Crash Space

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)

Author's Notes: Many thanks to rebecca for reading this over for me before I posted and for providing the title.

Gibbs stared through the one way mirror at the man sitting at the plain, metal table in the interrogation room.

Anthony DiNozzo was exactly the sort of man Gibbs expected to commit a crime like this. Young. Wealthy. Attractive. A former jock and a proud member of a fraternity. The sort of man who pumped up his own masculinity, who probably literally notched his bedpost whenever he bedded a new woman. The sort of man who'd been born with a silver spoon in his mouth and had never had it rough in his life. Vice president of his daddy's company at 32, DiNozzo's whole life had been handed to him on a platter.

He should have been the perfect suspect. A gay sailor was exactly the sort of person who would enrage someone like DiNozzo. The idea of a man in a hyper-masculine society like the military being gay offended most blustering, aggressively heterosexual jocks. Such men wouldn't have cared that Seaman John MacIntosh had been a good soldier, the kind of guy that inspired his buddies to cover for him when his still-unpopular orientation was suspected. There were a lot of angry sailors waiting impatiently to find out who had beaten their friend to death, and Gibbs should have been expecting to close the case sometime in the next twenty minutes.

But he wasn't.

On paper, Gibbs had liked DiNozzo for the murder. The evidence was all circumstantial, but he fit Kate's profile to a tee. A spoiled playboy like him wouldn't hold up under interrogation; circumstantial evidence was more than enough when you had a confession, too.

It was all falling into place perfectly, and then Gibbs had walked into DiNozzo's office and looked the man in the eye. Before he'd even opened his mouth to ask where DiNozzo had been the previous night at 4:00am, Gibbs had known that this wasn't the guy. The look in his eyes hadn't been angry at the intrusion, or self-righteous, or smug, or cold. It'd just been...tired. Gibbs wanted to say 'broken,' but he had a feeling DiNozzo wouldn't be around for long once he got to broken.

A man with eyes like that didn't have the fire you needed to beat someone to death with a piece of rebar. But Gibbs's gut wasn't enough for a court of law and DiNozzo's eyes weren't an alibi, so he'd brought him in for questioning anyway.

"He's not acting like I would have expected."

Gibbs turned to Kate and found her frowning. She never did like it when a suspect turned one of her profiles on its ear. That's because he's not guilty, Gibbs thought, but what he said was, "Let's find out why."

DiNozzo didn't look over at the door when Gibbs stepped into the interrogation room, but he straightened up and squared his shoulders and folded manicured hands on the table's cold surface. Gibbs settled into the chair opposite him, laid a plain brown file folder down on the table, and smiled a little. "Anthony DiNozzo," he said slowly. "Now that we're all set up in the proper atmosphere, I'll ask you again. Where were you at 4:00am the morning of September 28th?"

"I'm not saying anything to you without my lawyer present." Which was exactly what DiNozzo had said the first time Gibbs had asked, nearly an hour ago in his office.

Checking his watch deliberately, Gibbs observed, "It's been forty minutes since we left your office, Mr. DiNozzo. What does that tell you?"

DiNozzo didn't say anything.

It seems the younger DiNozzo is being hung out to dry, Gibbs thought. Strange that he should have more faith in the man's innocence than his father apparently did. Something wasn't right here.

"Seeing as you're not inclined to tell me where you were," Gibbs said, leaning forward on the table a little, "why don't I tell you? According to four separate reports, you were standing across the street from The Fire Pit. You were there for at least half an hour, DiNozzo. Waiting for something?" DiNozzo's eye twitched. Gibbs's interest flared. He had been there. "Or someone?"

More silence. Gibbs had to hand it to him, he was smart. It was never a good idea to talk to the cops alone, not even when you were innocent. Gibbs dropped his eyes to the file folder, opened it, removed an autopsy photo of Seaman MacIntosh, and slid it across the table. "This someone, maybe?"

DiNozzo's eyes dropped to the picture. Everyone looked, even when they didn't mean to. The temptation was just too much. Still no satisfaction in his expression, though. No guilt either. He did go pale and swallow visibly, but he also put his fingertips on the photo and carefully slid it back across the table to Gibbs. "I'm not saying anything to you without my lawyer present," he repeated.

Gibbs allowed himself a small laugh. "You know, I don't think your lawyer's going to be present," he said, looking DiNozzo right in the eye. "Your high powered back up seems to have left you high and dry. Are you surprised, DiNozzo, or were you expecting it? Waiting for it? Maybe like you were waiting for Seaman MacIntosh." Gibbs tapped the photo sharply. "He's got friends who're waiting, too."

Glancing down at the picture again, for a moment DiNozzo looked bleak. "Oh, fuck this," he muttered, the first words Gibbs had heard from him other than "What can I do for you?" and his requests for his lawyer. He leaned back in the chair, his careful posture crumpling, and ran a hand through his perfectly gelled hair, leaving it something of a mess. Suddenly the expensive gray suit didn't seem so much like armor. "I wasn't outside The Fire Pit waiting for that poor bastard," DiNozzo said, waving one hand at the autopsy photo. "I was waiting for the bartender."

Gibbs raised an eyebrow. The bartender of a gay bar wasn't the sort of person who fit into Anthony DiNozzo's social circle. "Friend of yours?" Gibbs asked mildly.

DiNozzo snorted. "I buy him expensive presents. He fucks me and doesn't talk about it later," DiNozzo said bitterly. "I don't think that counts."

Well, that puts a whole new spin on things, doesn't it? "Can he corroberate your story?"

"Yeah. I don't think I pay him enough to lie to the cops."

"Given that you pay him anything at all, why should we believe either of you?" Gibbs asked, raising an eyebrow.

DiNozzo's lips twisted, but it couldn't be called a smile. "I don't know," he said. He paused and shook his head. "Hell, I don't care. That's where I was. Believe or don't. Doesn't make a difference."

"Whether or not I believe you could decide whether or not you get charged with murder, Mr. DiNozzo," Gibbs pointed out. "That's a considerable difference."

"Either way, life as I know it is over," DiNozzo said, shrugging. "You think my father wants a fag for a son? I'll be out on my ear so fast I'll leave skid marks, and everything I have is actually his. Money, home, career. I can kiss it all goodbye. I'm not so stupid that I think anyone really believes I'm qualified for the job I'm doing, so who the hell would hire me after I've been tossed out on my ass? Shit, I don't think a single person I know would offer me so much as a couch to crash on." He laughed, a hollow sound. "Prison might be easier to adapt to."

The words would have pissed Gibbs off if they'd been as full of self-pity as they should have been, but all he heard was the truth. This is the way life is, said DiNozzo's tone of voice. This is how it's going to be.

This was 'broken,' Gibbs realized. Or at least the last moment before it. The words came out of his mouth almost unbidden: "There's no reason your father has to know about this conversation."

DiNozzo smiled--a real smile, if a weak one--and for a moment Gibbs thought he saw a glimpse of the person suffocating under his father's thumb. "You know, I think you actually mean that. I appreciate the sentiment, but it's not necessary. Life goes forwards, not backwards. As far as I'm concerned, I'm out. My father might as well hear it from me as from anyone else."

Gibbs tilted his head, conceding the point. "You mind giving us your fingerprints on the way out?" he asked. "Just to check."

"Yeah, sure," DiNozzo shrugged. "That mean I can go?"

"For the moment," Gibbs said. "We'll be in touch."

DiNozzo stood and shoved his hands into his pockets. "I'll be around. Though I'm not sure how you'll find me." He pulled the door open and left without looking back. A technician would intercept him in the hallway, Gibbs knew, to take his fingerprints. Kate would have arranged for it the moment it was mentioned.

Standing, Gibbs collected the file folder and met Kate in the hallway. "That explains why my profile was off when we finally got a hold of him," she said, pushing a lock of hair out her eyes. "I'm impressed. I didn't have a clue."

"A father like that, he'd have learned to cover early and well, or he'd never have had the chance," Gibbs said, almost absently. And now that cover is broken. How long before the rest of him breaks, too?

Kate sighed heavily. "Back to square one."

"Go see if Abby has anything," Gibbs ordered. "And then you and McGee dig deeper into MacIntosh's background. Maybe this was only supposed to look like a gay bashing."

"And you?"

"I'm going to talk to the bartender at The Fire Pit." It wouldn't be appropriate to just take DiNozzo's alibi at face value, after all.

When Gibbs left the building, heading for his car, he spotted DiNozzo sitting on the curb. Presumably he was waiting for a cab. Pausing for a long moment, Gibbs studied him from behind. The long, lean body was folded up awkwardly, unused to sitting on anything less than a chair. His hair stuck out every which way, as if running his fingers through it was a nervous habit just waiting to be unleashed. Black fingerprint ink stained his fingertips, although he could have gotten it off if he'd scrubbed quickly and harshly in the NCIS bathroom.

Gibbs remembered that brief, tired, honest smile. DiNozzo had the kind of face that ought to grin. Eyes that ought to light up when he smiled.

Fishing a business card and a pen out of his pocket, Gibbs scrawled his home address on the back and pocketed the pen again. He walked up to DiNozzo and stopped next to him, standing at the curb. After a moment, DiNozzo looked up, squinting into the sun.

Gibbs offered the card, the hand written address turned towards DiNozzo. "It's not much of a couch," he said, "but my door's unlocked if you need it."

DiNozzo lifted a hand to shade his eyes. "That's a lot of trouble to go to just to keep an eye on a suspect."

Gibbs smiled, ducking his head a little automatically. "You haven't been a suspect since I brought you in, DiNozzo."

DiNozzo's brow wrinkled. "I hadn't said more than ten words to you when you brought me in."

"After nineteen years, I know when to trust my gut."

"So why bring me in at all?"

"My gut isn't admissable in court," Gibbs said dryly.

Slowly, DiNozzo raised his hand and accepted the card that Gibbs was still holding out. He dropped his eyes to it and rubbed his thumb over the scrawl of blue ink. "This some kind of penance for fucking up my life?" he asked, not looking up.

"That depends. Do you really think I fucked it up?"

DiNozzo looked up at him again. They were silent for a long moment while he searched Gibbs's expression for...God only knew what. But finally he smiled, a real smile that showed his teeth and made his eyes crinkle and sparked an entirely unexpected surge of satisfaction in Gibbs.

DiNozzo stood up, brushed himself off, and offered Gibbs his hand. "Call me Tony."

"Jethro," Gibbs said, and clasped Tony's hand in his own.