WHO ARE YOU?
A sequel to After The Storm.
Jeanne doesn't know if she can forgive Tony, because she's not sure who Tony is.
An established relationship story.
Written: August 2009. Word count: 1,000.
"Jeanne," he says. "Can you forgive me?"
He waits a little longer, but she doesn't answer. Instead she is simply staring at him, studying him. The way she is looking at him reminds him of the way Ducky peruses an x-ray, or the way Abby examines test results that hadn't turned out quite as she'd expected.
"Well?" he demands, finally having had enough of waiting. He's still far from dry; his hair is still sticking to his scalp, his clothes feel cold against his body, his socks are soaking. If she isn't going to answer him, if she isn't going to at least give him a chance, then he has to go. He has to get out of her apartment, find a hotel, strip and have a long, hot shower, before he faces the thought of returning to America.
The look on her face changes slightly, but he can't read her expression. Finally she sighs. "I don't know, Tony," she says, her voice almost one of regret. He waits. "I don't know, because I don't know who you are. Who are you?"
Surprised; he blinks. "What do you mean?"
"I mean who the hell are you? Really? Who. Are. You?" She drags the last three words out. Before he could even attempt to answer, she goes on. "I know you're not Professor Tony DiNardo. I know you're Anthony DiNozzo, an NCIS Special Agent. But what else are you? Is there any of Professor Tony DiNardo inside Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo? Or was it all a lie?"
"No," he hastens to say. "I -"
But she cuts into his words. "You said you lied to me about none of it being real, because you thought it was the best thing for me. For both of us. Is that really true? Or is it merely something you've just made up because -"
This time he cut her off. "No! I mean, no, it's not something I made up. It's true, Jeanne. I told you none of it was real because I really thought it was better for you. That it was what you needed to hear to be able to -"
"Get on with my life?"
He nods. "Yeah. Something like that."
He shrugs and glances away from her. "Yes." It's a whisper.
"Because I didn't. Not for one moment, Tony, did I forget you. I wanted to, God knows I wanted to. I hated you. I hated you so much."
"I know you did." He doesn't allow himself to pin any hope on the word 'hated'.
She went on, now tears are forming in her eyes and he wants to reach across and take her into his arms and hold her. He doesn't. "I loved you so much, Tony. I thought, I really thought . . . I loved you," she repeats.
Just as he didn't allow himself to hope at the word 'hated' he doesn't allow himself to feel despair at the word 'loved'. Instead, he moistens his lips and says quietly, "I love you, Jeanne." He stresses the 'love' just a little.
She wipes her tear-filled eyes and looks at him. "Do you?"
He nods. "Yes."
"Then tell me who you are."
"I'm Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo. But I'm also Professor Tony DiNardo. I was, I am, Tony DiNardo, Jeanne. Sure the name, the title, the whole 'on-line professor' thing was made up. I had a fake ID, a good one. A very good one. But that was the only bit that wasn't real. The only bit that wasn't me. The only bit that was made up."
She grabs a tissue from the box on the coffee-table and blows her nose. "The only bit?" Her tone is flat and slightly chilly.
He raises his hands in a half-defeated gesture. "Okay, so meeting you wasn't an accident."
"I was a case." It wasn't a question.
He closes his eyes and nods. "Yes. To begin with, yes."
"You were sent to seduce me, to make me fall for your charms, to woo me, to -"
"Yes! All right. Yes. Yes, Jeanne. Yes. I was. Does that make you feel any better?" His voice is raised and he's on his feet now staring down at her. To his amazement he sees the beginnings of a smile touch the edges of her mouth. "Yes," he says again, more quietly, as he sinks back into the chair. "I was sent for those reasons, and that's how it started. But it soon changed, Jeanne. I should have gotten out when I first knew I was really falling in love with you. I should have gone to Jenny and told her, I couldn't do it. That I was risking the case. I should have, but I didn't."
"Why?" she asks, her tone far softer than it's been since she opened the door to him.
She nods. "Yes."
"Because I'm a damn good agent and I didn't want to fail. And," he pauses and leans forward slightly, looking into her eyes, wanting her to see he's speaking the truth. "And," he repeats, "because I couldn't stand knowing that if I did tell Jenny I couldn't go on, that I'd never see you again. Because I couldn't have done, Jeanne. I wouldn't have been allowed to."
"Does NCIS control that much of your life?" Her tone is clipped again and colder.
He sighs. "Yeah. In part."
"I gave you a chance," she says. "I asked you to choose. You did. You chose them."
He nods. "Yes, I did. Because at the time it was the right thing to do, because I knew I couldn't be Tony DiNardo for you. I couldn’t give up NCIS; not even for you."
There is a long silence, broken only by the faint sounds of their breathing and the continuing sounds of the storm still crashing around them and the rain pounding against the windows.
He waits. Somehow he knows she has to be the one to break the silence.
Finally, she does. "And now?"
LINKS TO ALL STORIES IN THIS SERIES
A Raging Storm
After The Storm
Who Are You?
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