McGee-centric character study/romance. Want to start at the beginning? Click here.
Chapter 378: Used
Hour to bed later than usual, hour earlier getting up, and a busy mind in between… Jimmy's had better nights.
Once he's up and moving he fires off a text to Ziva. You on your jog?
A minute later he gets back: yes.
Whole thing was a hoax. There is kid, but he was born in '10, he's not sick. Jeanne died last week, and Helen went a bit crazy.
Nothing comes back on his phone but he can imagine what Ziva's doing.
He gives her another few seconds, but nothing comes up. I haven't told Tony, yet. Want to talk to him, in person, alone. Is that okay?
Got some things to say to him about this. He's not going to like them. You might not, either.
Things about Jeanne?
No. Anything I know about her, I'll tell you, too. Things about him and me. You want to be there for this, that's fine, just be easier the two of us.
What do you remember about Michelle Lee?
His cell stays blank for a moment, and then it rings. "Hi."
"I remember Lee. I was the only one she didn't try to convince she did the right thing."
"Not the only one." After all, what could she have said to him? I actually liked you. That would have been nice. I'm sorry. Yeah, that would have gone a long way, too.
"I'm sorry. I… knew, but…"
"Didn't put it together?"
"Because I'm a guy? And as long as I got laid, I was getting what I wanted, so what's the problem? Guys don't get used, they don't feel bad about it after, not if they get sex, right?"
Ziva's honest enough, with both herself and the people around her to not dissemble. "That's part of it, yes. Mostly though, because you ended it, before it blew up."
"Yeah. I did. Still bit me in the ass, though. Still got hauled in for questioning, for treason. Lucky Gibbs was running the investigation and he believed me. Still… had to deal with… all of it."
"Yeah, well… Anyway, got some things to say to Tony. About using people. About sexually using someone. They aren't complimentary. He's unlikely to enjoy them. If you wanted to get yourself some breakfast, say for two hours or so, it's my treat."
He can feel her nodding. "It really is a hoax?"
"Yeah. It is. Jeanne was in a car accident last week. She died. Helen... I don't know how she came up with it, but making Tony hurt seemed like a good idea to her. I've already talked to Helen, she's not going to pull anything again."
Jimmy stops for a second there. "Ziva, I'm sorry this screws you, too. I really am. I'm sorry you're in the middle of this. I'm sorry this isn't just done, and we can't just all relax and kick back and let it go. I'm sorry, for you, to you, that I can't just let it go. I want to. I'm a lot happier not thinking about this. But, right now, I can't get this out of my head, because I was where Jeanne was. So, I've got to go yell at him. And I know I'm going to hurt him, and I know that's going to hurt you, and I'm really sorry about that, because I don't want to be hurting you, but I don't know how I can stop hating him without it hitting you, too."
She doesn't say anything to that, and he wishes he could see her face, get a hint of what she's thinking. Finally she says, "You've already spoken to Helen?"
"How long have you known?"
"Since around six last night. I got into Aiden, the boy's, medical records around then. Couldn't find him on the bone marrow registry, so I went into the Federal Medical Database. Then I looked Helen up, found when she was on shift, and made sure she'd never pull anything on Tony again." She doesn't say anything. He has the sense that his apology is making a lot more sense to her right now. "Ziva?"
"You and McGee were working together to find Aiden?"
"Yeah. Tim was coming up empty because he had a name, but the wrong birthday, so... technically you aren't supposed to look up people who aren't your patients, but... any doctor has access to any patient, because you never know who'll roll in your door. It was the most direct way to get the information about him."
There's another quiet minute while she thinks about that. "I accept your apology, Jimmy." Her voice is tight as she says it, and he's got the sense there's something else in the background, something he doesn't know about, coming into play here.
"Thank you. Anything I say or do to him that you think is over the line, you get as many free shots as you want on me." As he says that, it occurs to him there's likely someone else hurting about this. "You want to give Gibbs a call? Let him know. Tell him I'm handling it."
"I can do that."
Jimmy knocks twice, and after a minute, a tired, distressed, eyes rimmed red, bloodshot, and utterly fried-looking Tony opens the door.
He supposes he should be feeling sympathy for his friend. He supposes that if it was real, he would be feeling sympathy. His own attention didn't shift off of the grief Tony was dealing with until he knew it was fake.
But he's not feeling any sympathy. He's feeling satisfied. That tiny little voice in the back of his head jumping up and down shrieking, You deserve this! Reap it, Tony, reap it! That little voice is making an awfully compelling argument to yell at Tony first, and then tell him it was a hoax. Because that voice remembers how he felt, how he looked, the morning after he found out what Lee had done.
Jimmy shuts it down. Twelve hours, one night, was enough. The first night is the worst. The first night hurts like fire and death, and that's what he wanted Tony to feel.
Jimmy follows him into their dining room, where the computer's on the table, Web MD, PubMed, American Lymphoma and Leukemia Association are up. Next to it is a bottle of bourbon, two thirds empty, a tumbler with about a quarter inch of bourbon in it, and a notebook filled with handwritten notes.
"Tell me you've got news," Tony says as he sits down.
Jimmy hands over both Aiden's birth certificate and Jeanne's obituary at once.
Tony looks from one to the other and back again. Eyes flicking so fast between them that he can't be actually reading what's on the pages. Confusion is written all over his face.
Finally he looks up at Jimmy. "These are real?"
"They're real. Aiden's five. He's healthy. Unless you and Jeanne had a one off for old time's sake 'round about New Year's 2010, there's no way he's yours."
Tony slumps with relief, shutting his computer, and then shoots back what's left of the bourbon in his glass. Then he stares at the obit. "What happened?"
"According to the police report she was driving, just over the limit or very close, car flipped, by the time anyone found her she was dead. Ruled an accident." Jimmy keeps his voice neutral, but as he sees Tony relax, sees the tension fade away, his own anger surges forward.
Tony's fingers gently touch Jeanne's face, and then he stands up, fast as it really, fully hits him what just happened, "That fucking bitch! I'm going—"
Jimmy's hand shoots out and he pulls Tony back into his seat. "You're going to do precisely nothing, at all, about Helen Berkley."
"Nothing, Tony." This would be when Tony notices that Jimmy's holding onto not falling into full on rage by his fingernails. "You're going to sit here, and you're going to listen to me. And you're going to talk. You're going to take me through what the hell it was you thought you were doing, and then you're going to listen some more, because there's a shit ton of stuff I never got to say to Michelle. So, you didn't fuck me over personally, fine. But you don't get to complain, because you fucked Jeanne over the exact same way, and you did it for a hell of lot worse reason that Lee did. So start at the fucking beginning and make me understand how this could have possibly made sense to you."
Tony shakes his head. "Can't be done, Jimmy. It was a bad case and it was a bad plan and everything about it went wrong."
"So, you what? Went in with your eyes open and fucked her knowing it was a bad plan?" Jimmy's staring at him, horrified. "I know you aren't a sociopath, so… what the fuck, Tony?"
"I… no. Not from day one. René Benoit was an arms dealer. Very security conscious. Very slick. No one could get close to him. No one could get enough for a conviction. Jen had spent a decade going after him, but he was a ghost. So, she hit me with a plan. He had a daughter. They weren't exactly close, but from everything they could find out he visited her a few times a year.
"He was a bad guy, Jimmy."
"Uh huh. That's why Ducky was so fond of him, so intrigued by him. Tell me about all the other murdering psychos Ducky liked."
Tony opens his hands… He can see this would be an especially bad time to bring up that one psycho Ducky was dating. "He sold guns to the murdering psychos, and he didn't care who they were or what they did with them."
Jimmy nods. He doesn't want to debate if René Benoit was a bad guy. He was. Fine. Doesn't justify what he did to Jeanne. "Why was NCIS even on the case? He was French, right?"
"Arming people fighting against us?"
"Operating in the US?"
Tony shakes his head. "Rarely."
"Stole weapons from us to sell?"
"Killed a member of the Navy?"
"Technically, no. Shepard was sure he killed her father, who was a Marine."
"What was the official story?"
"Colonel Sheppard was taking bribes from Benoit, it was found out, an investigation opened, and he killed himself."
"So… Jenny had a full morgue at her disposal, the power to order her father exhumed, could have had us go over the whole thing, top to bottom, proven that he'd been murdered, or not. She had an entire Federal Agency at her beck and call, that could have been tapping Jeanne's phone, keeping her under 24/7 surveillance, just waiting for Daddy to show up and swoop him up."
"But she didn't. And this guy's a complete ghost, but they were able to indict her daddy for taking bribes from him? How'd they know that, Tony? He's an arms dealer, you guys knew his name, that he had a daughter, and an ex-wife apparently, knew what he looked like, had at least some sort of money trail on him… How much of a ghost could he have possibly been?"
"I don't know," Tony shakes his head.
"So, it was, what, you and her?"
"I think Cynthia knew what she was doing, too."
"Oh, good, you and her, and the secretary. That's a brilliant plan. Just the three of you. That didn't, I don't know, tip you off to the fact that there was something intensely wrong about this? You've got Ziva and Tim sitting right next to you, someone who used to do missions like this all the time and the guy who can find anyone with a computer, and you didn't use them. Why?"
"Bullshit. We break dumb orders when we get them. We especially break orders to lie to each other about what we're up to."
Tony shakes his head. "Gibbs left. Last thing he said to me was, 'You'll do.' Not exactly a ringing endorsement. Shepard made me Acting Team Leader. That was a kick in the balls, too. A month and a few cases later, she calls me up. She's impressed with how well I've been doing. She's got a case. A case that only I can do." Tony flashes his patented DiNozzo charm smile. It looks ghastly on his tear-puffy face. "A case straight out of a James Bond movie."
"James Bond is a sociopath, not a hero!"
Tony ignores that. "The bad guy even has his own code name. La Grenouille. The Frog. Everyone else who has tried to take him down has failed. He has made, spotted, outed everyone else who's gotten close. But me, I'm Mr. Charm. I'm smooth, and dapper, look damn good in a tux, and it's my job to go in and be the one he'll never see coming. You want to know why I took it? Because it played perfectly into the image of the guy I wanted to be.
"I was smooth, and cool, and perfect." He licks his lips, very uncomfortable. "I was Jeanne's dream man. Warm, flirtatious, attentive, romantic. Over the top romantic. And she fell for me, and I fell for her, and… and then I didn't know how to get out of it."
"You didn't know how to get out of it?" Jimmy couldn't look less impressed with that if he tried, and Tony looks so embarrassed by it, he wants to squirm out of his skin.
"You tell the fucking truth, that's what you do! That's how you get out of it. You didn't know? You didn't want to get out of it! You wanted her to keep adoring you, and you knew she'd hate you when she found out, so you just kept it up, digging in deeper and deeper, cutting her heart out that much further each day you were there."
"It was my job…"
"Bullshit. Bull fucking shit, Tony! We're the good guys, right, Tony? I mean, that's why we do this, right? That's why you've got that badge, right? Because at the end of the day, we're the guys who fix up the mess; we're the guys who protect the innocent, right? That's the job. We've got all these laws, and all these regulations, and ideas and... and if we need to we say 'fuck 'em' because we do what we need to do to protect the people who need protecting. Always. That's who we are. We're supposed to be the goddamn white fucking knights who come to the rescue. We're supposed to protect the Jeannes, not pray on them!" Jimmy unclenches his fists, makes his breathing and heart calm down.
"You were getting a place together, right?"
"How was that going to work, Tony? You couldn't get out of it… How was it going to work? You going to lie to her forever? You think she'd be stupid enough to not notice when Dad goes missing?"
"I didn't… I loved her and—"
"Stop. Stop right there. You loved you. You loved how she made you feel. You're married now. I'm married now. Hopefully we both know enough about love to know that's shit, so don't even try that on me. If you had loved her, you would have told her who you were. You would have picked her over Shepard, over the job. I know if Vance walked in today and asked you to fuck over Ziva, you'd introduce his ass to your foot so hard you'd have to pry your shoe out from between his teeth. 'Cause that's how love works. You would have cared about how she felt, and you would have rather ripped your own heart out than have made her face that night where she knew who you really were alone, by herself, sitting on the floor crying for being stupid. You would have handed in your badge, and then gone to her, and told her everything, that's what you would have done if you had loved her.
Jimmy's not looking at Tony as he says this. He's looking behind him a little. "You know how that night feels Tony? Got any clue?
"I already knew Lee was using me. I felt it change. Playful vanished, fun fell away, we stopped spending time together that wasn't sex. It happens. She didn't actually like me, I guess, but liked what I could do for her, and that wasn't enough, so I broke up with her, told her I didn't want to be her fuck buddy. That getting laid wasn't enough." Jimmy sighs. "You break up, and… you've got all the why didn't it work, why didn't she like me, blah, blah, blah. At least I could scratch an itch for her. Maybe she didn't want to have dinner with me after, maybe I was too goofy for that, but hey, I'm good at sex, so there's that, right? But, you know, being a great fuck, that's really hollow when it's clear that she doesn't think you're a good enough person to get coffee with after.
"And then there's not even that." He's shaking his head while he says that. "There's not any of it. I had access to something she needed, and my dick was the easiest way to manipulate me into giving it to her." He bites his lip, still not looking at Tony.
"You feel used. You feel violated. You feel dirty. And so goddamn fucking stupid! She played me for more than a year. That's almost as long as you played Jeanne, for, right, Tony?"
Tony nods, curtly.
"And the what ifs… Hours of what ifs. What if I had headed back and seen her messing around? What if I had stayed with her a bit longer? What if I had broken up with her sooner? What if I had been smarter? What if… Jeanne must have had a million of them, too.
"I've wondered if that's what it feels like to be raped. 'Cause I sure as hell didn't consent to what she did to me, and Jeanne sure as hell didn't consent to what you did to her. Sure, no force, no bruises, and you're not scared when it happens, so, not the same as violent rape. You're not sitting there, shaking after. Maybe not. Maybe Jeanne wasn't. I was. Shaking that is. But I was shaking mad, not shaking scared, at least, once I knew I wasn't going to go to prison for treason; I was shaking scared, then. But, for me at least, force would have been easier; force would have been out of my hands. Someone holds a gun to my head, there's nothing I can do about it.
"But she didn't do that. She was warm, and cute, and sexy. And I was lonely and horny. And then a beautiful woman was smiling at me, listening to what I had to say, kissing me… I have to live with being the stupid son-of-a-bitch who let someone else use my desire, my need for affection, and body to turn me into a tool. I have to deal with being the one who was so bad at reading another person that I couldn't tell I was being used until it was way too late. I've got to live with the fact that people literally died, her among them, because she was able to play me. Because I wasn't smart enough to figure it out sooner.
"Jeanne never married. What a shock! All of your relationships after, there's that tinge of this hanging over it. Is it real? Am I reading this person well? You don't want to even guess how long it took before I could relax enough with another woman to even get a hard-on. And, I wasn't in love with Lee. I just liked her. But Jeanne, she loved you, right?"
Tony nods again.
"Part of Breena and I working was that she wanted to take it slow and wouldn't sleep with me until we were married. I wasn't just being good to her on that one. She didn't know it, not then, but those first few months, until I was sure about her, she was giving me the space I needed to be comfortable enough in trusting someone like that again."
Jimmy stops at that, watching Tony, who is sitting there, silent, letting him vent.
"We're friends, right? And I can see it, this pisses you off. What happened to me makes you angry. You've got a lot going on in your head right now, but some of it is that you really hate Michelle Lee because of what she did to me, and how bad it hurt me."
Tony nods at that, too. Because that's true, and he does, and he had no idea it hit Jimmy that hard, but… they barely knew each other back then. Been out for drinks a few times, but that was it.
"Jeanne was a person, just like me. She had friends. I bet they missed her when she ran away to Africa. I bet they hate you, the way you hate Lee right now." Jimmy rubs his eyes, noticing for the first time he's been crying as he's been saying this. "How did you do it, Tony? You're naked, in her arms, in her body, and she's so in love with you. You could feel it, right? The way she adored you. You couldn't not see it in her eyes and feel it in her touch. How do you lie to her, day after day after day, month after month?"
Jimmy waits a few beats to see if Tony will try to answer that, but he doesn't.
"Lee was saving her little girl. I hate what she did to me, hate that she didn't immediately go to you guys and get it fixed, 'cause you guys would have fixed it. Moved heaven and earth and killed everyone who needed to be killed to fix it, because that's what you do. But I can live with what she did, because I can understand it. Because if I didn't have you guys, I'd steamroller whoever I needed to to keep my girls safe, too.
"But I don't understand what you did to Jeanne. I can normally just not think about it. Usually I'm unaware of it. Literally didn't put it together until last July, 'cause you and her were over and done before the stuff with Lee and I. And I like you, and I want you in my life, and you're not that guy anymore, and I know that, I do. So… It's like there's a wall in your life, and anything before 2010, I just don't look at too hard. But right now, that wall's down, and I can't not look at what you did to her, because someone did it to me, too."
Jimmy stands up, back against the refrigerator. "So, no. You're not going to do anything about or to Helen. You literally and figuratively screwed her little girl and right now, she's out of her mind with grief because she just buried her daughter, and I know all about that, too. That's something else, I never wanted to know anything about…" Jimmy swallows hard. "But life didn't work out that way." He rubs his face again. "And, um… you're on the bone marrow registry, and from everything I know, donating hurts like hell and takes you out of commission for a long time, and if you come up as a match for someone, you're going to donate bone marrow, even if I have to hold a gun to your head to make you do it. And I know it was a long time ago, and I know you can't change it, and that you wouldn't take that mission now. I know you're not that guy, not anymore. But… until I can get that wall back up in my mind, I don't want to see you. You need something from autopsy, Ziva can get it."
And with that, Jimmy left.