Love and War

by Nix
(crimsonquills AT gmail DOT com)


"A truth that's told with bad intent,

Beats all the lies you can invent."

- William Blake


Tony balled up another piece of blank paper. He glanced quickly in Gibbs's direction, then lobbed it across the aisle. He quickly returned his gaze to the report he was writing, but the curse from Kate's desk proved his aim was still good. Tony grinned to himself.


Tony jerked his head up so fast his neck muscles protested. Kate was standing, brandishing his latest projectile in one hand. Oh, now, that just isn't fair, he thought. She hadn't even tried to pitch it back at him.

Apparently oblivious to the rules of the game, Kate glared at their boss. "How long are you going to let him get away with this crap?" she demanded, stabbing a finger in Tony's direction.

Gibbs didn't even look up from his computer screen. "I thought you were going to try ignoring him," he said mildly.

"Hey!" Tony protested.

"I've been ignoring him," Kate said darkly. "I've been ignoring him for three hours now and all I've got to show for it," she leaned down, picked up her wastepaper basket and upended it over her desk in a cascade of wadded paper, "is this."

Tony pasted his most innocent expression on his face as Gibbs finally looked up. It was a pretty impressive amount of paper. Tony couldn't help but be a little impressed with his own perseverance.

"Well," Gibbs said, "now you know that ignoring him doesn't work." Kate looked so exasperated that Tony couldn't help but snicker. Unfortunately, the snicker drew Gibbs's attention. "DiNozzo," he barked.

Tony automatically snapped straight up in his chair. "Yeah, boss?"

"Clean that up." Gibbs nodded at the paper. It had overflowed Kate's desk and dribbled several balls of paper onto the floor.


"Now, DiNozzo!"

Sighing, Tony stood up and stepped around the corner of his desk. He knew he'd been pushing it. All things considered, cleaning up a little paper was a small price to pay.

At least, he thought so right up until he caught sight of the woman sashaying down the aisle between the cubicles from the elevator.

She was dressed in a perfectly tailored pantsuit in an attractive shade of lavender and a complementary cream colored blouse. Both her shoes and the purse hanging over one shoulder matched the suit. Between the high heels and the cut of the pants, her legs looked like they went on forever. But that wasn't even her best feature. No, that privilege had to go to the cascade of natural blonde curls that spilled over her shoulders and down her back, all the way to her waist.

Tony caught sight of her legs and her hair and her perfectly balanced features and had to fight down a sudden surge of nausea. She always did have the worst timing.

She reached the area Gibbs had claimed for his team and planted herself between Tony's desk and Kate's. Her eyes raked over Tony, standing at Kate's desk with a wastepaper basket in one hand and a fistful of crumpled paper in the other.

"Tony DiNozzo," she said, her voice rich with amusement. "Still taking out the trash, I see."

"What are you doing here?" Tony hissed. As if there was any chance that every word they said wouldn't be lapped up by the others. Well, not by Gibbs. Gibbs didn't lap. But he'd certainly be listening.

"I have news," she said smugly.

Translation: I have come to gloat, Tony thought viciously. "You couldn't have called? Dropped me an e-mail? Slipped a note under my door?" Tony could feel Kate staring at him in surprise. He couldn't blame her--this wasn't exactly his typical reaction to a beautiful woman, whether he knew her or not.

The woman in question widened her eyes. "But Tony," she said with mock plaintiveness, holding up her hand and flashing the giant diamond on her ring finger, "this is the kind of news it really is polite to deliver in person."

Tony could feel Gibbs stepping up to his shoulder. He had to resist the urge to close his eyes for a long moment. "DiNozzo," Gibbs said coolly, "care to introduce us to your...friend?"

Tony clenched his jaw. "Boss, meet Juliana Napier. Juliana, meet my boss, Special Agent Jethro Gibbs," he said formally. He could feel Gibbs glaring at him; he hadn't exactly answered the implied question. Sighing, he was about to elaborate when Juliana broke in.

"Really Tony, you have forgotten all your manners," she said. To Gibbs, she added, "I would be the ex-Mrs. DiNozzo."

For a moment silence reigned in the office. Tony ducked his head and went back to scooping paper into the garbage can.

Kate was the first to recover. "I wasn't aware that Tony had ever been married."

"Well, after what happened when he told his parents that we were splitting up, I'm not surprised he didn't care to mention it," Juliana said carelessly.

Tony dropped the can full of paper. "Would you just deliver your news and get out of here?" he snapped.

Juliana just smiled at him. "If I didn't know better, I'd say you didn't want me talking to your friends."

"Who says you know better?" Tony muttered. He resisted the urge to cross his arms over his chest, instead stuffing his hands into his pockets and fixing his gaze somewhere over her shoulder.

"What happened when he told his parents...?" McGee asked uncertainly, and if it weren't for the fact that he was obviously just confused, rather than really asking, Tony would have cheerfully strangled him. He couldn't have given Juliana a better opening if he'd tried.

"They didn't take it well, McGee," Tony interjected before she could speak. "They're not really Catholic, but the whole divorce thing kind of carried over from previous generations." It was as good an explanation as any...if Juliana hadn't been standing right there.

She laughed lightly and Tony knew right then that this wasn't just about rubbing his face in the fact that she'd obviously gotten engaged again. It wasn't even about telling him how much better than him the new guy was in every way possible. It was about tearing him down in front of people whose good opinion was important to him. Not that any of them really had a good opinion of him, but that just meant that he really couldn't afford anymore character bashing.

"For once, would you please just shut up, Juliana?" Tony said tightly. "That's a nice rock on your finger. You've done well for yourself. Congratulations. I promise not to show at the wedding."

Juliana smiled like a shark scenting blood. "It had nothing to do with leftover religion and you know it, Tony. But apparently your co-workers aren't in on some of your more colorful history." She turned to the others, "Haven't you wondered why Tony here doesn't take advantage of his family's millions?" Kate and McGee traded a troubled glance. Tony knew they'd assumed his parents just didn't want him pissing it away frivolously. Gibbs had certainly lent that assumption weight at times, which had always confused Tony, since Gibbs didn't know the real reason either. Gibbs himself was strangely silent at the moment. Well, he's got three ex-wives, Tony reminded himself miserably. He knows not to give them any ammunition.

No one rose to the bait this time, so Juliana continued on her own. "His father was worried that my divorce lawyer would make a claim on the family cash, so he cut poor Tony off completely." She composed her face into a mask of confusion. "Of course, that was years ago. Haven't you been welcomed back into the fold yet?"

"They cut me off over a few fucking alimony payments," Tony snapped. "I wasn't about to go crawling back to them. I do just fine on my own."

"Sure you do," Juliana said dismissively. "It's all terribly ironic, though." She smiled slyly and twisted the diamond ring on her finger. "Since it was your brother that gave me this."

Tony stared. "You're marrying back into the family?" he demanded, his voice strangled. "They're letting you?"

"Well," she pouted, "I have to sign a prenuptial agreement. But Marc is such a sweetheart. I think I'm ready to settle down." She gave a little shrug and a sickly sweet smile.

Tony took a deep breath. "Right. I think you can go now," he said evenly.

Juliana didn't argue this time, just gave them all a little wave and turned on her heel. Tony watched her until she disappeared into the elevator and then ducked behind his desk and retrieved his bag. "I'll be taking a personal day, boss," he said, slinging the bag over his shoulder, eyes fixed firmly on the floor.

He kept them there on his way out, despite his awareness that Gibbs was following him. If he didn't want Tony to leave, he'd have said something. The hollow feeling in Tony's gut got just a little hollower.

They stepped onto the elevator together. Somehow, Tony managed to be honestly surprised when Gibbs reached out and stopped the elevator before it got to the parking garage. "Gibbs?" he asked, looking up slowly, sidelong.

"It's not about you, you know," Gibbs said. "It's about her and making herself feel more powerful. More in control. More worthwhile." He snorted softly, "If three ex-wives taught me anything, they taught me that."

Tony shifted the bag on his shoulder and looked at Gibbs more steadily. "You don't seem surprised," he ventured.

"It was in your file. The situation with your parents and the money was in your background check." Gibbs caught his gaze and held it. "Nothing she said was a surprise to me. Well," he amended, "except for the fact that she's marrying your brother."

Tony snorted and looked away again. "Yeah, isn't that just the icing on the whole fucking cake," he said bitterly.

Warm, callused hands cupped Tony's face and forced him to look back at Gibbs. "You don't get to choose your family, Tony," he said intently. "But you do get to choose your friends, and right now those friends would rather have you back at work than at home alone, wallowing."

Tony smiled. "Would one of those friends happen to be here in this elevator with me?" he asked, waggling his eyebrows a little.

Gibbs gave him a pat on the cheek and got the elevator going again. "Yes, and if you force him to talk about himself in the third person any more, you're going to get a smack upside the head."

"Would a friend smack me upside the head?" Tony protested cheerfully. The elevator arrived in the parking garage, but neither of them got off. Gibbs hit the button to take them back up to their floor.

"This one would," he said just as they arrived, and gave Tony a light swat as he stepped off the elevator.

Tony followed, his grin fading as he approached his desk and caught McGee and Kate watching him with identical expressions. Sympathetic expressions. Dropping his eyes again, he sank into his desk chair.

There was a slight crumple.

A wad of paper struck Tony in the forehead and bounced back onto his desk.

He smiled slowly.

This meant war.