"Anthony?" the man standing in the opening between Tony and Ziva's desk said quietly. Tony's eyes flicked up.
"How can I help you, sir?" the young man asked.
"We need to talk."
"Are you the witness to a crime, sir?"
"Anthony," the man's voice hardened.
Tony's eyes fixed on the man with a hard glare. "Unless you're here to report a crime, I suggest you leave before I call security to escort you out."
"You wouldn't dare."
Tony's lips tightened into a parody of a smile. "You have thirty seconds to decide."
The man's face reflected fury. He threw a business card down onto Tony's desk and turned. "I really do just want to talk, Anthony," he said. His voice was tight.
"Something you want to tell me, DiNozzo?" Gibbs said mildly.
"What are you doing here?" Tony asked, ice in his voice. The man who'd left his card on the desk sighed.
"I'm trying to talk to you. You live here?" Charles DiNozzo stared up at the apartment building.
"It's a step up from the gutter I used to sleep in. You're not welcome to come in. Go back to New York and leave me alone."
"Anthony, please hear me out."
"You cut me off when I was twelve. You haven't had any contact beyond the occasional birthday present. I don't owe you anything."
"You still have my name. I am still your father."
"Funny. I thought you'd disowned me."
Charles winced. "Anthony."
"Fine. Let's go get dinner. Are you still drinking it or do you eat actual food?"
"That's part of what we need to talk about."
Tony looked at his father. The man looked old. His hair had turned silver. He was as puffy and round as Tony had remembered. His skin was tanned. He still had the Civil War style whiskers, but they were mostly white now. His suit was an excellent cut and his shoes properly polished. Tony led the way to his car. "You can follow me," he stated. The young man pulled out his phone as he got into the car. He dialed Abby. "My father just showed up at my apartment. If I don't call you by ten, call me back okay?"
"You think he's going to do something stupid?"
"Depends. He might. We're theoretically going to talk over dinner. Will you call Gibbs and tell him I won't be over tonight?"
"Why don't you do it?"
"Because he'll want to be here and the last thing I want is Gibbs and my father getting into it."
"It's simple. Gibbs will win."
"But I hate murder over the dinner table."
Abby laughed at that. "I'll call Gibbs. Then, I'll call you back in an hour to make sure you're okay."
Tony settled at the table across from his father. It wasn't his favorite restaurant for the simple reason that he wanted to be able to cause a scene. They sat in silence, waiting for their meals to come. Tony raised a brow when his father refused the house wine. Finally, the salads were finished and the main dishes received. Tony cut his steak carefully. "So say what you came to say."
"I joined AA a year ago," Charles stated.
"To stop drinking."
Tony rolled his eyes without looking up. "Why?"
"Because I realized I was alone. Crissy quit. Louisa divorced me. Rosa died."
"Rosa's dead? And no one called me?" Tony said sharply. "What about Ernesto?"
"He died three years ago, Anthony. Why would someone call you about the help dying?"
Tears threatened. Rosa and Ernesto had practically raised him. "They didn't disown me. You did."
Charles stared at him, obviously not understanding what was wrong.
"Rosa and Ernesto cared more for me than you or any of your little trophy wives. Rosa cared for me more often than Mother. Mother just dressed me up in sailor suits and made me give recitals for her friends. Of course I wanted to know they died! I would have come up for the funeral."
"They were just the help."
Tony's eyes narrowed. "They were good, decent people. They put up with all of your crap, cleaned your home, cooked your meals and cared for your grounds. Don't you ever disrespect them again."
Charles took a deep breath. He held it for a moment, then released it. "Anthony, I want to try to make amends. I want to try to build a relationship with you. I know it's been a long time, but. . ."
"You heard me. There is no way you're going to reestablish yourself as my father. You abandoned me and neglected me until I pissed you off enough that you disowned me and shipped me away to boarding school. I've gotten more guidance and love from complete strangers than you have ever showed me. You quit drinking. I'm glad for you. But you are not my father any longer. In fact, I don't think you ever were."
"Anthony, please, give me a chance to explain."
"You want to know what I thought when I saw you today? Honestly? After I remembered who you were, I thought you were after the account my mother left me. I thought you were going to take that as well. Or maybe that you needed me to sign some document stating that I wouldn't fight your current wife for the estate. That's all. I don't owe you anything, not even the chance to explain. You have until I finish my steak. After that, I'm gone."
"Will you give me through desert?"
"That depends on how pissed off this explanation makes me."
Charles sighed. "When your mother, your real mother, died, I started drinking more and more heavily. I married Emily no more than a year later. She wanted a child and couldn't have one of her own. I thought it was the best solution to the situation. You were still a baby. I needed her support. She needed a child. I dove into work and drinking and I didn't notice time passing. Suddenly, I looked one day and you were ten. Then, Emily crashed the car and I was stuck with a ten year old I barely knew. I didn't know what to do about that. I got tutors in and took you to reenactments. I thought it was enough. I married Isabella when you turned twelve and I never noticed everything going to Hell. Sending you away at fifteen had everything to do with Isabella and nothing to do with you. She wanted to travel and we couldn't do that with a teenager. I'm sorry, Anthony. I'm sorry for putting you below my wife. I'm sorry for sending you away."
Tony ignored the apologies. "I'm not hearing any explanations. I'm just hearing a description. Did you ever give a damn about me?"
"Dammit, I tried!"
"You call dragging me to reenactments that I hated trying? Or leaving me for three days in a Maui hotel without supervision caring? I wasn't worth the consideration you gave your suitcase. Forget it. I've lost my appetite." Tony raised his hand for the waiter. "You can cover dinner."
"Anthony, wait, can I at least call you? Try this again?"
"I need to get a box for this. You can bring the check too," Tony informed Sherry. He looked at his father. "Leave me a message. I'll call back if I can be bothered."
"I'll be in DC for three days."
Charles watched his son walk out of the restaurant and fought the urge to ask the waitress for a shot of whiskey in his coffee. He finished his meal and took care of the check. He gave her an extra tip for putting up with the tension between them. He walked out of the restaurant and saw Anthony's car still in the parking lot. He was on the phone with a map in his lap. He frowned. He walked over to the car and knocked on the window. Anthony scowled at him, then went back to his map. He nodded at something someone on the phone said to him. He hung up a moment later. The window slid down. "I've got work to do. Here, have my leftovers or ditch them." Anthony pulled out of the lot, leaving him holding the plastic bag of leftovers.
Gibbs looked at his second in command. The younger man was quiet, self-contained as he worked. The camera's flash was regular almost rhythmic. There was something very wrong with his Tony. The Tony he knew was never this still unless he was upset. There was always a joke or a movie or on rare occasions a book reference to puzzle out or groan at. "Done, Boss," the young man said quietly.
"Find me a witness."
"On it, boss." The green eyes were lowered. Gibbs caught his arm.
"Do we need to talk?"
Tony shook his. "Not now."
Gibbs nodded, letting the matter rest. "Time of death, Duck?" he demanded.
"Jethro, a moment. Patience," the doctor replied. "I'd say no more than three hours ago. Mr. Palmer, if you would." The body was packed up and removed from the scene. A few minutes later, Tony jogged back.
"Boss! We've got a problem. He had a kid with him when he stopped at the 7-11 over there. Kid's missing. I've got the film."
"Take it to Abby. Get a description and picture out." Tony tossed the camera to Gibbs and dashed for his car. Gibbs sent McGee to interview anyone else who might be a witness while Ziva completed the collection of evidence.
"Hey, baby," Abby greeted as Tony tugged on a ponytail. "What have you got for me?"
"Tape. I need you to pull off a picture of the kid our lieutenant had with him when he got drilled. Kid's missing."
"Oh no." She took the tape and got to work. Tony logged on to her system to start the BOLO paperwork and searches of LEO blotters. "So talk to me. Was it as bad as you thought?"
"Pretty much. He's still blind. He thinks I'll forgive him everything because he's my father. Hell, he didn't even remember that I was never told that my mother wasn't my mother. He told me Rosa and Ernesto are both dead and no one bothered to call so I could come up for the funeral. I can't think about it right now, though. We've got to find this kid."
"Is he sticking around?"
"Three days. I hope he'll just give up when I don't call him back."
"Honey, your luck is not that good." She winked over her shoulder at him.
"Anthony, call me back at my hotel. I'll be up until eleven." Charles left his number. He sat on the bed. This was definitely not going the way he'd planned. He didn't recognize the man he'd faced over the dinner table. He closed his eyes. His boy was out there doing something related to the Navy and he didn't know what. He laughed a little at himself. He didn't know anything about what his son did during the day. He picked the phone up again and dialed, using his calling card. "Jonas? It's Charles."
"Charles, how'd it go?"
"Not well. He walked out in the middle of the meal."
"And how'd you react?"
"I let him go. I finished my dinner. He was still in the parking lot when I left, but he was on the phone with his work, so I don't know what that means. He said he'd call me if he could be bothered."
"Did you drink?"
"No. I thought about it. I'm still thinking about it. I realized that I have no idea what he does at work."
"Charles, have you thought that he might not be willing to build anything with you?"
"I have to try."
"What will you do if he won't talk to you?"
Charles took a deep breath. The thought of that hurt more than he thought it could. "I'll reinstate his trust funds and give him access to the accounts Emily and I set up for him before things really went to Hell. I'm going to extend my stay a few more days though. I haven't been to DC in years."
"Good luck, Charles. Call me if you need me. I've got my cell with me."
"The kid's name is Manuel Rameirez. Lt. Patricks was his Big Brother. His mother's single and she was hoping that he'd have a good man to teach him."
"Never married. She had Manuel when she was sixteen. Her mother speaks no English. She speaks English and Spanish. So does Manuel. His father's never been involved in his life."
"Get the father. . ."
"He's in the state pen, boss. Already checked with the warden. He's still there. I've got the BOLO out to every local and federal LEO. I put a call into Missing and Exploited too. No hits yet."
Gibbs grunted. He hated kid cases.
Tony was staring down at the sheet of paper in front of him. "I'm going to start calling the hospitals and clinics."
"McGee, Ziva, canvas the area around the murder again. We need to find a witness or Manuel Rameirez."
Gibbs went down to talk to Ducky and Abby. They needed something fast.
Charles DiNozzo sighed, closing his eyes against the misery of the news. Changing the channel was too much work, and he couldn't relax in an atmosphere with no noise. It reminded him too much of being at home. He dug out the hotel provided notepad and pen. "Time to be honest with yourself, Charlie," he said to the empty room. "How does Anthony see you?"
He thought for a long moment before starting to write.
Tony hung up the phone with the end of his pen and started on the next number on his list. He glanced up at Gibbs when the older man returned. The grim look on his face wasn't encouraging. "Boss?"
"Give me the list. Find me a suspect. I'll look for the kid."
"On it, boss." Tony handed over the neatly-ticked list. He pulled up the database searches that he had running in the background on their victim. He sorted through the information as quickly as he could. He froze, staring at an email trace. "Gibbs, he was being stalked."
"Get his stalker into interrogation."
"Working on it." Tony toggled between sites, looking for the most recent address on their glaring suspect. He muttered darkly under his breath as his system froze. He didn't know what he said to make Gibbs snort. He looked up.
"You may not throw the system out the window. Your paycheck won't withstand the cost. Unless you really aren't still paying off your shoes?"
Tony rolled his eyes, but it did break his foul mood a bit.
"You want to tell me what's up with you besides a missing kid?"
"My father wants to make nice with me. He's doing the twelve step thing. I told him to buzz off."
"Buzz?" Gibbs' lip curled up on one side.
"I'm trying not to get called into human resources again, okay? Finally. Got the address. You coming or shall I grab, well, whoever's here to go with me?"
"Grab whoever you can find to finish doing these phone calls."
Tony nodded once.
Tony leaned against the wall, watching Gibbs interrogate their victim's stalker. The woman was large and not overly pretty. Her hair was dark and so were her eyes. "He went to visit that little whore and her bastard child again. I just couldn't let him keep on cheating on me," she hissed. "He was mine."
"Damn," Tony whispered. "She's going to get off on an insanity plea."
"Where's the boy?"
"Why should I care about some little bastard?" she sniffed.
Gibbs pressed her again while Tony dialed up for a warrant to search her apartment. He looked up to find the woman in hand-cuffs. Gibbs was reading her her rights. He gestured for Tony to join him. They walked the woman to holding. "Search her apartment. I'll finish making calls."
"Right, boss. I'll call Manuel's mother again, to see if he's called her."
"You do that. Tony, when this is all tied up, we need to talk."
"DiNozzo, you'd know if I were planning to ream you out."
"Yeah, you wouldn't be warning me."
"Exactly. Get moving."
"On it, boss."
"We'll find him, Tony," Gibbs murmured as the door closed behind his senior agent and lover. He went upstairs to finish the distasteful task of calling hospitals. He picked up the list from the probationary agent he'd grabbed when he'd started the interrogation. He dialed the next number on the list and ran through the litany of questions. No, they didn't have the missing child. His cell phone rang. "Gibbs."
"We've found him, boss. He's a little banged up, but he's okay." Tony's voice was filled with pure relief. "I'm going to take him to the hospital and have them look him over. Barns is here to finish the search."
"Tell him I'm sending McGee and Ziva to join him. I'll meet you at the hospital." After getting a few more details, he called McGee and Ziva. He moved quickly to get to his partner's side. Soon enough he found Tony hugging a crying woman. He listened to the soft, sweet bedroom drawl that Tony's voice fell into when he was comforting someone. The words were in Spanish, so Gibbs didn't bother to listen to anything more than the tone. She calmed after a long moment and stood up. She brushed away her tears with the Kleenx Tony offered her. She gave him a watery smile and took the card he offered as well.
"I'll call," she promised. Tony walked her back to her son. When he emerged a few minutes later, Gibbs wasn't surprised to see anger burning in his eyes.
"Good thing we already have her in custody. I'd probably be in trouble if we hadn't. She locked him in her shrine and was going to just let him starve!"
"That adds child endangerment and neglect as well as kidnapping to her tab," Gibbs said evenly. His voice was icy and he saw it steady the anger in the flashing eyes in front of him. "We'll see them home."
"And we'll put off that talk until tomorrow?"
Gibbs simply looked at the younger man until his shoulders slumped.
"Yeah, didn't think that would work. Do I get dinner at least?"
"And a beer if you're very good."
"And if I'm very bad?" Tony teased, a smile finally gracing his lips.
Gibbs smirked. "Then maybe I'll break out the ginger ale."
The younger man laughed at that. "So what's for dinner?"
"Chinese or Pizza?"
"Pizza. Definitely. I got his statement. Want me to head back and do my report?"
"It can wait until morning. She's not going anywhere. I told McGee and Ziva to head home as soon as they got the evidence back to Headquarters. Why don't you head to the apartment and grab a bag. I'll meet you at the house."
"Okay. I'll order the food when I get there." Tony made his excuses to Manuel and his mother, introducing Gibbs. Then, he was gone and Gibbs could hardly wait to get home."
Tony settled on the couch and put his feet up on the coffee table next to the open pizza box. He let himself fall over onto Gibbs' shoulder in the vain hope of distracting the man. Gibbs chuckled. He slid his arm over Tony's shoulders and held him gently. "You know that's not going to work, but I don't mind."
"Yeah, well, since I'm not allowed to lie to you, I've got to do something."
Gibbs leaned his head against Tony's hair. "What's happening, kiddo?" he asked quietly.
"I told you. Daddy-dearest is in town and he's wants me to just cozy up to him. He's still as arrogant as ever. He has no idea who I am or what I do. He didn't think I'd be upset to know that the quote help unquote was dead. The raised me, Gibbs!" Tony felt tears pricking in his eyes and while his father might never have told him that big boys don't cry, he'd picked it up soon enough everywhere else. He blinked the tears away. "I just want him out of my life. He's already disowned me. He already ignores me except for the occasional birthday present. I know those come through his assistant. I want him gone!"
Gibbs closed his eyes. He pulled his lover into a tight hug.
"He's never accepted me. He's never cared to try. The best thing that ever happened was that he sent me away. At least I wasn't bleeding out slowly from his perfect cut-downs every night. I just. . . I just want him gone."
"You want him to be proud of who you are," Gibbs said quietly.
"No, he lost that power over me," Tony said, voice a poisonous and bitter as Gibbs had ever heard, "when he didn't bother to show up for any of my graduations or even acknowledge them. I know that won't change. I can hate it, but I refuse to let him hurt me any more. I gave up on my blood family years ago, boss, and I won't go back to yearning for something I'll never have with them. They didn't want me. You do," his voice softened. "You and Abby and Ducky, hell even Director Sheppard are more family than they've ever been. You at least care if I live or die."
Gibbs just tightened his grip a bit at that. "We love you. Well, maybe not Jen, but you'll grow on her."
Tony laughed a little bit at that, voice clogged with the tears he refused to shed. Gibbs tilted Tony's head up so that he could look the younger man in the eye.
"Let it out, Tony. Don't bottle it up inside. I don't want to watch it poisoning you. I'm here. Let me support you." A single tear slipped down Tony's cheek. The young man wiped it away angrily.
"I'm not going to cry on you, Gibbs. I don't do that girly shit."
"This from Mr. Stoic himself?" Tony snorted. "Try it on Abby. I don't buy it."
Tony's anger seemed to drain. "Just. . . just let me lean on you for awhile."
Tony listened to whoever was on the other end of the line for a long moment. Ziva watched in fascination as Tony's expressive eyes turned stony with anger and his lips compressed. "Thank you," he said stiffly, hanging up on the call. He dialed his phone an instant later. "Trying to buy me off? Keep the damned money. I don't want it. I don't need it. It's just going to complicate my life." He hung up without saying anything else. "Boss," he said more calmly, "I need to talk to security. There's going to be some strange things happening with my financials."
Gibbs brows rose. "You act as if they've ever been normal."
"Very funny," Tony griped. His anger seemed to ease though.
"You have fifteen minutes."
"Right, boss." Tony strode down the hall towards the security offices.
"Is there something of which we should be aware?"
"When there is, I'll tell you Officer David."
She blinked at him, surprised at the anger in his voice. His bright blue eyes weren't focused on her though, they were staring at the empty desk. She'd known, probably before anyone else, that the two men were lovers. She'd known that since before she'd started working with them. On a normal day, there was nothing in their interaction that couldn't be explained away by hero-worship. Still, they were an interesting couple to study and Tony wasn't adverse to flirting just for the practice. Today seemed strange to her. Gibbs' anger wasn't directed at his younger lover. She felt a protective instinct curling in her stomach. Someone was hurting her team and she didn't like it.
Tony returned soon enough. He collapsed into his seat with his usual casual grace and leaned back. His cell phone rang and he answered it with a quickly barked, "DiNozzo." The fury rose in his eyes. "Do you actually expect me to be grateful? What do you want from me?" He was quiet for a moment. "Call my lawyer. I'm sure it's a process you understand well. It's the same firm it's always been." He hung up. His eyes sought out Gibbs'. He must have found something in that gaze that steadied him, because he pulled his keyboard towards him and unlocked his system.
Charles DiNozzo made his way back up to his son's desk. He'd been half-afraid that security had been told to keep him out. "Anthony," he said quietly.
The young man ignored him.
Charles cleared his throat and started again. "Anthony, look at me."
His son picked up the phone and hit one of the speed-dial numbers. "Security, there's an unauthorized visitor by my desk. Please escort him out and make sure he never gets in here again." The tone of his voice was icily polite. Charles sighed.
"Anthony, that's not necessary. I'm just here to talk."
"And I don't want to talk to you ever again. Security will walk you out." The young man never even looked up, just went back to his games.
"You're my son."
"No, I'm not. You disowned me remember? That means I don't have to put up with your crap anymore. I'm not the help. I'm not your assistant. I'm not even in your business. You can't order me around. You can't demand to talk to me. You can call me and set an appointment. If I have the time I'll see you. That's the way this has always worked."
"Goddamn it Anthony Daniel DiNozzo, look at me," he snapped. Anthony's spine snapped straight, his eyes jerked up filled with an emotion that he didn't recognize. It took him a moment to realize that it was anger. No, it was more than anger, it was rage.
"I want you to know that I am about ten seconds away from coming across this desk for your throat. Never come to this building again. You are not welcome here unless you are reporting a crime. Have I made myself clear?"
Charles had never heard himself in his son before. But he recognized the tone and cadence for what it was. He stepped back from the desk. He was surprised to see Anthony's boss step into the face of that lethal rage. A single squeeze to the shoulder broke the intense gaze. The young man looked up at his boss. "Go downstairs and talk to Ducky," Agent Gibbs said quietly. There was steel in his voice. "I'll take care of things here. Now."
"Yes, boss." Anthony left them there. Security was there a moment later. Gibbs walked with them.
"If you come back here you won't get in," The man informed him. "And if you upset him too much, you'd better be ready for the consequences. Even the friendliest dog will bite when it's tormented."
"Just get him to talk to me, Agent Gibbs. I'm in town until the end of the week."
"Give me your card. Don't call him again."
"Anthony, what's happened?" Ducky said turning away from his medical journal. Tony hopped up on the autopsy table and let his legs swing as Ducky turned to look at him. "Mr. Palmer, would you run to the corner for some tea?" Ducky handed the young man a twenty and sent him on his way with an admonishment to take his time. He moved carefully until he was standing within Tony's space. The hands that gripped the edge of the table were white knuckled. There was very little of the fun-loving Anthony he knew in evidence today. "Tony," he prompted quietly.
"My father. He. . . Damn it, Ducky, why can't he leave me alone? He didn't want me when I was a child! Why come back now when I'm almost settled. I don't know if he's trying to buy me off or assuage his guilt or what, but suddenly he's decided to transfer all of the assets I was supposed to get at twenty-one back into my name. I never wanted his money." The rage left Tony's voice as quickly as it had come. Dr. Donald Mallard was not a psychologist. He had, however, once been a favorite uncle to a tribe of children long since scattered to the winds. He knew without asking that Anthony simply wanted a little time to feel safe again before he spoke. The doctor drew his chair across the room to sit next to his friend. He wasn't as young as he used to be and sitting on tables was no longer an option. "I hated him for so long, Duck," Tony whispered. "He cut me down whenever he remembered I was alive. I was nothing but a toy to him and a doll to his first wife. The best thing that ever happened was being sent away. I ran out of anger in college. At least I thought I had. I'd found a new family. Then, I became a cop and damn that was better than anything. He didn't care. He ignored me the way he always had. Then, suddenly, he shows up and swears to me that he's not drinking and he wants to be my father. I can't make him understand that I don't want or need him anymore. I called security to throw him out today. I almost threw myself at him and that's against everything I've ever believed. How can someone who was never there, hurt me so badly when he's gone?"
Ducky took a moment to consider his words. He set his hand gently on the closest knee. "I wish I could give you an easy answer. I wish I could tell you that pain just disappears without a trace. But you aren't one for sugar-coating and neither am I. This will hurt until you lay it to rest. I know you don't want to hear this, but see him. Tell him the truth quietly and rationally. Take Jethro with you. He'll keep you from doing anything that you'll regret. Then mourn all of it. Mourn your mother's death and your father's indifference. Mourn the childhood you should have had and the memories of that pain. Don't follow our Jethro's example. Don't bottle it up inside of you." He stood up to give the young man a fierce hug. "Infections need to be lanced, Anthony, and you have had an infection of the soul festering where none of us saw it. Let the poison out of your system and heal." He held onto the hug until Anthony hugged him back and buried his face against the soft cotton of Ducky's twill coat. "And when all's said and done, I've brandy and cocoa and a troupe of rambunctious dogs who'd love to have a playmate."
"And a mother who thinks I'm a gigalo."
"Well, she's always been a sharp judge of character." The startled laughter made Ducky smile. His nephew would be just fine. "Now, go up and make Jethro take you to lunch. You need to get away from the office and talk to him."
"He knows what's going on."
"That isn't what you should talk about. Talk about movies or art or the color of the sky. I'm prescribing a long lunch outdoors at a good restaurant to cheer you up. Tell Jethro he can call me if he doesn't agree."
"Yes, doctor." Tony pulled back from the hug finally. "Thanks, Duck."
"You have my number should you need it. Now, shoo."
Tony grinned. "You'll probably be getting a call for Gibbs soon."
"I'll look forward to it."
"Better?" Gibbs asked. Tony smirked at him.
"He's prescribed a two hour lunch on your tab. Somewhere with good food, outside."
Gibbs snorted. "Take Abby and pay for it yourself. Make it up before you leave."
"Right, boss." Tony rolled his eyes. He seemed a lot calmer, almost bouncy and Gibbs was glad to see it. The smile disappeared. The young man looked a question at him.
"He won't call again."
"Good," the venom was back in Tony's voice. It was enough to bring Ziva's head up sharply and for McGee to glance at the senior agent in surprise. Tony settled in his seat and went back to the reports he'd been working on when he'd been interrupted. Ziva and McGee glanced at one another. Gibbs knew they were worried. Tony in a bad mood usually meant that Gibbs himself was in a bad mood. Tony had cause to be a bastard today, but that didn't mean that Gibbs would let it go for long. He studied his second as his boss for a minute. There was nothing he could call him on as a supervisor. However, they were also lovers and that gave him leeway to call him on things in private. If he worried Ziva or McGee too much, he'd take him into the elevator for a nice long "chat." He swallowed the evil grin that threatened. He wouldn't mind that outcome at all.
Some sixth sense brought Tony's head up with a suspicious glance. He frowned at whatever he saw in Gibbs' face. His eyes narrowed. He shook his head. He turned back to his computer. "DiNozzo, that better be paperwork your doing."
"What else would it be, boss?" he asked with angelic innocence.
"Take the game off of your computer."
"I'm not playing a game, boss." Gibbs' eyes narrowed. There was a hair-splitting lie in there somewhere. He could read Tony well enough to know that. Tony grinned at him. "I can't play a game and talk to you at the same time," he added. Gibbs couldn't resist balling up a piece of notepaper and lobbing it directly at Tony's head. The younger man caught it. "I must finally be beginning to rub off on you, boss."
"Sometimes you have to manage to the mental level of your employees."
That got a delighted laugh from Tony. Ziva's shoulders relaxed and McGee didn't look like he was in danger of fading into the filing cabinets anymore. Gibbs called it good and went back to his own work.
"But I don't want to hear him out, Jethro," Tony snarled the name. "I don't want to let him in. I don't want his damned money. I want him gone." Tony paced the length of the living room. His turns were military in precision and Gibbs caught a glimpse of the drills he'd been taught in military school. Gibbs was probably the only one who knew that Tony had loved that school, even though he'd never sought an appointment to the Naval Academy from it. The young man often fell into the patterns that had served him well there. He asked permission to speak. His eyes would find something to focus on when he was being yelled at. He ignored the sharpness of Gibbs' anger when it wasn't directly connected to his behaviors. Still, his father showing up had thrown him out of his usual good humor. Gibbs forced his anger down. Tony wouldn't take it tonight. Tonight, if Gibbs snapped, Tony would snap back. If they fought, they'd go for blood.
"If you hear him out, he'll leave."
"He can talk to my lawyer. He's been doing that since I was ten. The state appointed an advocate after the Maui fiasco. I was expatriated, Gibbs. I divorced my freaking family!"
"Tony, come here. Sit down."
"Then get changed because we're going for a run."
"You heard me. Get changed, we're going for a run. If you're this keyed up, you need to burn it off.
Tony glared at him for a long moment. Gibbs met his eyes, not giving any ground. Tony turned on his heel and stormed to the bedroom. Gibbs sighed. He got tied his sneakers.
"You could just suggest screwing me through the mattress," the younger man muttered as he tightened his own laces. "How long?"
"Until you stop wanting to hurt someone."
"Oh, great, a marathon."
Gibbs looked at his lover. Tony looked like a thundercloud. There was a barely restrained menace that usually only came out when he was threatening murderers and rapists. He nodded shortly. "Stretch out. You'll need it."
They ran for several miles and walked a few more. By the time they got back to the house, Tony looked too tired to be belligerent. "You really think I should talk to him?" he asked, slightly breathless.
"I can't keep my temper."
"I'll stay with you. I order you to stand down and you will." Gibbs shrugged. "You don't have to keep your temper. That's my job."
"And when did being the boss extend to personal crap?"
"About the time I kissed you."
"Oh, yeah." Tony gave him a little boy grin. "Could we try that again?" he asked innocently.
"You trying to distract me?" Gibbs asked as Tony nuzzled his chin.
"Depends on whether or not it's going to work."
"Not going to work. Hit the showers, I'll make arrangements with your father. After you talk to him and this is all over, I'll take you to bed for an entire weekend."
"That better be a promise, Jethro," Tony growled, "or I'm finding a new lover."
The thought snapped Gibbs into action. He kissed his younger lover thoroughly and firmly. "You're mine, Tony."
"God, I love it when you get all alpha male." Tony laughed at him. He laid a trail of kisses along his jaw. "I'm not going anywhere."
Charles DiNozzo sat at the restaurant, waiting for his son to arrive. He tried not to fidget. He wanted a drink more than ever. He ran his thumb over his one year key-chain and reminded himself that not knowing his son was one of the reasons why he was not drinking. He saw Tony stop at the door. The young man stared at him until his boss pushed him forward. Tony glared at Gibbs, but there was a trace of a mischievous smile on his face. He muttered something into the other man's ear that made his head snap around and eyes narrow. Tony flicked a piece of lint off of Gibb's coat, then strode towards the table. "I'm only here because Gibbs ordered me to be here. I don't want to be here. I don't want to talk to you." He sat down and picked up the menu. "You're covering dinner." He raised his hand for the waiter.
"Hi, sweetie," he said, bustling over. "Haven't seen you and the mister her in months."
"We've been busy." Tony smiled up at him. "He's sulking up front. Get him some coffee and tell him to get over here or I'm leaving."
"You better tip well for that," the waiter drawled.
"I always do." His son winked.
The waiter chuckled. "The usual for both of you?"
"And for you, sir?"
"Whatever you recommend."
"Do you want the house wine?"
"No. I don't drink."
"Tea, coffee? Water?"
"Just water will be fine." The waiter nodded with a polite smile.
"That must be saving you enough money each month to afford a new house."
Charles felt his anger well up. He bit it back with an effort. He wasn't here to bully his son. "Anthony, I just want to clear the air between us."
"About what? You disowned me. I'm not your son any longer. Let's see, allow me to quote. 'I never want to see your gutter-trash face again. Go live in the filth where you belong. I should have known that having a son by an ex-whore would lead to a weak-willed sissy like you.' I can repeat every lecture you've ever given me."
The elder DiNozzo stared at his son in horror. "I never said that."
"Yes, you did. That was the day you sent me away to school. When I was twelve and didn't want to carry crap in a can anymore, you sent me to my room and didn't talk to me for three weeks. I found out later that you'd gone on a trip the next day and didn't bother to tell me. You left me on restriction until I ignored your rules and left the house anyway. You lectured me after my daily report, but that was it until you sent me to school. Tell me again, why I’m sitting here?"
"Because I want this finished," Gibbs said as he settled next to Tony. Tony immediately sought his hand for comfort and support. Charles saw his mother in him then. She'd been sweet like that once. Charles eyes widened.
"You're not gay."
"No, I'm bisexual," Tony informed him. "But I’m with Gibbs now."
Charles ran a hand through his hair. Gibbs' eyes fixed on the motion. The blue eyes studied him.
"I don't understand that at all."
"I know. You're a homophobe." Tony shrugged. He smiled nastily then. "That's why I had you meet us here in the middle of Dupont."
Gibbs smacked Tony lightly across the back of the head, more a ruffling of his hair than anything. "Let him talk. Ask your questions. Then, he's out of your life."
"I don't want to be out of your life, Anthony."
"Tony. Only one person calls me Anthony and you aren't him." Anthony’s eyes were cold. “I really don’t care what you want at any rate.” The young man leaned into the possessive grip Gibbs settled on the back of his neck. "Talk."
"Anthony, I'm not perfect. I've made mistakes. I'm trying to work on them. I'm trying to make my life more than an endless haze. Since I stopped drinking, there's been a lot of changes in my life, in what I see. Give me a chance to prove that to you. I'm trying to make some small restitution for the past." Charles took a breath to calm himself. The last thing he wanted to do was yell at the younger man. Anthony was looking at him with the cold, perfected distain that he'd learned from his step-mother. "I reinstated your accounts."
"I noticed." The sarcastic comment was muttered. Charles made himself ignore it.
"I want to get to know you, Anthony."
"Call me 'Tony' like everyone else does, Father."
"Tony, I'd like to get to know who you are." That was greeted with a bitter laugh.
"Well isn't that nice for you. I don't care what you want. You have no rights in my life. You lost them when you sent me away."
"Tony," Gibbs soothed. He leaned a murmured softly into the younger man's ear. His thumb stroked gently against Anthony's skin. Charles' son leaned his head against Gibbs' shoulder for a moment. The waiter returned with their food and drinks. Tony picked at his food. "Eat."
"I will. Fine. You want to know me. What do you want to know?"
"What have you been up to since you moved from Baltimore?"
The young man snorted. "Short form. I started working for Gibbs. I fell in love with Gibbs. I gained a partner named Vivian. We sent her back to the FBI. I gained a partner name Marsha. She went back to the DEA. I gained a partner named Kate. I almost had my throat slit by a murderer I was handcuffed to. I got a partner named Tim. I caught the plague. The three of us were nearly blown up by a car bomb. Kate was shot by a sniper. Ziva and Gibbs took care of the sniper. I now have a partner named Ziva. Now, you're here messing with my life."
Charles blinked at the quick bullet-statements. It was like one of his son's school reports when he was younger. There was no emotion attached to any of the statements. "Tony?" he prompted. "Could you go into a little more detail?"
"Sorry, that's classified." Tony batted his lashes at his father. "I'm going to enjoy my steak now."
The elder DiNozzo took a deep breath. "Why are you stonewalling me, Anthony?" he demanded, voice sharpening.
"Because I don't like you. I don't want you. I don't need you."
Gibbs growled out, "Tony."
"What? I didn't promise to be nice. I only promised not to bounce his head off of the pavement."
His son's lover shook his head. He turned Anthony's face towards him with a gentle finger. "You forgot being framed for murder, being trapped in a shipping container, being drugged and locked in the sewers by a serial killer, and being shot in the arm."
"I didn't think I was required to give a full report, boss." The two men kissed gently.
"God, I need a drink," Charles muttered.
Tony smirked at him. "And you were so proud of that one year anniversary."
"Stop baiting him."
"Why should I?"
"DiNozzo," the name was barked. Tony's spine stiffened immediately. The two men's eyes met for a long moment.
"I know. I know. Because you're in charge of my temper tonight."
Gibbs smirked. He ruffled Anthony's hair. That got him a soft, almost shy smile and Charles felt his eyes prick. "You look so much like your mother," he said quietly.
Anthony looked down at his plate. He pushed a piece of meat around in the juice. "I wouldn't know," he said finally. "It's not as if there were any pictures of her."
"She was your mother."
"She gave birth to me. I was raised by Rosa," Anthony snapped, eyes flashing through the fringe of his lashes. "My mother only wanted me around to show me off to her friends. 'What a good little boy.' 'How clever.' It was all crap, Father. I didn't know her. She doesn't mean anything to me. My step-mothers and I knew each other better, even though that was just to negotiate how to deal with you. All my side ended up with was giving you my report once a day and staying out of the way during parties and not knocking on the bedroom door. And you bowed out of my life when she died. You were just a drunken old bastard that I had to report to."
Anthony snorted. He raised his hand and gestured the waiter over. "Who do I have to blow to get my coffee refilled around here?" he asked the young man with a wink.
"Now, sweetie, don't tell me you charge your man for coffee? That's just cruelty." He refilled the coffee mug and disappeared with a smile. Anthony leaned into his lover's touch.
"Are you trying to shock me?"
"Depends on whether or not it will work."
"You can't drive me away by being crude."
Gibbs snorted. "You haven't heard him being crude yet. That was just teasing." Anthony leaned against his lover, eyes half closed in pleasure as the older man wrapped an arm around him. "Don't even think about it, kiddo," he snapped. Anthony's hand jerked up and settled on the table.
"You are just no fun tonight. Really. I should have called Abby. She would have mixed up something for me to sprinkle on top of his meal."
"Abby?" Charles asked.
"My best friend."
Tony's father sighed. "Anthony," he said quietly, "I can't bridge this gap between us alone. Please give me a chance."
"You amuse me," the young man said, eyes still half-closed. "You really believe that paying me off will help you win me over? Or is that some twisted form of restitution for disowning me?"
"I never wrote you out of the will."
"Like that matters?" Anthony rolled his eyes. "So, dear, tell me about your day," he said to his lover.
Gibbs shook his head. "Shut up and eat." That earned him an amused smile. Anthony did start to eat again though."You," Gibbs said, pinning Charles with his eyes, "need to realize that this is not a business deal. If you care about him start acting like it. Don't stalk him. Don't force him to listen to you. Don't try to give him money that he doesn't want and has to report to security so they don't think he's a spy. Don't claim that you haven't hurt him or shut him out for his entire life. Don't pretend that you never abandoned him. You're strangers who share the last name. DiNozzo," the grey-haired man said gruffly.
"Yes, boss?" Tony's eyes snapped to Gibbs immediately.
"Stop snapping and baiting. Stop trying to push him away. Pretend you just met him."
"You're the last person to be lecturing me on not letting the past affect my relationships," Tony snapped. "I don't want to meet him. I don't want to know him. Why doesn't that seem to matter!"
The waiter glided forward. "Hey, Tony, can I talk to you for a second?"
Almost instantly, the anger was gone. "Sure." Tony followed the man a few steps away. Gibbs glanced at their close postures. His lips twitched.
"So what do you think of his ex?" Gibbs asked, nodding at the waiter.
"Anthony always did spend too much time with the help." There was a sneer in Charles' voice that he had never noticed before. "You're not contending that that is my fault?"
"Isn't it?" Gibbs asked. "When you and your wife were traveling the globe, where was your son?"
"He was in the next room with his nanny."
"The hired help raised him. Danny's a good kid. He was the first person to support us when we started this relationship. He knows what it's like to live in the closet. His family disowned him when he came out and threw him out on the street. He didn't have a penny to his name and started working as a hustler on the streets of Baltimore. Tony sent him to school and helped him find a job. Tony knows when to spend money and when to save it. You use it to control people."
Charles frowned. He wanted to refute that statement, but he couldn't. He'd always used threats of money to keep Anthony in line. Then, when Anthony was twelve and refused to go to another Civil War encampment, he'd cut off the boy's allowance completely. "How do I do this?"
"He's not a possession. Try treating him like an adult."
Tony stared at his ex. "Okay, let me get this straight, Dan. You want me to go over there and let the arrogant, pig-headed, manipulative, jerkwad pretend that we have something in common? The man who told me that I would end up in the gutter and that's all I was good for? You want me to make nice?"
"Because he's your father and I would kill for my father to even consider talking to me again. I won't let you destroy this opportunity by being stubborn. Besides, you tip well and if this gets out of hand, Gibbs won't let you talk him into coming back here."
"Gibbs will always come back here. Well, there might be bribery involved, but you make really good coffee."
"Tony, please. When I first met you, you took one look at the alley I was living in and told me I could do better. You didn't even look at my clothes or posture. You didn't care that I was a hooker. Do you know how many people had ever looked at me that way? None. You were the only person who believed I could be more than I was. You're too good at heart to want to hurt him like this."
"You don't know me."
"I know you well enough that if you miss this chance, you'll hate yourself. At least try it. Don't push him away until you know that he's the same man he was. People change. You're not a teenager anymore. Please?"
Tony closed his eyes so that he wouldn't be looking into the deep brown eyes. "Fine. Stop with the puppy-dog eyes. I'll play nice and not make a scene, okay? That's all I can promise."
"It's a start. Go on, I'll bring some more coffee for the mister and some more tea for you."
"You can't afford me." Danny winked. Tony gave him a shy smile and went back to the table. He dropped into his seat and leaned against Gibbs.
“Yeah. He's living vicariously through me.”
“He's probably right.”
“He usually is. He's bringing more coffee for you. I think we need to tip better than usual. What with the counseling session.” His father looked like he'd swallowed a lemon. Tony cut another piece off of his steak. Tea, with honey, and a fresh cup of coffee appeared on the table. He smiled up at Danny. “So, you're going to let us whisk you away for a nice threesome some day right?”
“You just want me to make coffee. You don't fool me. Now, if you'd brought along your pretty little girlfriend, it might be different.”
“You suddenly turned bi on me?”
“Nah. But I like to watch.”
Gibbs shuddered at that. “If you ever imply that again, I'll have to shoot you and Tony will get pissed at me.”
“You got him to go all paternal. I thought Abby and I had broken him of that.”
Danny laughed. “I'll come check on you in fifteen. Be good.”
“Not if I can help it.”
“Tony,” Gibbs snapped. Tony stuck his tongue out at his lover. Danny moved on to his other tables.