Title: Veritatem Dies Aperit
Summary: Can the betrayal of a friend, done in the name of national security, ever be forgiven?
Disclaimer: NCIS is not mine. I'm just borrowing the concepts and characters for a little while.
A/N: This story was written in honor of GibbsRules' birthday! Happy Birthday my friend! I hope you enjoy the story… :D
Dandum semper est tempus: veritatem dies aperit. (Time must always be given: time discovers truth.) – Lucius Annaeus Seneca, De Ira (Liber II, XXII, ii)
Chapter One: Time of Discovery
Another typical Monday. Or at least what Mondays are now typically like for him for the last six weeks. No. It's been seven weeks now.
Seven weeks since…
On Mondays, he usually didn't spend the whole day here unlike most of the other days of the week. On Mondays, he'd usually vacate the premises just after lunch to make up for the horrible creature he usually was on Sundays.
The first couple of weeks after his life had imploded, his days and nights were full of alcohol and his memories of that time were essentially one giant blur. Then one morning after waking up in his apartment next to his toilet and having no idea how he'd gotten home again after going to a bar with the intention of drinking himself into a stupor, he'd made a decision.
He'd decided that drowning himself in alcohol day after night after day was not the answer. He needed to start living again. Existing as a burgeoning alcoholic wasn't really how he wanted to go through life any more, and as soon as his stomach began behaving enough for him to be more than ten feet away from his bathroom, he'd made his way to a diner he'd rarely visited just down the street from his place.
He spent the whole day there drinking cup after cup of strong coffee pretty much ignoring everyone except his waitress who became his server after the first one went off shift. For some reason that second waitress took it upon herself that day to nurse him through his hangover, which was apparently from the deepest depths of hell.
She kept the coffee coming, forced him to take OTC painkillers for his monstrous headache, ignored his sullen temper, and even forced him to eat food his sour stomach could tolerate. Essentially she lived up to her name that day. And when he finally left that first time, a Sunday, he left Grace a $50 tip.
He'd gone home that evening and drank too much again. It's not like his problems had magically gone away or he was just going to stop drinking altogether. But the next day, once he could walk in a straight line, he found himself heading back to the diner, and again, Grace lived up to her name. Day after day, he went back to the diner, not really understanding why other than it somehow helped.
Maybe it was because he was simply leaving his apartment which was a place that held too many tangible memories of his previous life. Or, maybe it was because he'd always been a people person and the diner had a handful of regulars that he could say 'hello' to everyday. Or, maybe it was because he was simply not where the alcohol was. Or, maybe it was just too hard to resist coming back when every night Grace said, almost as if it was an order, "See you tomorrow, Tony."
Whatever the reason, he began to drink less and live more. He ate better, more healthfully than he had for far too long. He kept his mind sharp by spending the day reading the newspaper or catching up on books he'd bought but never before had the time to read.
Being there at the diner kept him from dwelling on his misfortunes and helped him distance himself from them. And Grace was always on shift whenever he was there. He still over-indulged on alcohol from time to time. Mostly, he spent his Saturdays on his couch drinking the night away. After not being able to remember coming home from the bar that one time, he now did his drinking only at home so he wouldn't again risk exposing himself to a potentially bad situation.
There was a time he would have been headslapped for having done something so stupid, but not anymore. Now, all he had to rely on was himself. He'd lost everything, including those people most important in his life, people he had considered family. Somehow, he'd lost it all and he still didn't know how exactly that had happened.
Sundays, though he would head back to the diner. Grace was always there, and she would give him this look of disapproval before bringing him strong coffee and several acetaminophens. They didn't talk to each other a lot, he rarely spoke to anyone anymore, but she was a much needed steady presence in his wrecked life.
His new routine settled him, helped him to drink less, to regain some focus and made him want to begin planning for the future. He'd begun by making some phone calls to some of the contacts he'd made over his long career in law enforcement, but he quickly discovered that word had spread around as to the circumstances surrounding his leaving NCIS. It became pretty clear pretty quickly that the black mark on his record pretty much spelled the end of his law enforcement career for good.
Once he'd realized that, he'd left the diner early that day and didn't return for almost a week. He spent that time away from the diner in his darkened apartment drinking away those days and nights except for when he was passed out or throwing up. He barely took care of himself during the time when he was finally grieving for his loss. The loss of a life he had loved. Up until those phone calls, he'd still maintained some hope, but now it was completely gone.
It was a major set-back, but eventually he came enough to terms with the idea that his chosen career was now just a memory and was able to once again join the outside world. Thank God Grace was still there at the diner when he returned. Her calm but gruff presence and her warm smile helped ease him back into some semblance of a life.
Several days later, he got a call.
Erik Hawthorne, co-owner and senior recruiter for Hawthorne Security called to say that word had gotten around about his messy dismissal from NCIS and the fact that no one in law enforcement was willing to hire him. They'd done some checking and decided he just might be a good addition to their firm. In fact, his overall record was so impressive that Daniel Hawthorne, Erik's older brother and co-owner of the company, wanted to meet him for an interview. Something seemed off about the situation, but not quite knowing what to make of the invitation, he agreed and they set up an appointment for the next afternoon.
The next day, the younger Hawthorne picked him up in a limousine and drove him to the corporate home offices of Hawthorne Security. The first moment he'd laid eyes on Daniel Hawthorne, he'd felt his gut give a little twinge, but didn't see the harm in listening to what the man had to say.
It was a job offer with an extremely generous pay package as well as more than adequate added perks and other benefits. He'd be part of a team assigned to the security of the firm's more high profile clients who preferred anonymity in their dealings. And, apparently, he was just the man for the job given all his years of experience as a cop and a federal agent.
He had his doubts since 'years of experience' told him that the majority of the non-support, i.e. administrative, personnel he'd seen were all obviously ex-military including both Daniel and Erik. To his eye, only perhaps a handful of the people he'd seen were ex-cops or ex-feds. Why would they need him? What could they possibly want with someone who could be indicted by NCIS for multiple crimes at any time?
By the end of the meeting, the feeling in his gut had transformed from a minor twinge into a full-blown someone's-gonna-die bad feeling. The brothers had laid it on pretty thick about the benefits of working for their firm and the fact that they were probably going to be his last chance to find a law enforcement-type job. In the end, they gave him a couple of days to consider their offer.
He'd politely thanked them for the offer and said he'd get back to them as soon as possible with a decision. He'd actually already made the decision to reject their offer before they'd even finished their heavy-handed pitch, but he thought he should not antagonize these guys in any way.
Something was off, really off, about that place and their offer, but he had no idea what. His past training had come in handy as he slipped into a version of himself that sounded like someone who was trying not to be too interested in the job. But the idea of working for Hawthorne Security sent chills down his spine. He'd play his part, the part of someone truly considering the offer, and then he'd decline it just before the deadline.
Now all he had to do was come up with a plausible excuse. The obvious reason not to accept was he didn't have the heart to be in law enforcement anymore given how things had ended at his last job. And could he help it if that excuse was a little too close to the truth?
Until the meeting with the Hawthornes, he hadn't thought about trying to get private security work. Maybe he could try applying to other, hopefully more reputable firms, but he had the feeling they probably wouldn't want him. How could a washed-up forty-plus year old ex-investigator of major crimes be of any use to a private security firm?
He realized then that he'd have to find some way to reinvent himself and move on. He'd managed to do it a few times before in his life, and he could do it again. So unsettled by the meeting with the Brothers Hawthorne and the realization that his old life was well and truly over, he didn't go back to the diner that day even though that morning he'd told Grace he'd see her later.
When he got home, he had a few drinks, but instead of losing himself like he usually did in the alcohol, he spent the majority of the night thinking about his life and his career – past, present, and future.
The next morning at the diner, Grace must have noticed how little sleep he'd had the night before and supplied him with more than enough coffee to get him through the day. After spending so much of the previous night thinking about his life, he decided to basically ignore it today.
He spent the day reading the newspaper, doing its crossword puzzle, chatting intermittently with Grace, and basically living out that day as if he didn't have a care in the world. Tomorrow he'd face the battered remnants of his life. Tomorrow he would call Erik Hawthorne, decline the offer, and then he'd start his life over again.
Eventually even the strong coffee couldn't make up for his lack of sleep, and he decided to call it a day a couple hours or so after noon. He would go home and watch a marathon of Magnum P.I. episodes and go to bed early.
He asked Grace for his check and when he got it, he immediately spotted some familiar handwriting at the bottom; handwriting he hadn't seen in more than seven weeks and never expected to see ever again after the falling out they'd had.
It took a couple of read throughs of the short, five-word note for him to be able to comprehend its contents. But when he read the note at the bottom of his bill yet again, it still said:
Take the job. Semper Fi.
To be continued...
A/N: I've had the idea of those five words for quite a while now… I'm going to put several characters through the emotional wringer so some of this might be considered OOC.
A special Thank You! to ncismom, my beta and my sounding board. Any remaining mistakes are my fault.
Thanks for reading!