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Title: Providence
Summary: AU. Between McGee and Ziva's constant bashing and Gibbs’ coldness, Tony finally reaches the point of no return and quits, leaving NCIS and DC behind him. On the road again, he stops by the town of Providence, Missouri, and makes a series of meetings which might change his life, whilst Gibbs moves heaven and earth to find him. But isn’t it too late?
Categories: NCIS
Rating: K+
Characters: Tony DiNozzo, Leroy Jethro Gibbs, Abby Sciuto, Tim McGee, Ziva David, Dr Donald Mallard, Jimmy Palmer, Leon Vance, Agent Balboa, Original characters (Tillie Hackerman, Harvey Jackson, Father Henry Richmond, Sheriff Elliot Green, Dottie Ferris, Christina Lake, Jake Petersen, Doctor Adam Beltram).
Pairing: Tony/OFC (in the late chapters), no other pairing.
Genres: Alternate universe/friendship/hurt and comfort.
Warnings: Middle swearing, OOC and major team bashing, especially Ziva and McGee.
Spoilers: Set at the beginning of season 6. Spoilers for Dead man talking, Hiatus, Boxed in, Bury your dead, Judgment Day, Agent afloat and various other episodes.

Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended.

Author's Notes: Special thanks to my precious beta reader badly_knitted and  to penumbria_fics who made this beautiful art for my fic. Thanks to thepeachymonkey for her unwavering support.

Chapter 5 – The Silver Fox

Providence, Missouri - September 17th – Sunday afternoon

At first sight, Providence looked just like the typical American rural town.

It was nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges of medium altitude. The road going through the city from North to South served as a main street lined with various shops and from which spread a network of narrower streets. Tony noticed, amongst others things the presence of a drugstore, a cinema and several food and clothing shops. At the first intersection, a road sign also showed visitors the way to the high school, the municipal swimming pool and the city hall.

As expected, the shutters of the shops were all lowered and the streets almost deserted at this hour of the day. Most people were more than likely settled quietly at home, busy sharing beers with their family whilst watching a game on TV.

Nevertheless, he began to go up the main street, turning the head from one side to the other in the hope of finding at least a self-service gas station.

He had almost reached the outskirts of the town, when his eyes caught sight of a red 'open' panel stuck on the façade of a diner. It was always worth trying. Taking advantage of the near absence of traffic, he did a U-turn and went to park just in front of the entrance.

He couldn't suppress a chuckle as he read the name of the place proudly displayed in white neon letters above the glass door of the entrance. The Silver Fox. He was coming to think that he was cursed. Even in the very heart of nowhere, he couldn't avoid being reminded of the former Marine.

He cast a glance at his surroundings and noticed that with the exception of a big navy blue pick-up and his Camaro, the car park was deserted. Crossing his fingers that the place wasn't about to close, he hastened to retrieve his wallet from the glove compartment and got out of the car. Whilst massaging a sore spot in his neck resulting from the poor quality bedding of the previous night's accomodations, he made sure that the doors and the trunk were securely locked before climbing two by two the few steps leading to the front door. He didn't want to risk getting stupidly robbed of his car and at the same time of what remained of his belongings.

The tinkling of a bell resounded as he slowly pushed open the door and he peered inside. The contrast between the bright light of the outside and the dim light of the inside made him squint and it took him a handful of seconds to make out his surroundings.

"Hellooo... Is there anybody here?" he called hesitantly.

A raspy voice laced with a thick accent came from the back of the room.

"There is. What can I do for you, pretty boy?"

A buxom woman rose slowly from one of the tables in the back of the room and walked nonchalantly to the bar, where she placed what looked like a ledger. She looked about sixty, sixty five with a bobbed hairstyle, strawberry blonde hair and piercing dark blue eyes.

Tony ran his fingers through his hair and scratched the back of his neck, giving her a sheepish smile.

"Well... I'm sorry to bother you, but I saw the sign at the door and I was hoping I could find something to eat."

The woman looked him up and down and Tony couldn't help squirming under her scrutiny. Hell, she could have given Gibbs a run for his money in regard to the art of glaring.

"Usually we're closed on Sunday, but you're lucky; today's the exception," she finally said, apparently satisfied with her assessment.

Tony inwardly sighed with relief. He was really starving and couldn't imagine hitting the road with an empty stomach.

"Thank you, Madam."

The woman shook her head and went behind the counter.

"Thank Barry Turner, not me."

"Excuse me?" He was puzzled.

"Barry Turner," she repeated, pointing at a picture on the counter adorned with black crepe.

"He died four days ago. Family and friends came from the four corners of the state for the funeral and they had a brunch here earlier. Otherwise, you'd have found the door closed."

"Oh, I'm sorry."

She sent him a wry smile and dismissed his apology with a wave of her hand.

"Don't be. Barry was an old fogy. He had a great life and died in his sleep. No need to feel sorry for him, really. Take a seat, I'm gonna see if I can fetch you something from the kitchen."

As she disappeared through the door, Tony couldn't help smirking. The woman really was a model of bluntness and, the least one could say, not at a loss for words.

He perched himself on one of the stools and looked around him, whilst playing with a paper napkin left on the counter.

The place was actually composed of two adjoining rooms and served at the same time as a pub and a diner.

The 'restaurant' part consisted of a long room, which was occupied by a row of bench seats aligned under large windows opening onto the parking lot and a refrigerated buffet meant to hold desserts. It was separated from the 'bar' part by a swinging 'saloon' door and copiously lit by daylight, whereas the bar was darker and lit only by the glass door. He also spotted a side entrance allowing the restaurant's customers direct access to the parking lot, without having to go through the bar.

Always arrange a way out. Without doubt, conditioned reflex died hard. With a sigh, he turned his attention to the bar.

It was nothing very original in itself, but Tony had to admit it exuded a quaint atmosphere in which you could easily feel comfortable. With the exception of the traditional zinc bar and worn wooden stools that garnished it, the furniture consisted of a few round tables and a half-dozen bench seats along the back of the room, near a dart board and a pool table which completed the furniture. Unlike the restaurant the walls of which were painted in shades of peach, those of the bar were covered in wood panels, blackened by years and decorated with a few group photos in black and white which, Tony assumed, depicted regulars or well-known local figures.

"Not exactly the fancy places you are used to on the East Coast, is it?"

The woman's voice startled him and he turned his head to see her heading back to him with a large plate on which were displayed an ample portion of meatloaf and an assortment of mixed salads. At the sight of the appetizing dishes, Tony felt his mouth already watering.

"In fact, it reminds me of a place where I worked as a bartender when I was at College," he hurried to reply, in order to sort out any misunderstanding. He rubbed his hands with delight. "Mmm… It looks delicious."

"I hope so. I cooked that," she said gruffly, before handing him the plate.

"Thanks," he said as he took it carefully.

The woman narrowed her eyes for a second, then let out in a softer tone:

"You're welcome."

The plate had barely met the counter before Tony started eating his way through the contents.

The woman raised an eyebrow then shook her head with an amused smirk.

"Mind if I keep you company, pretty boy?" she asked him, leaning an elbow on the counter, her other hand resting on her hip.

Tony shook his head and quickly swallowed a mouthful of meat loaf.

"Uh, huh. Not at all, on the contrary."

He was almost surprised to realize that it was true. In spite of her abrasive manners, the woman seemed to be rather nice, in her own way and displayed a strange mixture of intimidation and reassurance that reminded him of his grand aunt Carmella. God, that woman had scared the hell out of him when he was a child, yet she was one of the rare persons who had never forgotten to send him a card on his birthday, up until she died a few years ago.

Anyway after all those long lonely hours spent rehashing his dark thoughts, talking with another human being came as a breath of fresh air. Moreover, it looked like a good opportunity to test his new identity.

He put down his cutlery and held out his hand, flashing her his most dazzling smile.

"I forgot to introduce myself properly. My name is Tony. Tony Hamilton."

To be continued


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
(Deleted comment)
Sep. 12th, 2016 09:10 pm (UTC)
Thank you my dear friend, for your help and support. :D I'm trying to catch up with this fic and I hope to be able to post a new chapter soon.
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