A Real Man
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There weren’t many pieces of advice or rules Anthony DiNozzo, Sr. had given his son. However, the one he held most dear was also the one he was finding hardest to not break at the moment.

He’d seen it happen too many times over his half dozen years in being a cop; not only by civilians, but coworkers as well. Too many times he’d seen a woman shy away in fear from a gentle hand; too many times he’d seen them slapped down by a harsh one.

He’d sworn he’d never, ever raise his hand in anger - or at all - towards a woman.

Not that the woman in front of him was making it easy at the moment. Wendy had confronted him as soon as he walked through the door, and he hadn’t even managed to secure his gun before her voice had risen. He’d grown used to her behavior lately - the accusations, the yelling, the grabbing and pleading. He’d begun to tune her out, making the appropriate nods and affirmative noises when he knew they were expected.

She was justified, after all. He might not have been cheating on her with another woman, but it certainly looked like he was. The late nights, early mornings, taking phone calls in private… Hell, he’d come home with a smudge of black lipstick on his collar from the enthusiastic lab tech giving him a peck on the cheek after he’d brought her lunch (and a caffeinated bribe). Of course it looked like he was cheating on her.

Christ. He wasn’t even married, and he was already whipped.

And the fact that she was obsessing over every dime he spent… Well, the wedding was soon, and it was expensive, so it made sense.

Ok, it’d be nice if she’d watch her own spending habits a bit more closely, but she was stressed, so he could let it go. Besides, with the new job, they could afford it here and there.

Same as with her lunches, and the cocktail hours that she’d use to plan the wedding over. Clearly, this evening’s plans hadn’t gone that well…

He was so tired of it already - the wedding was only two months away, and yet it seemed like it was taking ages. Him starting a new job was the last thing they needed, but it was a good move for them. Not only that, but the area they lived in had better schools for kids, and he knew Wendy wanted them (despite his own reservations).

"Love is for the lucky and the brave."

Times like these, he didn’t feel very lucky. As long as he could get through it, though, and make it to the wedding. The rest of what Danny had said really didn’t matter - hopefully his looks would last for a while, but if they didn’t, he didn’t really see himself wearing designer clothes anyways - he’d rather keep the money, using it to let Wendy be a stay at home mom. If she wanted to, of course.

Although some high end suits would be nice… It wouldn’t kill him to look sharp, especially seeing as how he was a federal agent now.

“I said, are you listening to me, Tony?”

His eyes downcast, he nodded.

Unsatisfied, Wendy grabbed him by the chin. “Bullshit. You haven‘t heard a damn word I‘ve said, have you? You never listen to me!”

Sighing, Tony walked past her, heading for the kitchen as she followed, allowing the venom and vitriol to flow over him. She’d be tired soon, and apologetic, and then they could have dinner and just forget about everything until tomorrow. She’d probably just had a rough day.

A quick look in the fridge revealed some chicken he could make them, and as he went to reach for them, the refrigerator door slammed shut. Cursing, he pulled his hand back just in time and looked up to see a furious Wendy standing there.

His eyes wide, he took a step back as she screamed at him.

“Listen to me!”

Staring at the far wall, he bit his tongue and nodded.

The stinging pain in his face was a shock, and he stared in surprise at Wendy as he realized she’d actually slapped him. Her face contorted in anger, she went to raise her hand again, and he grabbed her arms to try and stop her.

“Get your hands off me!” she shrieked. “If you would have just listened to me, this never would have happened, Tony. How many times do I have to say it? Do I have to beat it into you?”

With that, everything clicked into place, and Tony stepped back as though he’d been burned.

“What did you just say to me?” he hissed.

Her eyes narrowing to slits, Wendy sneered. “Oh, so now you want to grow a pair of balls? Listen here, you sack of shit -”

Drawing himself up to his full height, Tony glared at her. “You will not talk to me like that. I’m sick of this shit, Wendy. I’ve had enough. I’m not your verbal punching bag, I’m your fiancé.”

With a step back, Wendy smirked. “Is that so?” Reaching back, she slapped him again. “You want to be a man and put me in my place? Just go ahead and try. I dare you.”

Tempted, Tony ground his jaw. It was then that his father’s words floated through his head: A real man would never lay a hand on a woman, Junior. See, we DiNozzos, we’re real men; let the women sort out their issues by themselves.

With that, a thousand hopes, dreams, and delusions flew out the window, and he saw things for what they were.

He’d seen abuse cases a thousand times before, and he hadn’t recognized it happening in his own home until it had escalated to the point of physical violence?

Christ. He was an idiot for not seeing it sooner.

Disgusted with himself, he headed for the bedroom, leaving a shocked Wendy behind him in the kitchen. Reaching up into the closet, he pulled out a suitcase and threw it up onto the bed. Ignoring how Wendy had followed him into the bedroom, he began to pull clothing out of his drawers, dropping it haphazardly into the luggage.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she asked, her voice starting to waver.

“Leaving.” Ignoring the few tears that were rolling down her cheeks, Tony began to pack up his dress clothes.

“Why?”

Furious, Tony glared up at her. “You just hit me, Wendy. I’m not going to just sit around and take it. I love you, but I’m not going to. And right now? I’ve got two options. Hit you back, or leave. So I’m leaving.”

“No, Tony, please don’t,” she begged. “I swear, I’m so sorry, it’ll never happen again.”

Shaking his head in resignation, Tony sighed. “Yes, it will.”

“How can you say that? You know me, Tony, I’m so sorry, I’ve just been so stressed, I love you Tony, please don’t go!”

“Yes, it will,” he replied sadly. “What happens the next time you get this stressed out? What happens then?”

“It won’t, Tony, I promise!” Fully crying now, Wendy grabbed at his arm as he headed to the bathroom and grabbed his toiletries.

“Wendy… Please, just stop. I need some time.” If he didn’t get the words out now, he was going to choke on them. “You need a chance to sort out what’s going on with you. I love you, but I can’t keep going like this.”

“I swear, it’ll never happen again, Tony, just please don’t go!” she sobbed.

Ignoring the tears stinging his own eyes, Tony turned away from his fiancée and picked up his bags, trying to block them from being grabbed as he made his way towards the front hallway.

“I won’t let you leave!” she screamed out.

Sadly, Tony shook his head and opened the door. “It’s not up to you anymore.”

Bullshit! A real man would stay!”

“No,” he replied softly. “A real man would leave.”

Ignoring both his own tears and the sound of a lamp crashing against the wall inside his former apartment, he walked away.