrowed even further, and Tim can see the muscles in his jaws clenching. "You treated them like blow up dolls and jerked off in them, probably hurt at least a few of them doing it."

Tony nods.

"Get 'em sick?"

"Some of them gave me gonorrhea, crabs, and the clap, and, yeah, I passed them on as well."

"Get 'em pregnant?"

"No one ever showed up with a kid that looked like me, but I know for a fact that I'm not shooting blanks, so I can't believe that I didn't get at least a few of them pregnant."

"Did they say yes?" Gibbs' voice is very low, very dangerous when he says this, and Tim is really hoping that if the truth to that is no, that Tony has the good sense to lie and lie more convincingly than he's ever lied before.

"None of them was ever unconscious or said no. But a lot of them were very drunk."

"Barely walk on their own, don't remember anything in the morning drunk?"


"So yes, that's a problem."

"I know." And Tim thinks he really does, thinks that's why there haven't been any tales of the DiNozzo Party Machine in years.

"Good! And if need be, we are beating the idea that this is a problem with a two by four into any sons you, or they, may have."

"Yes, sir."

Gibbs looked satisfied that he had properly instilled the Fear of Dad into Tony and nodded. Then sat down in his seat, and looked in the direction of the now wrapping up half-time show.

A/N: So, no this chapter wasn't just a let's hate on Tony fest. I did want to do something to showcase exactly how far he's come from the DiNozzo Party Machine days. The man who was still going to Spring Break in Mexico at the age of thirty-five, land of the very-drunk and possibly underage girls is dead, and someone a whole lot better has replaced him. I wanted to take a second and look at the path he didn't take, and who he could have ended up. And to some degree, I wanted to touch on how the next generation of DiNozzos are going to be different from the previous two.

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