Title: The Broken Chain
Author: Jilly James
Characters: Tony DiNozzo, Jethro Gibbs
Word Count: 999
Warnings: No beta, discussion of attempted rape, implied violence
Summary: After a difficult case, Tony is struggling with the grey areas.
– – – –
Tony parked his motorcycle at the edge of the cemetery. Even though it was late December, the temperature was in the mid-40s, so he was managing with just his leather jacket to protect him from the chill. He rarely rode the bike in winter, but the day was clear and bright, and he’d needed the feeling the bike gave him: free and unrestrained.
The cemetery was quiet this morning save for the service Tony had arranged. There were two grounds custodians and the interfaith minster provided by the funeral home waiting for him by the plain pine casket.
When he stepped up next to the grave, the minister approached. “Mr. DiNozzo?” he asked, eyes flicking over Tony’s choice of jeans, boots and leather, but he displayed no other reaction.
“Yeah,” Tony acknowledged.
“Will there be other mourners?”
He shook his head. “No. Let’s just get him buried.”
The man blinked in surprise. “Did you wish to say a few words?”
The minister turned and began to offer some standard words about death, but Tony halted him. “Don’t. This crap isn’t for the dead, it’s for the living, and I don’t want it. Put him in the ground.”
Briefly appearing flummoxed, the minister eventually nodded and gestured for the custodians to lower the casket.
Tony stayed through every moment. First the minister left, then the hole was filled, and finally he was alone next to a fresh mound of earth and a plain headstone that read “Jeffrey White.”
He stood there staring at the grey stone, remembering, when he heard the soft sound of footfalls on grass approaching. A familiar scent was carried on the breeze.
When the new visitor stopped a couple feet back, Tony didn’t even bother to turn. “Why are you here, Gibbs?”
“Why are you here, DiNozzo?”
Not looking away from the stone, Tony softly replied, “It’s none of your concern.”
“You made it my business when you went over my head and put in for two-months’ leave,” Gibbs said with some bite in his tone.
“This is none of your concern,” Tony repeated.
“Why are you letting this get to you? He was a serial killer who tried to murder you.”
Slowly, Tony turned until he met Gibbs’ stare. “This is none of your concern,” he said emphasizing the last word as heavily as he could without yelling.
Gibbs’ brow furrowed. “You gonna say whatever’s on your mind, or keep doing this dance?”
“Did you read my report, Gibbs? The whole thing?”
Shoving his hands in his pockets, Gibbs rocked back on his heels a bit. “I did. Just because White did one thing right doesn’t mean you owe him. It doesn’t mean you had to claim his body and pay for his burial.”
“So I should just get over it, is that what you’re saying?”
Gibbs jaw clenched, and Tony could see that’s exactly what he thought. “It was a hard case. But we move on.”
Tony blinked, but really he shouldn’t be surprised. Gibbs dispassion about the whole thing had been like being gutted from the very beginning. “Well, as I said, it’s none of your concern.” He turned to leave but Gibbs caught his arm.
“Just say it, DiNozzo.”
Pulling his arm away, Tony snapped, “What? That you don’t care? I think that’s already been proven. It’s been over a week and I know I need time to get my head on straight. Everyone pretending like this was just another case isn’t helping!” He ran his fingers through his hair. “I didn’t go to Morrow. He came to me.”
Gibbs looked surprised for a brief second. “Why?”
“Why?” Tony asked incredulously. “Someone gave a shit that I was imploding and you ask why?”
“What don’t I know, Tony?!” Gibbs snapped.
“After reading my report, Morrow was going to put me on desk duty until I’d received clearance from psych. I asked if we could make it unofficial; I’d take some leave, get my head wrapped around everything, and see psych before I come back. He agreed.”
He stepped close to Gibbs. “I was nearly raped.” He watched the other man flinch minutely. “Lane Harrison drugged me with the intent of raping me, but Jeffrey liked me. Enough that he killed his partner to protect me.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Actually, I do.” Tony could explain the comments Jeffrey had made in the morning about protecting Tony, and how he’d always take care of him. At the time, they hadn’t made sense. Not until he’d found out what happened to Lane. “But even if I wasn’t certain about Jeffrey’s motive, him killing Lane still saved me. He was a criminal and a creep, but I liked him, Gibbs. And I had to blow his brains all over the car. He chose me over his partner, and I chose my life over his. And maybe that’s black and white for you, but I’m not okay.”
“You have to be able to shake it off or you can’t do the job,” Gibbs snapped.
Tony’s eye twitched. Gibbs could be such a fucking hypocrite. When did Gibbs ever let go of anything? But Gibbs wasn’t the point. “Your dispassion is noted.” He walked away.
“Is that what this is about?” Gibbs called after him.
Stopping in his tracks, Tony stared out over the rows of headstones and acres of green grass. “I’m conflicted about killing a man who protected me from something horrible.” He turned around again, facing Gibbs from a distance that seemed to typify the problems between them. “I won’t lie and say that your lack of concern over the last week wasn’t hurtful, but the only person this is about is me.”
There was a long silence. “Always was a bastard.”
“Lack of concern makes you a bastard. Making this all about you… that’s pure asshole.” Tony slipped on his sunglasses.
“You’ll have to appeal to my need for approval some other time. My give a fuck is completely broken.”
– – – –
The Big Short is a short-story challenge on Rough Trade based on thematic or character prompts. The maximum word count for themes is 1k, for characters it’s 2k. They are not beta’d. I re-read them looking for errors but that is all.
Each short story is complete as is. They will not be expanded on, there will be no sequels, they are probably not connected to anything else, and they are not intended to prompt other writers. If you find inspiration in them, that’s lovely, but please write your own thing. My works are not up for adoption.