Name: M O A S
Author: Jasmine (AKA: Jasmine2009)
Date: April 17, 2011
Universe: NCIS, Season 5ish
Summary: The mother of all secrets threatens to surface in Tony's life.
Disclaimer: The Full Disclaimer is at the end of the story. If I write it here, it gives away too much. Suffice it to say that other people get credit for several references in this story. I do not own any of these characters nor do I make any money off this story. Full credit goes to D. Belisario, CBS, and anyone else who's involved with the hit TV series NCIS as well as Pat Benetar.
Abby hurried through her lab, flipping on switches and apologizing to her machines. "Can't wait for you to boot up this morning, guys, there's a very important person visiting today." She flung her black cape towards a hook on the wall, watched it slide to the floor, and snatched up her desk phone, "McGee! Is she here?"
"No, not yet, but you'd better get up here."
Catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror, she fixed her pigtails, straightened her skirt and hurried towards the elevator. She was none too pleased that it stopped on every floor and even less pleased that the small lift was at capacity by the time she reached her destination. She was the last to exit and could barely see through the throngs of people blocking her way.
Teetering on her toes, she peered over the tops of heads. "McGee? Ziva?"
"Over here, we saved you a spot!"
She pushed and muscled her way through the people until she was in the bullpen with familiar faces. Dr. Mallard and Palmer were even there, lingering, or at least trying to look like they had purpose.
"I didn't know you were familiar with Sarita, Ducky?"
"Actually, this is Mr. Palmer's idea. But I do have her first albums, Passionate Crime. I bought it to impress a young lady I was seeing at the time who had a particular penchant for her music."
'Album?' she thought, but pushing the thought from her head and deciding she didn't want to wait for the rest of the story, she grabbed the only other female colleague on 'Team Gibbs' and pulled her across the bullpen towards McGee's desk.
Ziva had no choice but to follow. Using Abby as interference, she tried to avoid running into people but it didn't work and she found herself bumping into a woman she didn't even recognize. "I did not know NCIS had this many people working for it."
Gibbs smirked, "Neither did I." He was the only person who seemed oblivious to his surrounds, but more than likely he was keenly aware of everything happening.
"C'mon, Boss, you have to admit this is pretty exciting," McGee said.
Gibbs looked up.
"…but, perhaps, not nearly as exciting as working on our case."
"Aww, Gibbs," Abby sounded sad, "this is a really exciting time. It's not every day that we get this kind of visitor. Do you even know who Sarita is?"
The glare was only slightly softer than the one he'd just given McGee, but unlike that one, he couldn't sustain it with her. "Yes, I know who she is. I'm older than you, Abs, not dead."
Smiling, Ziva mused, "I remember being a teenager and lying in bed and listening to her songs until my father would threaten to break my CDs!" she smiled at the not so long ago memory. "I even had her poster on my wall."
"Everybody had her poster on their wall, Ziva," McGee swooned. Remembering his own adolescent experience with the famous musician, he shared his story, "It was her music that made me commit my first crime. I learned how to go in through the backdoor of music sites and download copies of her songs. It was before I knew that was wrong."
"Sure, McGee," Abby teased, enjoying his confession, "I bet you continued to pirate songs even after you learned it was illegal."
He bristled, feeling the eyes of his colleagues on him. "Well…, it didn't seem wrong at the time."
Abby suddenly looked up. "Speaking of wrong… Where's Tony?"
McGee shrugged, "I don't know, but he picked one hell of a day to be late to work."
Ziva was keenly aware of his absence, and couldn't help but find it amusing. Because of his personal character flaws, Tony was going to miss out on an opportunity of a lifetime. She shimmied her shoulders and boasted, "He is going to shoot himself when he realizes that he missed meeting one of the most talented people on earth, not to mention one of the most beautiful."
"I can't imagine that Tony would miss this on purpose. Didn't he know she was coming today?" Palmer asked.
"Probably not," McGee answered, "we didn't know about it until late last night and he had already left for Norfolk to pick up the evidence in the Goodison case."
"Why didn't you call him?"
Ziva narrowed her eyes and answered, "We tried; he wouldn't pick up."
McGee continued, "I think you're right, Ziva, he's going to shoot himself when he learns he could have met Sarita. Who's going to tell him?"
"I get to," she declared, a little too fast. "After all, it is my desk he keeps snooping around."
"I think I should be the one to get to," he whined. "It's my DVD's he keeps stealing."
"Hey, look!" Palmer said, pointing across the room at the commotion, "I think she's here!"
The large gathering of people anxiously stared at the elevator. The doors opened and there was almost a silent disappointment when NCIS security exited. Following security were two men who must have been body guards given their size and dress. Two more men of equal size and appearance followed them and it wasn't until they were well inside the room that someone noticed the famous celebrity nestled inside the group.
"There she is!"
Director Vance had been observing the scene from the mezzanine until the convoy exited the elevator. He made his way down the stairs and towards the ball of security. Extending a hand, he said, "Welcome, Miss Villanova. I trust that you are being properly received?"
She stepped forward and took his hand, "Yes, very much so, thank you. But please, call me Sarita." Looking around at the people, she said, "I hope my request didn't cause too much disruption."
"Of course not. We're very pleased that you chose NCIS to be your security detail while you're here in DC. I have to admit that the FBI and the Chief of Police are not very happy about it, but we're delighted." He released her hand and said, "I can run through the security procedures with your team if you'd like?"
She scanned the crowd of people before smiling at his request. "Actually, do you think you could introduce me to the agents who'll be assigned to protect me?"
Vance was startled by her request. Women of such prestige usually didn't bother themselves with the details, but he obliged her all the same and ushered her into the bullpen.
Gibbs stood, watching her approach as the mass of people parted like the Red Sea. It wasn't often he was taken aback by someone, and it truly wasn't often he was taken aback by a female, let alone one who was twenty years his junior, but she caught his eye in a way no blue eyed, red headed lady had ever done before. She was stunning, much more beautiful than his mind's eye had remembered. He concluded that a few years on a woman was often the missing ingredient in the young and pretty teenage starlets of today.
But as Vance introduced her to his team, he got a strange feeling in his gut. As delighted as she was to meet them, and as graceful as she was at moving through the bullpen, and as genuinely interested as she was in NCIS, there was something slightly off about her. And it wasn't just her eyes, her entire body was telling him something, but with a woman like her, it would take more than a feeling in his gut to break that shell.
He, as well as every other person on the floor, stared at Sarita Villanova, only he stared for entirely different reasons.
Tony was feeling good. His date last night went better than expected and after he drove her back to her place early this morning, he still had enough time to fit in a morning run before a quick shower and a hasty drive into work. Being habitually late had its advantages but it never hurt to stroke the boss occasionally, which is why he stopped for some "good" coffee at the local 7-11. His mood wasn't even daunted by the extra security at the main gate, or by the extra thorough inspection given his car. He thought about asking the guard why, but decided he wasn't really interested. He had Gibbs' coffee, he had the evidence from Norfolk, and he had a tidbit of gossip about McGee that he couldn't wait to share. He just had to decide on the best time to deliver it. Picking on McGee was quickly becoming one of his all time favorite pastimes. It was almost too easy, maybe even downright unfair, but it was fun and it reminded him of his days at Ohio State when he'd harass his fraternity brothers. 'Survival of the fittest—'
'—Hey, where is everyone?' he thought. The parking lot had been filled to capacity, but the place looked disserted. He realized where all the people were when the elevator stopped at his floor and opened. "What's going on?" he said to no one in particular. He pushed his way further into the room and looked around at the crowd. Following their gaze, he saw Director Vance ascending the stairs, but he also saw a woman following him and from the side view, it looked as though they had good reason to be staring.
Then she turned and looked in his direction.
Time simply stopped. Not even the coffee cup sliding from his hands and splattering on the floor invaded the moment. He felt a cool wave wash over his face as the blood drained away. The people in the room just faded to black and dissolved into nothingness, leaving one lone figure in his tunnel of vision: Sarah. There seemed to be a metrical rhythm in the room, or was that simply his heart pounding an ever increasing beat. She was exactly how he remembered her.
"Tony," she whispered.
"Sarah?" he mouthed back, hoping it was only a mirage of sorts.
They stared at each other a moment longer. She was the one who broke eye contact and went to him, hesitant at first, but patience was never her virtue, and she ran the last several steps, jumping on him and wrapping her arms tightly around his neck. "God, I've missed you," she said into his ear, not relinquishing her hold of him.
If he had been aware of his surroundings, he would have seen a roomful of people dropping their jaws.
He set her down and asked, "What are you doing here?"
"Didn't you know?"
She smiled and said, "You're my new body guard!"
McGee stared at the encounter, stunned. For once, he thought he had something over on the senior field agent, something to tease him about all day. Now, those hopes were dashed. "Of course Tony would know the most beautiful woman in the world."
Ziva snarled, "And never mention it!"
"He's my new hero," Palmer gushed.
Gibbs studied his senior field agent and recognized the expression. For someone who had just been reunited with a long lost friend, there wasn't much happiness being exuded.
Tony looked up at the faces, searching for the few he cared about. The only one whose mouth wasn't agape was Gibbs, and Ducky wasn't smiling either. This could only mean trouble for him… for them.
Sarita turned and looked at the director, who seemed in as much shock as the rest of the crowd. "Director Vance, this is the man I want protecting me. If you give him to me for the next three days, I promise I'll perform at any and all USO functions for the next month. Free of charge!"
Tony was too stunned to articulate words, perhaps a first for him. As he gathered his thoughts of protest, Vance gave his answer, "Consider him yours."
Gibbs sat across from Tony in the Director's office. It was easy to stare at his senior field agent who was averting his eyes at every chance. Tony was nervous and angry and scared of something, and if the director didn't use caution and treat Tony like the ticking time bomb he was, there was going to be a showdown, and he'd bet his life that the director would lose.
Vance tossed the file on the table, pulled out his chair and sat down heavily. "You mind telling me why the most famous celebrity in the world has chosen you to be her body guard?"
Tony could think of a thousand reasons, but none that he cared to share. "I really don't know."
"Wrong answer, try again."
Gibbs studied his agent, but Tony was continuing to avert his eyes.
"She and I grew up on the same street. We were neighbors, kids together. That's all. I haven't seen her in a few years, maybe the last time she was in town."
"That doesn't explain why she requested NCIS, or more specifically, YOU."
"She must think that we can do a better job at offering protection."
"You mean she thinks YOU can do a better job at offering protection. She specifically requested us, which was rather astonishing considering she has zero military connections. But it's beginning to make sense if she's only interested in you."
Gibbs waited and was rewarded with a furtive glance by his agent. 'Oh yeah,' Gibbs thought, 'there is a lot more to this story than he's going to share.'
"You'll have to ask her, Director. I just found out about this a few minutes ago."
Not to be bested, if DiNozzo wanted to be difficult, the director would play along. "Since you're her detail, you make sure she's kept happy, Agent DiNozzo. I don't care what her request is, you fulfill it to the letter. Are we clear?"
Already the anger was becoming evident and unless Vance wanted to see Anthony DiNozzo test the waters of his employment, Gibbs figured it was time to intervene. "Tony, go back to your desk and finish the report on the Goodison case."
Vance shot the team leader a gaze that would have crumpled a weaker man. He hated his authority undermined, but it didn't take a PhD to know that when it came to following orders, DiNozzo was going to follow Gibbs' orders over him every time.
When the door shut behind him, Gibbs calmly addressed his Director. "What's the matter, Leon? Protecting a high profile figure like Sarita is every agency's dream."
"If we don't screw it up, it is. And since when have you been concerned about the agency's dream?"
"We don't have to understand it to do it. So what if they know each other. Give him some space and let him do his job. You know as well I do that there's no better agent than DiNozzo, and if Sarita is set on having him as her personal body guard, go with it."
"Aren't you the least bit curious as to why she's doing this? She has more money than God, and she can hire a dozen DiNozzo's to guard her, but she has her mind set on one, ours."
Gibbs shrugged. Remembering the looks they exchanged and the stiff demeanor of his agent, he was less curious than he was suspicious. But no, he knew Tony well enough to know that he wasn't going to get an answer by simply asking. Heading for the door, his parting words were, "Think of it this way, Leon. You're gonna be a hero when she starts performing for our guys in the field."
By the time Tony returned to the bullpen, he was actually thankful that the only people left were his partners. He noticed them staring at him. "What?"
"You know Sarita," McGee stated, not even bothering to hide his annoyance.
"And you never mentioned this fact to us before," Ziva added, equally bemused.
"You never asked."
"Tony, you're infatuated with Sean Connery! One would think if you knew someone a hundred times more famous, you would want to share that!"
Tony sat at his desk and powered up his computer. Maybe if he ignored them, they'd go away. Unfortunately, his actions had the reverse effect and he looked up to see them staring down at him. "What!"
"You do not find it the least bit strange that Sarita, a world renowned musician and actress and philanthropist, has chosen you to be her body guard? What, did she just happen to pick your name out of a sack?"
"Hat." Tony corrected, "Hat, Ziva. Did she pick my name out of a HAT."
"Whatever… you obviously know one another. How?"
Tony leaned back and smiled; if he didn't, he was going to hit one of them. And his two choices would have either landed him in the hospital or labeled him a brute. In light of his current assignment, the ever present media coverage would have a field day with such behavior.
"Back to work," Gibbs said rounding the corner. "Tony doesn't start his new assignment until this afternoon and I want the Goodison case closed by then."
"Right, Boss." Tony was never so thankful for his entrance. "I'm taking this down to Evidence." He grabbed the box, ignored his partners, and left, leaving McGee and Ziva to wallow in their own curiosity. They looked at their boss, but he wouldn't be any help. They watched him answer his phone, listen a moment, hang up and say, "I'm going to see Ducky."
Ziva tried sitting at her desk, completing her report, but she was antsy. After a few minutes, she sauntered over to McGee's desk. They both had many questions and they weren't too surprised when Abby and Jimmy rounded the corner and joined them.
"Where is he?" Abby asked.
"He's checking in evidence," McGee answered.
Jimmy asked, "Did you learn anything? How does he know her?"
"He's not talking."
"Maybe I can get it out of him," Abby smiled. "I've been working on a truth serum in the lab. I'd like to test it on somebody."
By their expressions, it was obvious they thought her method might border on the extreme, possibly the insane. McGee was silently volunteered by Ziva to refute her plan, "Umm, I think Tony's proven that truth serum isn't that effective on him, Abby. But good thought."
Ziva straightened, having had a sudden thought, "Are we not NCIS agents?"
The three stared at her declaration.
"Do we not solve crimes for a living?"
"This isn't a crime, Ziva," McGee answered.
"Okay, but we do have a question that needs to be answered. We can solve this like we solve any other case!"
Abby was the first to jump on board, "Yes! This IS a mystery! And we CAN solve it!"
"Yes-we-can!" Ziva fed off the encouragement. "I will run background checks on Sarita. McGee, you run background checks on Tony! We'll see if we can find out how they know each other."
Jimmy jumped into the process, "I'll keep my eyes and ears open in Autopsy. Dr. Mallard always knows more than he lets on."
"What'll I do?" Abby asked.
"You keep Tony out of our way. We'll need about an hour."
"Right. I know just the ticket to keep our boy busy," she said, rubbing her hands together.
"No truth serum!" they replied in unison.
Abby shifted her jaw slightly, puzzled by their insistence. "Fine," she mumbled as she turned and walked away.
Ziva furrowed her brow at her partner, "McGee, what's wrong? You look like you just swallowed a lime."
"Well, I was thinking… why don't YOU run the background check on Tony and I'll run it on Sarita. You stand a better chance of staying alive after Tony finds out what we're doing than I do."
Gibbs walked into Autopsy to find the doctor seated at his desk. There were several bodies waiting for his attention, but he was not giving them any. Today was turning into a day of surprises, he thought. "What'd ya have for me, Ducky?"
"I've finished my report on the Goodison case."
"You didn't call me down here to tell me that."
"No, you're quite right. Mr. Palmer has run an errand and I thought this would be a good time to address those questions you have."
Gibbs smiled at the not so subtle hint. "You mean about Tony and Sarita?"
"Yes, that's exactly what I mean."
"What do you make of it?"
"It's a very interesting situation. On the one hand, you have one of the most beautiful and talented women in the world asking for protection even though she can well afford her very own security company. And she's not just asking for any old protection, she's asking for a specific person to protect her: our very own Anthony DiNozzo."
Gibbs listened to him lay it out.
"On the other hand, you have a very unsuspecting field agent who has never mentioned his involvement with this woman, which we all know is most unusual and very much out of character. But did you pay attention to the instant when they saw each other? It wasn't what one might expect from two long lost friends, or even lovers. After the point of recognition, there was a moment of sadness on her part, and a moment of… fear on his part. Her sadness gave way to happiness, but his fear never gave way to anything other than more uncertainty and anxiety. She also went to him, but he didn't move towards her."
"What do you make of that?"
"Well, it speaks to Tony's reluctance to bring her back into his life. Even after they greeted each other, Tony seemed anxious to move both him and her out of the spotlight, again something very out of character for our Anthony. She read him quite easily, almost too easily, which is why she agreed to meet him later in the afternoon, probably so he could come to terms with her being back in his life, whatever that means. It all adds up to one thing, Jethro. There is only one reason to keep a friendship like this a secret: and that is to keep another secret."
It made perfect sense when Ducky dissected it like that. The problem was, if the secret was of such a magnitude that Tony kept his relationship with world renowned artist, Sarita Villanova, hidden, then maybe the secret wasn't meant to be discovered.
Maybe the secret shouldn't be uncovered.
Tony couldn't get away from Evidence fast enough. It had been a long time since anyone there had been glad to see him, but right now, they were falling over each other to help him. In just a matter of minutes, he had catapulted to celebrity status. People who he used to bother were now bothering him! He wanted to disappear into one of the evidence bags and be placed on the shelf and forgotten about. The agent actually gave that some thought, as if there could be some validity in there somewhere, but of course, reality hit in the form of Abby Scuito.
"Tony! I've been looking for you, but I have to admit not too hard… McGee told me you were down here."
A small part of him was relieved; a larger part of him was unnerved.
"I know you just checked in the evidence to… well, 'Evidence', but can you check it back out again? I wanted to run a different test on it that Norfolk didn't run. I think they'll need the results when they take this case to court."
"Don't make me go back in there, Abby… the questions… the comments…Geesh, Abs, you'd think I was friends with the damn President of the United States with the way they're acting."
Abby cocked her head and narrowed her eyes, "You have to admit, Tony, this is huge. You know 'Sarita', and you kept that a secret! It's actually bigger than knowing the President, but," she took his arm when he looked like he might try and escape, "I know you don't want to talk about it, but if you need to talk about it, I'm here for you, you know that, don't you?"
Tony smiled at the Goth. If she could help him, he'd let her, but the problem was way bigger than she could imagine. Besides, there was no fixing this problem, and that's about the time the room started to shrink and the walls began to close in. God how he wished he could rewind the morning and not have even come in today.
"Hey, are you okay?"
He swallowed, used her to regain his balance and nodded, "Just tired."
"Listen, why don't you wait right here and I'll get the evidence if you'd prefer. But you have to promise me you'll stay here. Promise?"
When Abby turned away, he walked to the men's room. The cool water on his face should have made him feel better, but it only reminded him of her. He stared at his reflection a full minute, clearly not seeing it. Why did she have to come back into his life? Why couldn't she leave well enough alone?
"Excuse me, Tony?" Special Agent Balboa said poking his head into the men's room. "Ms. Scuito is out here looking for you, and," he hedged some before blurting it out, "well, she sorta scares me."
Ziva and McGee were punching away on their keyboards when Gibbs returned. If anyone was paying attention, they would have seen the slightest upward turn of his mouth, indicating his satisfaction with their actions. A furtive glance at Ziva told him that she was knee deep in a background check on Tony, and he didn't even have to look at McGee to know he was knee deep in Sarita's background. He was training them well, and they were learning well.
Since there were a few queries of his own he wanted to make, he began typing on his keyboard, thinking that the secret being concealed wasn't going to be uncovered in a background search. Whatever the secret, it had passed the test of time; it had even passed the vetting process by the media when Sarita bounded onto the world stage. Besides, his gut was telling him that the secret wasn't so much her secret as it was his.
Something made him stop and look up. The empty chair of his senior field agent reminded him that Tony wasn't invincible; in fact, he was actually quite vulnerable. Over the years, he'd hidden behind all sorts of facades and expertly deflected questions with his goofiness. But it was a front that served mainly to protect himself. It was a skill he had long ago mastered, but the tables had now turned on him, and he was going to have to pull on latent talents if he had a prayer of handling this kind of scrutiny. Leaning back, he wondered if he really wanted to probe into Tony's past and uncover this secret. His gut told him no; his brain told him yes. To complicate matters, if he wanted his agent to make it through this unscathed, whatever 'this' may be, he had better have a plan to deal with the aftermath.
The local newspaper was always a good place to start. He found several in Connecticut that had a large circulation back in the 1970's; unfortunately, anything earlier than 1986 was on microfiche, and he had to request it separately. He had time. What alerted him to the presence of a person was the lack of sound. The clicking on keyboards had stopped and the phone conversations ceased. He looked up in time to watch Sarita dismiss her body guard, telling him, "I'll be fine, Clive, I'll be with NCIS Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, and I'll be with him around the clock."
Clive, a man whose head was attached directly to his shoulders, mumbled, "He ain't here, Ma'am. You pay me to protect you, not him."
"I'm paying you to do what I tell you," she tersely correctly. "For the next three days I'll be attached to Anthony DiNozzo, and I don't want you or anyone else interfering with that." Seeing his reaction, she changed her tune and offered a more conciliatory explanation, "Clive, I know you're worried, but I'll be with Tony, and if you knew him like I know him, you'd know that he'll take very good care of me. I'll be okay, I promise." When she smiled, few men—hell, few people could resist her. She waited until the elevator doors closed between them before she turned and entered the bullpen.
Gibbs admired her over the top of his computer. "Can I help you, Miss Villanova?"
"Thank you. I'm waiting for Tony. Your director told me to come back at one o'clock, and I know I'm early, but I'm anxious to see him again, maybe catch up on some old times."
She barely got the last part out, swallowing the words as she said them. Maybe catching up on some old times was a bad idea. She looked nervously around, understanding the expression on the agents' faces. Finally she offered, "I know you probably have more questions than I have answers, especially since it's evident that Tony has never mentioned me to you before."
Ziva acknowledged, "You are right, he has not mentioned that he knows you."
"I guess that doesn't surprise me. Tony was never one to talk about something when he didn't want to."
"Why doesn't he want to?" Gibbs asked, knowing the question was a long shot, but he had to ask anyway.
The blonde tossed her hair back and looked around the place, ignoring the question. "Can I sit here?" she pointed to Tony's chair, "just until he comes back?"
Gibbs nodded, and noted the deflection.
She sat down and leaned back, catching McGee staring at her.
"Can I get you some coffee?" he stuttered, embarrassed.
"No, thank you."
He couldn't take his eyes off her. She was every bit as beautiful in person as she was on television: skin—smooth and blemish free; hair—blonde and wavy; eyes—so blue the ocean would be jealous. "Do you mind if I ask you something?"
She smiled at the agent, immune to his infatuation, "Not at all."
"Just how do you know Tony?"
She leaned forward, resting her elbows on his desk and smiled, "He and I grew up together. We were neighbors, if you can call it that—we lived next to each other but our houses were a mile apart. He lived at the end of the street, overlooking the river, on an estate called Pemberley."
"Pemberly? As in Jane Austen?" McGee mused.
"Yes, Mrs. DiNozzo was a huge fan and named it Pemberley the day they bought it. It really does resemble the mansion overlooking the pond. Anyway, I lived up the river about a mile. After his mother and brother were killed, he didn't spend much time there—too many memories for him, I guess—and we became close… very close."
Gibbs, Ziva and McGee read each other's mind, 'Brother?'
"He did not mention that he had a brother," Ziva stated.
"He took the loss particularly hard. Marco was a few years older and he idealized him. Tony was the pesky little brother, but Marco never seemed to mind him being around. He was such a nice boy and everyone felt the pain of his death. But no one more than Mr. DiNozzo. He didn't know how to handle the loss of his wife and son. The way he chose to deal with their deaths was to take off on business trips for long stretches of time, leaving Tony in the care of—"
Gibbs tilted his head at the abrupt stop.
She lowered her voice and continued, "… not really anyone. The servants would try and look after him but he was too much for them. Not much fun for an eight year old, I suppose."
Ziva and McGee exchanged glances. McGee encouraged her to continue, "What was your address?"
"1311 Morning Song Way. My parents still live there."
He punched a few keys on his keyboard and sent the satellite image to the plasma screen.
When she realized what she was looking at, she walked over and admired the estate. "That's it. That's my house—well, my parent's house. Tony lived at 1300 Morning Song Way."
McGee sent another aerial image to the screen. "Whoa," he said, shocked at the size and elegance of the property. The mansion, situated between rolling green pastures and dense woods, was bounded by a winding river in the back and a winding road in the front. The house was built atop a hill and was much larger than her house with its well manicured grounds and stables and tennis courts on either side, and what appeared to be a heli-pad sat on the outskirts of the property.
Sarita agreed, "Yeah, Tony grew up on the largest estate in Connecticut. In 1976, it was given the prestigious bi-centennial award, which was no easy feat considering the competition only included estates over ten million dollars in the mid-Atlantic. But Tony grew to hate it and he'd leave every chance he got. He'd hop on his dirt bike and ride over to my house, and we'd go down to the river. I remember one time, I fell in and he damn near drowned saving me. After that, we'd go into my basement and pretend we were rock stars. He would play the piano and I would sing. We belted out song after song until Tony decided we needed something more to round out our performances. He was the brains behind everything we did," she paused a moment, allowing herself to remember a simpler life. "Anyway, he went out and recruited a kid to be our drummer, and that was fine until he decided we needed a guitar player, but instead of recruiting one, he just picked up a guitar and started playing. We covered all the great hits by the stars of the time: Madonna, Foreigner, Whitney…" She smiled again and seemed to enjoy reminiscing about that time of her life.
Gibbs studied her. She was genuine and there was no reason for her to be telling them anything unless she wanted to.
"Did you know Tony is a song writer?" she asked with an enthusiasm that bordered on admiration.
Ziva shook her head, as did McGee.
"Oh yes!" she added, thoroughly enjoying being able to share this information. "He's one of the best songwriters I've ever known. He wrote—" But she cut herself off, again. This time, she wasn't able to cover it as easily. She had slipped and whatever it was she was protecting Tony from wasn't going to be easy for her to keep. "Um, he has written a few songs that I've sung, but he won't take any credit for them."
"Like what?" Ziva asked.
"—What's going on?" Tony said, entering the bullpen and throwing an angry glare at the plasma screen.
McGee punched a key and the picture disappeared, "Miss Villanova was showing us your neighborhood."
The beautiful blonde took his hand and said, "It was nothing, Tony. I was telling them about growing up in Connecticut, that's all."
Tony slid his hand out of hers and walked to his desk. "I've read your file, Sarah, you're staying in DC at the Hilton. I don't have to remind you that's where Ronald Reagan was shot."
"You don't, and I know." She followed him to his desk.
"The threat on your life is credible. You should consider cancelling your concert tomorrow night."
Gibbs studied his agent's demeanor. He was all business and not a joke or movie reference anywhere close to his mind.
"I was hoping to get you up on stage with me," she cooed, ignoring his concern.
"Tony? On stage? Now that's something I would pay money to see," Ziva said.
"Not a chance," Tony replied. He turned to face the beautiful blonde and his expression went from agent to friend. "I shouldn't be protecting you, Sarah. Ziva or McGee would be better qualified."
"There's nobody more qualified than you." She touched his arm and looked him square in the eye. "I've missed you. I've missed us."
There was a flicker of longing in his eyes, but just as quickly it disappeared, "There is no us, Sarah."
An awkward silence followed. Gibbs let it linger in the air on purpose, studying his senior field agent. Finally, he said, "You say you're going to keep your concert date?"
"Yes," she reluctantly pulled her gaze away and looked at Gibbs. "I have no intention of changing anything. This isn't the first time I've been threatened and no doubt it won't be the last. It's the price we pay."
"—Sarita, please, or Sarah, but not Miss Villanova. It sounds too much like my mother. That's not a bad thing, but my friends call me Sarita, and my dearest friends," she shot a furtive glance over her shoulder, "call me Sarah."
Gibbs continued, "Sarita, someone will be with you at all times, but it's virtually impossible to protect you on stage. Unless…" A plan was forming in his head, but he needed to know a little more information. "Tony, have you finished the Goodison report?"
"Almost. I'm waiting on one last test from Abby."
"Take Sarita back to her hotel. Check it out and stay with her."
For a split second, it looked to Gibbs like he was going to protest. But just as rapidly, he acquiesced, replying, "Right."
He pulled his weapon and picked up his backpack. It was then that he caught her expression and his softened. He paused, looking down on her smiling face. He had missed her very much over the years. But she was also a memory of his past that he had tried to bury. He wanted to talk to her, to hold her, to make love to her again, but those things would only produce more pain. Like a switch, he turned those feelings off and escorted her towards the elevators, mindful of the eyes following them. If he could just make it through the next three days…
Gibbs watched them leave and then sat patiently until the elevator door had closed, then he stood up and asked, "What'd ya find, McGee?"
The young agent startled for a only a split second, wondering how Gibbs knew he'd been searching for information, but this was Gibbs and Gibbs knows all. "Sarita was born the same year as Tony and she lived in that house on Morning Song Way with her family until she was 18. At that time, she had secured a recording contract and began renting an apartment in New York City near the recording studio. Her first album, Passionate Crimes, went platinum. She went on to make appearances on some of the top television shows in the 90's until she landed the coveted "Bond Girl" role in the 1999 installment of the James Bond flick. In 2002, she was named the "Prettiest Woman in the World" by People Magazine and has pretty much stayed in the top three since then. Along the way, she's won just about every award imaginable. As her popularity soared world-wide, so too did her lack of privacy. Needing some time off, she took a respite from the business for a couple of years and married her manager, but that only last two years. In 2005, she went back to the recording studio, co-writing and recording some of her best music with some of the greatest musicians of our time. With the exception of a few cameo roles, she pretty much sticks to singing these days."
"Tony grew up on the estate known as Pemberley. Tony's mother and evidently his brother, Marco, were killed when Tony was eight, leaving just him and his father. Tony's father dealt with the loss by submerging himself into his work, being away for long periods of time. Tony attended the prestigious private school, Flint Hill Prep School, before being recruited to play basketball at Ohio State University. It does not appear he and Sarita kept a relationship after he went off to college and she to New York."
"Actually," McGee continued, reading from his screen, "there seems to be a mystery man in her life that is the big gossip in the entertainment world. There's a lot written about a man that's never been identified, but with the exception of this one photo, nobody has been able to prove it." He sent a grainy profile picture of Sarita on the arm of a man to the plasma.
"Can you clear it up?"
"I can try." McGee played around with the photo, isolating the man's profile and sharpening the contrast. It became evident that the physical traits of the man were very similar to DiNozzo's.
"Again," Ziva said, "why would Tony hide the fact that he knows this woman, and he's been seeing her? I would tell the world and then some if I were seeing Brad Pitt or George Clooney or even Jon Bon Jovi."
McGee and Gibbs looked at her.
"What? I happen to like older men."
"McGee, I want five years worth of back issues of the Connecticut Gazette, beginning with the date Tony's mother was killed."
"Ziva, I want you to identify that mystery man. See if you can put a date to that photo. Also, run Sarita's cell phone records and see who comes up."
Tony sat in the back seat of the biggest limousine he'd ever been in. Looking around, he commented, "The last time I was in one of these, my car was blown up."
"Nevermind. Long story; sad ending. Sarah, why are you here? I thought we agreed that seeing each other wasn't a good idea, especially since we almost got caught the last time."
"I know, and we did agree. But I've had a change of heart since then. I miss you, Tony. I miss us! I've tried to let it go, but I can't. What we share—"
"—We don't share anything! We can't! I can't go back, and you shouldn't either. And I definitely don't want to remember."
"Maybe you don't, but somebody out there does." She pulled a piece of paper from her bag and handed it over.
Tony opened it slowly. He read it three times before asking, "Where'd you get this?"
"It came last week. Whoever sent it was able to bypass my security and practically hand it to me. This isn't some fly by night stalker, Tony, this person knows something."
She was afraid, and it showed in her voice, although someone who didn't know her as well might not pick up on it. He saw the moisture as it filled her eyes and he was instantly catapulted to another time. He pulled her in close to him and she snuggled against his chest. Toying with the button on his shirt, she quietly admitted, "I thought that this was behind us. I really thought that you and I would go to our grave with this secret."
'So did I,' Tony thought. "We'll figure something out." He pulled her closer, refreshed by her scent and fighting with himself to stay focused when his feelings were all mixed up inside.
Any an all comments are welcome and they help keep my muse alive. I have two endings that I'm toying with at the moment. Hope you enjoy!
"Last Man Standing" is the first episode of the sixth season of the American police procedural drama NCIS, and the 114th episode overall. It originally aired on CBS in the United States on September 23, 2008. The episode is written by Shane Brennan and directed by Tony Wharmby, and was seen live by 18.03 million viewers.
In the fifth-season finale, Lauren Holly's character, Director Jenny Shepard, was killed off in a gun fight following Holly's decision to leave the show. Shortly afterwards, the new director disbands the team, presumably as a form of punishment for failing to prevent Shepard's death. The premiere picks up four months later and follows Gibbs' efforts to adjust while still hoping that Tony, Ziva, and McGee will be allowed to return; it also initiates a new story arc surrounding a mole in the agency that was developed later in the season.
The episode opens showing Ziva in a Moroccan bar, dressed up and singing "Temptation" by Tom Waits. It quickly becomes clear that she is undercover, and after a subject of interest leaves abruptly, a bomb explodes, destroying the room.
Gibbs is struggling to adjust to a new team after Director Vance scattered his previous one four months earlier, sending McGee to the cyber crimes unit, Ziva to Israel, and deploying DiNozzo on a carrier ship. He is unsatisfied with Keating (Jonathan Mangum), Langer (Jonathan LaPaglia), and Lee (Liza Lapira), the agents assigned to him, feeling their personalities to be incompatible and their skills mediocre. Abby, who has crafted photo collages of Ziva, Tony, and McGee, pleads with him to get them back.
They are called to investigate the case of murdered petty officer Steve Vargo, and Ducky determines that he was killed over 4 months ago, and the killer had covered the victim's face with a pillow before shooting him, leading them to believe that the perpetrator is inexperienced or reluctant to kill. Shortly afterwards, Gibbs and the new team discover that the case is connected to a bombing in Morocco. While viewing ZNN news footage covering the aftermath of the bombing, Gibbs recognizes an injured Ziva being carried out on a stretcher from the ruins of the bar. He frantically attempts to contact her, and McGee is able to supply the phone number of her father, Eli David (Michael Nouri). Ziva, who is alive and recovering, explains the purpose of her undercover assignment over the phone and admits to missing the team.
During the phone conversation, Gibbs finds that Vance was involved in Ziva's undercover case; when Gibbs asks Vance about it, the latter admits his endgame: 5 months earlier he was contacted by Vargo, who claimed he was being blackmailed into leaking classified Navy Intel. After agreeing to meet with Vance face-to-face, Vargo never showed - he was reported missing the next day. Based on the info he had, Vance determined the blackmailer was one of three NCIS Agents - Lee, Langer or Keating. He only broke up the old team to form a new one, so Gibbs could help him identify which one is the mole.
He also used the old team to further his investigation: McGee was sent to Cyber to break into Vargo's computers while Ziva was sent back because Vargo was a Middle-East specialist - her target was Vargo's best friend. Tony, currently on the carrier USS Seakawk is then asked by McGee and Gibbs to hack information to find what the mole was after, and discover Operation Domino: the US' plan in the event of an attack on the Middle East. McGee begins investigating Gibbs' team when they find that their victim had been calling Agent Lee, only for her to dispute it and say he was asking for legal advice; Gibbs and Vance learn of Palmer's relationship with Lee, solidifying her alibi.
Langer and Keating become anxious when they realize that their bank records are being viewed, and Lee informs them that they are being investigated. As Vance and Gibbs begin to interrogate Keating, Langer and Lee decide to "check out" the computer archive center, despite it being prohibited. Moments later, Gibbs gets a frantic call from Lee, claiming that Langer is the mole. Gunshots are heard through the phone, and they rush to help her, finding a frightened Lee and dead Langer.
To Abby's delight, Vance begins to reverse the disbanding of the original team: McGee is reassigned to Gibbs' team, and Eli David agrees to allow Ziva to return to agency. In a private conversation, Eli tells Vance, "Use her well, Leon. Ziva is the sharp end of the spear." Agent Lee leaves to return to her old position; however, in private, Lee receives a text asking "Do they suspect?" and it is revealed through a brief sequence of flashbacks that she was the mole.
The episode was written by Shane Brennan, who was executive producer at the time, and directed by Tony Wharmby. The premiere date was announced on June 26, 2008.
NCIS underwent casting changes, some brief and others permanent, to accommodate the plot; Rocky Carroll was promoted to a series regular to replace Lauren Holly's character as the agency's director. Several weeks before "Last Man Standing" aired, it was announced that Jonathan Mangum, Liza Lapira and Jonathan LaPaglia would appear as Gibbs' replacement team, playing the roles of NCIS agents Daniel T. Keating, Michelle Lee, and Brent Langer respectively. However, it was confirmed that Michael Weatherly, Sean Murray, and Cote de Pablo would still appear. The episode also marks the first appearances of Michael Rivkin (Merik Tadros) and Ziva's father, Eli David (Michael Nouri), both of whom play a pivotal role in the season's finale arc.
A photo of Cote de Pablo's character, Ziva, appearing as a bar singer undercover became a subject of interest before the episode aired. Brennan addressed questions raised: "Without giving away too many secrets, the answer to why Ziva is dressed in a sexy, backless dress and singing in a smoky bar will be answered in the opening moments of the season 6 premiere, so fans won’t have to wait long to find out the 'why' of it. But I can divulge one more piece of the puzzle: the 'where' of it. The bar is in Morocco. And did I mention that in the opening episode a member of Gibbs' team gets blown away?"
Cote de Pablo, who performed in the theatre prior to joining NCIS, supplied all of the vocals during the scene in which Ziva sings while undercover in a bar. She admitted that she had initially been opposed to the scene and was reluctant to sing on the show at all, saying, "They've been toying with the idea for maybe two years of having Ziva sing. From the beginning, I said, 'No way.' I think literally you'd be jumping the shark. What else do we have left here? Let's make the character tap dance and sing...Then Shane (Brennan) clearly put it in a way I couldn't resist." She added that the costuming was radically different from what the "low-maintenance" Ziva is typically shown wearing: "We added a dress. We heightened the eyes a little bit. They gave me sultry, jazz music to sing along to and that in itself is such a different thing for the character."
De Pablo later did a full performance of "Temptation" that was released with the NCIS: The Official TV Soundtrack album on February 10, 2009.
"Last Man Standing" was seen live by 18.03 million viewers. As a result, it was up in viewers compared to the previous episode, the fifth-season finale, as well as the most watched CBS primetime show during the week of September 22–28, 2008. Shortly after the episode aired, it was reported, "NCIS has been a consistent ratings leader and is one of the few prime time dramas that continues to gain viewership as it ages." It was also noted that the show drew more viewers than in the previous season premiere, while, House, its main competitor at the time, drew fewer.
"Last Man Standing" was generally received well. Allison Waldman from AOL TV summarized the episode: "So, it turns out that Vance is smarter than we thought and the break up wasn't a punishment but a strategy cooked up by the director to get Jethro to flush out a spy in NCIS. The fact that Lee appears to be the double agent, and that Gibbs and Vance seemingly believe that she killed the 'real' spy -- Langer -- is part of a larger story." She also praised Cote de Pablo's singing and the scenes depicting McGee working in cyber crimes. Allison Stein from Firefox News wrote, "Season premiere taunts us with a sexy siren song, double-secret probation, and a traitor on the new team...The script is solid and the acting is excellent as always, the tension level is consistently high, and the story arc promises many surprises as the season progresses."
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