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Making Things Right

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Jethro stared at the infant that was set into his arms – his girlfriend, Caroline, was currently being cleaned up “Why…” he had asked, but none of the nurses answered his question, so quietly that it was spoken.  No one else was in the room except for the nurses who were busying themselves with Caroline’s aftercare – The infant was already cleaned up and swaddled in a blue blanket.

 

Caroline was exhausted, at only fifteen years old, and having been in labor for three days had taken its toll on the teenage girl.  Caroline looked over at Jethro and smiled sadly “We cannot keep him…” she said quietly, tears coming to her green eyes.

 

Jethro nodded solemnly as he laid the crying infant down in the provided crib; they had already discussed this – knowing that keeping their son would do them nothing but harm, their futures did not align with having a child in their lives and had already set up an adoption for the boy – he would go to a wealthy family in Long Island, the couple had tried for many years to conceive a child and were unsuccessful in their attempts.

 

The adoption would be closed, and neither Jethro nor Caroline would ever know what happened to their unnamed son.  He would return to the hospital’s nursery, Caroline would be released within a few days, and the couple would return to their lives as if the past nine months had not happened.  Jethro sighed and stepped away from the crib, shaking his head; he was glad to not be in love with Caroline, not that he didn’t love her, he just was not in love with her “I’m going to head home now…” Jethro said quietly, his eyes never leaving his son as he spoke to Caroline.

 

Caroline sighed and shook her head slowly “So, this is the end…?  I give birth to your son… and you plan on leaving me?” Caroline asked, sitting up carefully on the bed.

 

Jethro nodded  “We are not keeping him, so why should I stay Caroline?  It would be different if he was staying… But he’s already been signed over… And I have a life that I need to live… And unfortunately, neither you nor he will be in it.” Jethro said as he turned and looked at Caroline “Stay safe, Caroline.” He said in parting before he walked out of the hospital room, sparing one last glance at his newborn son before leaving.

 

And thus, for the next two years, Jethro avoided Caroline at the small public school they attended; most everyone forgot that they had even been a couple, nor that they had had a child together.  Jethro on the other hand constantly thought about the baby boy that he never got to raise, or know… Every year he celebrated his son’s birthday, by himself, with a bottle of bourbon and crafting a piece of the small train set he had been building since the moment he found out he was having a son.

 

When Jethro turned eighteen, he said his goodbyes to his father – not that it was necessary, ever since his mother had passed away and Jethro found out he would be a father at sixteen, his father and he had no real communication or relationship to speak of – and he then got onto the train that would lead him away from Stillwater, Pennsylvania and take him to Parris Island, South Carolina, where he would start his new career as a Marine.

 

However, at the train station, he met the most beautiful woman; her name was Shannon and the duo immediately hit it off; Shannon told Jethro about all the little rules that made up her life.  The first rule being that she did not date lumberjacks; Jethro had not known how much he could laugh with anyone, but Shannon brought out such a light-heartedness within himself that it alleviated the pain of giving up his son, and alleviated the anger that he harbored for losing his mother.

 

Shannon and Jethro constantly wrote to one another while he was away at basic training, and then later his first year of full-duty as a Marine.  When he returned to Stillwater at the end of his first year, he had asked Shannon to marry him and she accepted – their wedding was beautiful but small and they had it before his first deployment was to take place.

 

The married couple moved from Stillwater, Pennsylvania after the wedding took place and were stationed at Camp Pendleton in California.  Only a short year later, Shannon announced that she was pregnant – Jethro was both excited and terrified, he felt guilt coursing through his body as the news of his impending fatherhood hit him hard and right in his gut.  Thoughts of his son resurfaced and he could not hide the truth from his wife, he told her everything, showed her the train set he had built, and Shannon just smiled and accepted this piece of information.

 

Unfortunately, Jethro missed the birth of his daughter due to deployment but managed to stay in almost constant contact with his wife as she raised Kelly.  It was difficult to be separated from them, but Jethro made it work and when he was home, he spent every hour he could with his little girl and wife; filling every hour with memories that would last them all a lifetime.

 

Or so he had thought they would last them a lifetime; that was until eight years later, while he was yet again deployed, his wife and daughter were murdered after Shannon had witnessed a murder at Camp Pendleton.  Jethro was devasted but his devastation did not last long, due to being in an IED explosion that rendered him to be in a coma for nineteen days.

 

When Jethro returned home, he buried his wife and daughter in Virginia, where he had decided that he would live – He was no longer a Marine, and had no reason to stay in California; subconsciously he guessed that he would want to be closer to his father, but not too close.  And maybe his future just happened to be here in Virginia; he had a job offer lined up, but he knew that taking it could lead to more despair, and possibly more heart-ache.

 

The man who offered him a job also offered him revenge for the deaths of his wife and daughter.  Jethro traveled to Mexico and found the man who had killed his family, and in his fit of anger and grief, he killed Pedro Hernandez with his sniper rifle and left behind a single shell casing, the message was clear for both him and whoever would eventually find it.

 

After returning back to the home he had bought in Alexandria, Virginia; Jethro secluded himself from the world and any friends that he had made – locking himself away in his basement with a stack of wood and several bottles of bourbon.  The only time the man ever left the sanctuary of his basement was to get the food he’d had delivered to his home and to go out and either buy more wood or more bourbon whenever he ran out; the unhealthy behavior of Leroy Jethro Gibbs lasted for a little over a year, mourning the loss of his wife, his daughter, and the son he had never got to meet all those years ago.

 


 

 

One day, during a drunken stupor, Jethro ambled upstairs, wallet in his hand as he waited for his delivery of Chinese food.  The doorbell rang and Jethro stumbled for the door, looking at the boy who looked no more than twelve stood there with the take-out bags in his hands “How much?” he asked, leaning heavily against the door frame.

 

The teenager shook his head “No charge.  I already paid for it.” He said, his voice rough as he looked up at the older man.

 

Jethro blinked a few times and stared at the green-eyed child before him “Well, what the hell did you do that for?” Jethro asked, crossing his arms over his chest and clenching tightly around the wallet in his hand.

 

The teenager snorted “You don’t know me, I get that… Be skeptical… It’s cool, nobody knows me… I’ve always been sort of invisible since as far back as I can even remember…” he said angrily, shoving the bags of food against Jethro’s chest “Like I said, it’s cool – Paying for your food was the least I can do for the shitty life you gave me!” the teenager shouted and turned on his heel.

 

Jethro openly gaped at the teenager, his hands releasing the bags of food and quickly reaching out to grab the teenagers wrist “The shitty life I gave you?  What the hell does that mean?!” Jethro shouted, yanking the teenager into the house and slamming the door.

 

The teenager, for someone so short and lacking in muscle definition, pushed Jethro away from him and scowled “You don’t know?  Fine.  Let me spell it out for you!” he shouted and inhaled deeply “Thirteen years ago, I was born in a small little town in Pennsylvania called Stillwater – My mother was fifteen and my father was sixteen.  They were too young, and believe me, I understand the reason why they decided that giving me up for adoption was a good idea… My mother’s name was Caroline Scott, and my father’s name was Leroy Jethro Gibbs.  Make sense now?!” he snarled, glaring at the older man before him.

 

Jethro stared at the green-eyed teenager before him, wiping a hand across his mouth and sighing – The alcohol he had earlier consumed was no longer playing a factor in his mind, completely sobered by the fact that he was standing within a few feet of his thirteen-year-old son.  “I… I’m…” Jethro shook his head, unable to think clearly “What’s your name?” he asked instead, the first coherent thought that entered his brain.

 

The teenager scoffed “Anthony DiNozzo.” The teenager said as he bent over, picking up the dropped bags of Chinese food – it was in sealed containers, so none of the food fell out but it was likely to be a little messy on the inside “You planned on eating all of this?” Tony asked, looking at the three separate bags of food.

 

Jethro shook his head “No.  I buy food for a few days… If you’re hungry, help yourself.” Jethro said, not quite feeling hungry himself anymore as he turned and ventured further into the house and towards the kitchen.

 

Tony followed behind and set the bags of food down on the table, digging through the several containers and deciding what he would prefer eating; an egg roll, shrimp fried rice and a few pieces of Teriyaki Chicken were now separate from the remaining food “This will do.” Tony said as he sat down and grabbed the plastic fork provided with the take-out food and began digging in.

 

Jethro grunted as he opened his fridge “All I have is water… If you wanted to drink something?” Jethro offered, pulling the bottle of water out and turning towards Tony to offer him the bottle.

 

Tony nodded and wiped his hands and mouth on a napkin “Thanks… I guess.  Look, I won’t stay very long… There is obviously no reason for me to be here, you don’t have any interest in a kid… Not this late in the race…” Tony said as he uncapped the bottle of water and swallowed half of it down.

 

Jethro shook his head and sat down at the table next to Tony “That’s not true… Not at all… I’m just… I’m trying to get used to the idea of you being here… Thirteen years old and… God, you have grown up so well…” Jethro said quietly, reaching his hand outward to Tony.

 

Tony flinched away and shook his head “Sorry… I uhm… I’m not used to people touching me.” Tony said quietly as he looked down at his styrofoam container of food, stabbing the plastic fork into the tender chicken bits.

 

Jethro nodded and set his hands on the table “So… How did you end up here?  How did you find me?” Jethro asked curiously, looking at his son.

 

Tony shrugged as he twisted the fork around against the container “My… My adoptive father kicked me out of the house when I was twelve… Sent me to a boarding school in Washington, DC… I’ve always known that I was adopted… I look nothing like my father, nor did I look like my mother when she was still alive… so, before I was officially kicked out, I did a lot of digging around my father’s estate and found my official birth record and my adoption papers…” Tony said, shrugging his shoulders and sighing “So, with your name and my real mother’s name, I was able to find the hospital… My mother, I still haven’t found her yet… But I found you – it was really easy finding you, actually…” Tony said and looked up through thick black lashes at his dad.

 

Jethro nodded slowly “Your mother, Caroline… She died in a car accident a few years ago.  That’s probably why you couldn’t find her.” Jethro informed his son and sighed “You never answered how you got here though?” Jethro prodded, raising an eyebrow upward as he stared at his son.

 

Tony sighed “I took a cab… I had enough money to get a cab here, and apparently enough to buy sixty dollars worth of food.” Tony said, waving his hand toward the collection of bags on the table “You should probably put those in the fridge before they go bad.” Tony said as he stood up with his empty container and walked over to the trash can.

 

Jethro nodded as he stood up and collected the rest of the food and began putting them away in the fridge.  Once he was done with that, he turned and sighed “Come with me.  I want to show you something.” Jethro said as he headed toward the basement, glancing behind himself to make sure that Tony was following him – which he was.

 

Tony grinned as he saw the half-built boat in the basement “That is so awesome!  I… I guess you’re where I get my creativity from…” Tony said as he walked over to the boat and lightly caressed the sanded wood.

 

Jethro grunted as he pulled out a box from underneath his workbench “Creativity huh?  Here, come look.” Jethro said, waving Tony over to the box.  Tony stared at the box, and then up at Jethro “When I found out you were going to be born… I started this project… You’re probably a little old for them now, but…” Jethro shrugged and stepped back from the box, allowing Tony to investigate himself.

 

Tony opened the box and smiled softly as he pulled out train cars and tracks “Wow.  This is…” Tony shrugged as he turned one of the train cars around in his hand – each was painted in different colors, some had what looked like small bits of coal, others had logs, and even some had painted people in their windows “This is so cool.  You even built train tracks for them…” Tony said quietly, his voice reflecting his awe as he began connecting the pieces of the tracks together, then setting the train cars on the tracks in the correct order.

 

Jethro nodded as he helped assemble the small track “So, what is it that you like to do?” Jethro asked, looking over at Tony as the teenager moved the line of thirteen trains around the track slowly.

 

Tony shrugged as he looked up at Jethro “I like drawing, writing… I built a birdhouse once… but my father… I mean… Michael – That is his name… He destroyed it and said that boys should not waste their time with frivolous things such as that.”  Tony said as he turned and looked at the half-built boat “He was wrong though, wasn’t he?” Tony asked quietly, looking up at Jethro curiously.

 

Jethro nodded as he came over to Tony and raised his hand slightly “I’m gonna put my hand on your shoulder…” Jethro informed Tony before he did as he said and set his hand lightly on Tony’s shoulder, turning his son toward the boat “Building things with my hands gives me an outlet for whenever I’m angry, sad… Any emotion really.  I’ve been building all sorts of things well before you were even born; this is not a waste of time.  This is so much more than that, Tony…” Jethro explained as he squeezed Tony’s shoulder lightly and then picked up two sanding blocks “I don’t use power tools because it ruins the integrity of the wood, and it helps strengthen you – Both body and mind…” Jethro said as he handed the sanding block to Tony and then set his own sanding block on the hull of the boat.

 

Tony nodded as he slowly moved the sanding block against the boat, “How do you get the boat out of the basement?” Tony asked curiously, looking up at his father, even as he continued the rhythmic motion of sanding up and down the smooth surface of the boat.

 

Jethro chuckled as he looked over at Tony and shrugged “I don’t.” he said simply as he turned back to the boat “When I’m finished with this, I’ll tear it down and build something else out of it… Start on a new boat after that is finished and repeat the process.” Jethro said as he smiled slightly – Having never revealed his secret to anyone, he felt safe in knowing that Tony knew how it was done.

 

Tony nodded slowly “So, you don’t care that you have a kid?  That just dropped in randomly…?” Tony asked, looking around the basement.

 

Jethro shook his head slowly and set the sanding block down “I don’t mind… I uhm…” Jethro sighed and sat down on one of the stools, rubbing his face tiredly “I had a daughter… She would have been nine last month… She and her mother…” Jethro swallowed thickly, feeling the bile in his throat rising up and threatening to spill.

 

Tony shook his head and turned around, looking at his father “Don’t.  I can see that this is painful for you, so if you don’t want too… You don’t have to talk about it.  I will understand, even if you never say anything…” Tony said quietly but sympathetically as he walked over to his dad and smiled sadly at the older man.

 

Jethro nodded as he stood up and wiped angrily at the tears that were on his cheeks “Do you have any other clothes with you?  I’ll show you around the house… And your bedroom…” Jethro said as he started for the stairs.

 

Tony bounded after the older man “I have a few things… They’re in the backpack I left on the front porch… I traveled lightly because I couldn’t fit everything I had in my dorm room into a backpack…” Tony said, shrugging as Jethro showed Tony the hardly lived in living room, the bathroom that was downstairs, and then the bedroom and bathroom that Tony would be occupying and using upstairs.

 

Jethro leaned against the doorframe as he watched Tony amble around the bedroom “So… You’ve run away from the boarding school you were in – What’ll happen come Monday when you don’t show up for classes?” Jethro asked curiously.

 

Tony shrugged “I don’t know, exactly.  I’ve never run away before… I’m sure they might call Michael, but he won’t care… He probably won’t even answer the phone…” Tony said as he sat down on the edge of the bed “You must have some sort of way that you can keep me…?” Tony asked curiously, looking over at Jethro.

 

Jethro shrugged “When we signed the adoption papers, we gave up our parental rights… I don’t have any legal hold over you, but… I’ll fight to get you back, Tony… I will.” Jethro promised and smiled at his son “I’ll just go get your bag, and we’ll sleep on this for tonight… I might have some people who can help me.” Jethro said as he backed out of the room and headed downstairs.

 

By the time Jethro returned upstairs, Tony was passed out on top of the bed, curled up around himself; Jethro set the bag down and just looked at his thirteen-year-old.  Tony’s curly brown hair, soft and tan features – he looked a lot like his mother, except for his bone structure; that belonged to all the Gibbs’ men as far back as Jethro could remember.  Smiling, Jethro carefully pulled the blankets out from underneath Tony’s body and then covered the teenager up “Sleep tight, son.  Tomorrow will be better.” Jethro whispered as he quietly walked out of the bedroom and shut the light off.

Chapter Text

Seven-year-old Anthony ‘Tony’ – only to the house staff - DiNozzo stared helplessly from underneath the dining room table as his mom and dad got into what had to be their fifth fight of the night – Mom was yelling at dad this time about something he couldn’t quite understand, and dad was just glaring at mom, holding tightly to the glass of scotch in his hand.  “Anthony, you get out from underneath that table and fix me a drink!” his mom demanded of him.

 

Tony quickly scurried out from underneath the table and made his way over to the liquor cabinet, pulling the ingredients for a Martini out and the shaker.  Quickly concocting the beverage the way his mom liked it, he poured the clear liquid into the martini glass, dropped a skewered olive into it and walked over to his mother, hand shaking as he held the glass up for her.  His mother snatched the drink, swallowed a few times and then shooed her son away before turning back to Michael, their arguing once again starting up.

 

Tony sighed and ambled out of the dining hall, at only seven, he knows he shouldn’t know how to make an alcoholic beverage, but it had become second nature to him since he was barely old enough to walk.  Both of his parents had heavy drinking problems, but at least it was easier to make dad’s drinks since he only ever wanted scotch straight.  He also knew that at least he would never fall into that sort of pit of desperation for liquor since the DiNozzo’s weren’t his real birth parents – he had known this fact since he was old enough to understand the English language properly.

 

His parents aren’t very nice to him, and he has heard so many of the other kids at his private school commenting about how they spend a bunch of time with their mom’s and dad’s, but other than when he was first registered into the school when he was four, neither of his parents had ever even shown up to class functions.  Tony kicked his legs back and forth as he sat down on the edge of his bed, sighing heavily as he thought about the school play he had just recently been in – he was the lead, they were re-enacting Romeo and Juliet; he had begged his mom to at least be there, because he knew Michael would never have the time to show up.

 

The feeling of disappointment was the hugest understatement of the world when Tony looked out into the small crowd of parents and teachers, his mom hadn’t shown up to see his big role in the play.  Of course, he hated kissing Anna Mitchell, even if it was only on the cheek, but still his mom had missed it.  When he finally returned home after school, he found her passed out in the living room.  There were liquor bottles strewn all over the living room floor and coffee table and his nanny Dehlia had whisked him away “It is no use for you to see your mother like that, go into the kitchen, Tony.  There is a snack waiting for you.” She had said to him, pressing a tender kiss to his forehead before sending him into the kitchen with the chef and butler.

 

Tony’s eighth birthday was a complete waste of time – at least in his own humble opinion – his parents had completely forgotten that he was even turning eight that day, and had both took off early in the morning citing they had business to attend to.  Which Tony, unfortunately, knew meant that his father was likely going to be “hanging out with” his business secretary, while his mother would be hitting the Country Club since they served alcoholic beverages all day long.  The house staff was more than happy to celebrate Tony’s birthday though and had thrown him a nice little party in the gourmet kitchen.

 

The housing staff had even sprung for a small gift – since they were not paid much, they were only able to afford a set of baseball cards and a new binder for Tony to put them in.  Even though it wasn’t much, it was enough to make Tony happy – they all knew he was a sports card collector, he had everything from Baseball, Basketball, Football and even Soccer, not that he was much of Soccer fan.  Of course, his birthday soon became a wreck when his father came home, screaming about his mother the ‘ungrateful bitch’ and how she was ruining his life.

 

Tony didn’t know what his mom could have done this time, but as he slowly slinked down the staircase that only the housing staff were technically allowed to use, he listened to Michael as the man grumbled and growled to the butler about his wife being in a hospital after getting hurt at the Country Club.  Tony frowned, how could his dad be upset about that?  Mom was never sick, and hardly ever had to visit a doctor – just once, and he was now utterly pissed off about it?  Tony shook his head and scrambled back up the wooden stairs before anyone could find him there, just in time too, since his father was now bounding up the stairs, calling out for him.

 

Tony, thanks to his new Nanny Marcela, spent a lot of his time after school with his mother in the hospital – her accident was no accident at all.  They quickly learned that she had Liver Cancer and was dying, she had passed out at the Country Club and that was why she was brought to the hospital.  Tony spent a lot of time there, just sitting in the large leather recliner, doing his homework while his mother complained and yelled at the hospital staff.  She wanted to go home, she wanted a drink, she wanted this that or something, Tony couldn’t keep up with her demands anymore, but then again, he didn’t have to wait much longer to listen to them either – she had only been in the hospital for two weeks before she died.

 

The funeral was an all-out affair, Tony was upset but he didn’t allow the tears to fall – DiNozzo’s Don’t Cry – but, then again, he was not biologically a DiNozzo.  Michael was stone-faced and didn’t even blink when people told him they were sorry for his loss, he just shook their hands and sent them on their way, as if they were just mere peasants.  Tony hated Michael more now than he ever did before; his wife was dead barely a week and he was already doting on his new secretary like she was the only woman in the world and couldn’t even show enough heart to mourn the loss of his wife.

 

Tony mourned his mother’s death in the solitude of his bedroom after his father was either asleep or not home – as often was the case now that he had a new woman in his life.  He was able to cry as much as he wanted while he was in his bed, he never thought he would miss her as much as he did, but even after all of the verbal abuse, the drink orders and being dressed up like a sailor, he still loved her and wished she were there.  He knew, in her own weird way, that she loved him – had even said it to him on occasion, it still hurt that she was gone from his life.

 

The rest of his eighth year, all the way up to his twelfth year, felt like a blur to him.  His father had remarried, twice, since his mother had passed away.  New housing staff were being brought in and out of his life on a constant basis, at least every three months.  There was no stability in his life, whatsoever and he turned to rely on his best friend Garret to get him through the tougher times.  And then his entire world started crashing around him, his father had come home unexpectedly one day, drunk as hell and walked into his room without announcing himself; Garret and Tony were both in the large bed and had been experimenting a little – they were both naked from the waist up and were kissing.

 

Michael was beyond pissed, throwing Garret out of the house and locking Tony’s bedroom door.  Tony tried hiding, but it was of no use.  Michael slipped his leather belt from its loops and beat Tony with the metal buckle, not the strap.  There were welts covering Tony’s back by the time Michael had dropped the belt “I’m packing up your shit, and you are leaving!” Michael growled ominously, tossing Tony to the floor, leaving the battered and bloody twelve-year-old on the floor of his bedroom.

 

Tony watched helplessly as his father stormed around the bedroom, throwing clothes onto the bed, but soon after he got tired of it and stormed out of the room altogether, ordering the housing staff to finish the job for him.  Tony managed to pull himself together just before Anita, his new caretaker came into the room, “I have to use the restroom.” He croaked out and rushed from the bedroom.  He didn’t stop running though, even after passing three of the bathrooms that were on the third floor of the home.

 

Tony found himself in his father’s study, and surprisingly, Michael was not in there.  Tony knew all of the official records were in here – His birth records and adoption papers, especially.  He quickly located the documents and shoved them into the shirt he had managed to pull onto his battered body.  When he got back to his bedroom, all of the drawers were emptied, the closet as well, and there were suitcases packed on his bed.  “Your father has already arranged for transportation, you will wait outside for your ride,” Anita announced, she was by far the worst caretaker Tony had – she did not have a compassionate bone in her body, unlike Marcela or Dehlia who only cared about Tony and making sure he was taken care of.

 

Tony watched as the world he knew vanished, he was being driven away by someone he did not know, away from the home he had grown up in for the past twelve years of his life even if his life was a pitiful existence.  He sat in the back of the loaded down truck and held onto his adoption papers Leroy Jethro Gibbs, Caroline Scott – those were his real parents.  Tony closed his eyes and wondered what his life would have been like, had the two people he had never met before raised him in Stillwater, Pennsylvania.  Tony could almost imagine growing up in the small town, it would probably have been better; where everyone knew everyone, looked out for each other and helped each other when it was necessary, or even when it wasn’t.

 

His mother, Caroline, he imagined she was a beautiful woman.  His father, Leroy, which made him giggle slightly at the name, imagined him to be a strong man, someone he could look up too and learn a lot from.  He understood that his biological parents couldn’t raise him, they were young when he was born – His mother was only fifteen, and his father was only sixteen.  They had made the right decision in giving him up for adoption, just the wrong decision in who his adoptive parents were and that made him angry, that they didn’t look deeper into their background, couldn’t see that Michael and Elizabeth DiNozzo were not suitable to be his parents.

 

Tony was shocked when he and the stranger – who he still did not know, and had not talked to since getting in the truck with – pulled up to a large college-like campus.  The sign just outside of the building read St. Albans School for Boys.  His father had sent him to an all-boys boarding school, which was pretty stupid on Michael’s part – considering he had been sent here for kissing another guy.  Tony shook his head and shrugged, maybe he could enjoy himself, at least for a little while.  Tony is then being whisked off though by the stranger, taken into the school so he can be registered and assigned a dorm room; there would be no enjoyment until this unknown man has finally left him alone.

 

Tony was right about one thing, the joy he felt when the stranger finally left – he was in a dorm of twelve boys around his age but they were all in separate rooms.  He was free to finally just be himself, away from Michael and the many wives and mistresses, away from the housing staff that were no longer kind.  He was able to relax completely and had found friends in each of the twelve boys that he shared his dorm with, he had even picked up his favorite hobbies again; although he was still unsure of where he got his love for creating things from, he was glad that he would no longer have to watch his hard work be destroyed by Michael.  Tony was thriving at St. Albans, he was enjoying sports again, and was writing more – he had always had a love for writing stories – and had even taken some woodshop classes that the private school offered, able to create more carpentry work than he had ever been able to do when he was living in the DiNozzo household.

 

Tony’s thirteenth birthday went by without anyone noticing though, which was okay with him – he had lied to his friends, saying his birthday was in the summer and they wouldn’t be together to celebrate anyway; he didn’t celebrate his birth anymore, not since his eighth birthday.  Now Tony sat in his dorm, on his thirteenth birthday, yet again staring at his original, official, birth certificate, running his thumb over the messy scrawl that was his biological father’s first name.  He had done the research, and while he couldn’t find his mother Caroline, he had found his father – he lived here, where he was, in Washington DC… Well, his father actually lived just outside of DC but it was only a twenty-minute car-ride from St. Albans to Alexandria.

 

Thankfully his birthday falls on a long weekend and he slips out unnoticed, most of the boys are back at their homes, celebrating Labor Day.  Tony hailed a cab and told the driver the address he wanted to go to, his thoughts were swirling maniacally through his head – What if his bio-dad didn’t want him after all?  What if giving him up was the best decision he ever made?  What if he had a family already, now that he was older?  Tony shut those thoughts down though, he just wanted to confront the man, and yell at him, tell him about the shitty life he received after being born.

 


 

 

Tony got out of the taxi as it pulled up to the dark two-story Craftsman style home, he paid for the ride and then started toward the front door; at the same time another car pulled up and Tony watched as a Chinese food delivery guy got out of the car and started toward the door “Here, I can handle that.” Tony said as the delivery guy spouted the price for the food; Tony was only mildly shocked but paid the sixty-dollars and some change to the guy, took the overly stuffed bag and then he was left standing alone on the doorstep of his biological father’s home.

 

Tony rang the doorbell and held his breath as he waited, he was only moments away from meeting his father.  Nervousness couldn’t even begin to describe what he was feeling; when the man opened the door, staggering and drunk, Tony was ready to just leave – he was just like Michael, an alcoholic… But, he’d come this far, he had to at least get it off his chest, had to at least let go of some of his anger in this man’s face.  The man asks him how much and Tony almost forgets that he was holding the man’s food “No charge.  I already paid for it.” Tony said while shaking his head, his voice was rough with anger.

 

The older man looked at him, blinking slowly and then asked him what the hell he had done that for – and that’s when Tony snapped.  He can’t remember the first part of his little speech, but he remembered thrusting the bag of food against his father’s chest “Paying for your food was the least I can do for the shitty life you gave me!” Tony shouted and turned on his heel, he just wanted to escape now, he felt tears burning hot in his eyes and he couldn’t show his weakness, not now in front of this virtual stranger.

 

Tony heard the bag of food dropping, and wanted to laugh, but then there was a strong hand wrapping around his wrist and he wanted to do nothing more than to scream.  He was yanked into the dark home and a pair of piercing blue eyes were staring down into his own green eyes, and then his father was shouting, demanding to know what he had meant by his previous statement.

 

Tony ripped his hand out of his biological father’s grip and pushed at the older man’s chest with every ounce of strength he had behind him – he knew he was small for his age, often being mistaken for a ten-year-old, but the shock that registered on his bio-dad’s face was priceless.  Tony exploded with anger then, thinking that this man would somehow be different from Michael “You don’t know?!  Fine!  Let me spell it out for you!” he took a deep breath and then really laid into the man who was supposed to be his father.

 

“Thirteen years ago, I was born in a small town in Pennsylvania called Stillwater.  My mother was fifteen and my father was sixteen.  They were too young, and believe me, I understand the reason why they decided that giving me up for adoption was a good idea… My mother’s name was Caroline Scott and my father’s name was Leroy Jethro Gibbs.  Make sense now?!” Tony snarled, glaring at the older man in front of him.

 

Tony watched as the older man’s blue eyes lose their glossy look – he has completely sobered up in just the few minutes that they had been standing here.  Maybe he isn’t an alcoholic, after all, maybe he had just been drinking this once – maybe something had driven him to need a few drinks to relax and unwind.  Then the man is asking him what his name is, and it’s the least Tony can do “Anthony DiNozzo…” Tony said quietly, bending over to lift up the dropped Chinese food so he could hide the disgust on his face at still having the last name ‘DiNozzo’ attached to his name.

 

Tony’s glad that the food was sealed in individual containers, none of the food had fallen out when the older man had dropped the bag.  Everything smelt so good, and he realized that he hadn’t eaten since early that morning “You planned on eating all of this?” Tony asked, hoping that his bio-dad would catch on and offer him something to eat.

 

His dad shook his head and told him that he always orders extra food for a few days and then told him to help himself.  Tony was grateful and followed after the man and into the kitchen.  Tony started digging out a few of the items and once he was settled down at the table, he grabbed the plastic fork, completely bypassing the wooden chopsticks – he had been made fun of plenty enough times, not knowing how to use them properly, and he didn’t want the teasing to continue where he was slowly starting to feel safe; and that revelation made his throat go dry – he had never felt safe anywhere.

 

Tony was more than grateful when his bio-dad offered him a bottle of water, but before he could open it he had to say at least one thing; he had to make sure he had an out.  “I won’t stay very long… There is obviously no reason for me to be here, you don’t have any interest in a kid.” He said that, knowing that there was nothing personal in this home, no pictures, no toys… He obviously had never had any intentions of having kids after he had been born “Not this late in the race…” Tony added the last part in almost a whisper as he twisted the cap off the water and finally swallowed half of its contents down, hoping to alleviate his dry throat.

 

The older man shook his head and sat down and told him that it wasn’t true, that he was just trying to wrap his mind around the fact that his son, his thirteen-year-old son, was sitting right here in front of him.  Tony understood the man’s shock, but when Jethro reached out to touch him; he freaked out slightly – he wasn’t used to people touching him, and had even said so out loud.  His dad nodded and didn’t comment, he just asked another question – How did you end up here, how did you find me.

 

That was easy to answer, and Tony did.  Telling Jethro that his father had kicked him out when he was twelve – although he didn’t say why he didn’t need to be kicked out of another location for something he did when he was twelve.  Then he explained how he had always known he was adopted and that when Michael had kicked him out, he searched the house to find his birth certificate and the adoption papers.  He told Jethro that he still hadn’t been able to find his mother, but that it was really easy to find him.

 

Then Jethro told him that Caroline – his mother – had died a few years ago in a car accident.  Tony was upset by this news because now he would never know if his mother really had wanted him – would have accepted him now.  But then Jethro was asking another question and Tony was able to focus on something other than the sadness that was resting in the pit of his stomach now.  Jethro was curious to know how Tony had gotten there and so Tony told him “I took a cab… Had plenty of money to get here and pay for sixty dollars worth of food.” He said, then waved toward the bags that were on the table, he then told his dad that he should probably put them away before they went bad.

 

Tony watched as his dad nodded and then stood up to collect the food, placing everything into the practically empty refrigerator.  Once that was done, Jethro asked if he would come with him – Jethro wanted to show Tony something.  Tony probably should have been hesitant, skeptical – something – but he wasn’t, he just nodded, stood up and followed his bio-dad down a set of stairs and into a large basement.  Tony is stunned when he sees the half-finished boat, his eyes wide and a huge grin on his face “That is so awesome!” Tony exclaimed as he made his way over to the boat, his thoughts immediately settling on the small birdhouses he’s built in his woodshop class, he now knows where he got his creative-side from and said so out loud to his bio-dad who was rummaging for something underneath the workbench.

 

Tony is then summoned over to the box as well, and he’s hesitant and excited, he wants to know what’s inside.  “When I found out you were going to be born… I started this project… You’re probably a little old for them now, but…” his dad shrugged and stepped away from the box and Tony was only too eager to see what was inside now.  When he opened the box, he saw that there were train cars and train tracks inside, all handmade and hand-painted “Wow… This is…” Tony really has no words for what it is – he’s overwhelmed with emotion, nobody had ever given him something so thoughtful, and there are thirteen cars inside, for each of the years he’s been alive.

 

Tony doesn’t care that he’s a thirteen-year-old now, he starts pulling the train cars out, inspecting each one of them – they are all masterly crafted, some depicting coal bits, some with logs, and several even had hand-painted people in the windows “This is… so cool… They even have tracks.” Tony said in awe as he started assembling the train tracks and then started placing the train cars on them, starting with the Engine car; there was no caboose yet, and Tony wondered if his dad would continue the project and for how long, but he didn’t want to ask – it didn’t matter how long the man would continue working on the project, it was just incredible that he had even started and continued doing it.

 

They started having small talk, and it was actually rather comfortable – Jethro asked what he liked doing, and Tony shrugged as he told him that he liked writing and drawing, he even told Jethro about the first birdhouse he ever built – and even about when Michael had destroyed it, saying that building things was a pointless activity.  But now, seeing that his real dad had a true passion for building things, it was obvious that Michael had been wrong, and had asked Jethro if Michael had been wrong all along.  Jethro confirmed it, told him that building things with his hands gave him a sense of ease and calm.  Tony could relate, he knew what great stress-relief it was to create something from the imagination, to be able to express how you feel or just get how you feel out into the open by doing something creative.

 

Then he and Jethro were standing at the boat, sanding the hull of the well-built boat.  He was curious how the older man got the boat out of the basement and asked.  To say he was shocked that Jethro had never taken a boat out of his basement, he just disassembled them and used the wood for a new creation, and once he couldn’t use the wood anymore, he would start fresh with a boat.  “So you don’t care that you have a kid?  That just dropped in randomly…?” Tony asked curiously, having wanted to ask this question since he was first officially invited into Jethro’s home.

 

Tony immediately saw a flash of pain come across his father’s face and he wished he hadn’t asked; maybe he really didn’t want a kid after all, but when Jethro started speaking, saying he had once had a daughter, and that she would have been nine just last month – Tony knew that the pain was from that memory and not because he was there.  He immediately gave the older man an out, telling him he didn’t have to say anything about what had happened to them, it wasn’t any of his business anyway – he just wanted to know if the man regretted having him, or inviting him in.

 

After several moments of slightly awkward silence, Jethro nodded and wiped at the tears that had surfaced on his cheeks.  Then the man was asking if he had any clothes with him; Tony nodded and said that he did, and then they were bounding upstairs as Jethro showed him around the house, pointing out the bathroom and everything.  They stopped at the barely lived in living room and then Jethro showed him upstairs and said that this room – a dully painted yellow room with a queen size bed – was his bedroom, if he wanted it.

 

The bedroom was barely the size of the closet he had when he was living in the DiNozzo mansion, but it was more than he ever got from the DiNozzo’s when he was living there.  As he walked around the bedroom, Jethro asked him what would happen next, since he had run away from his boarding school.  Tony didn’t know what would happen next – he had never run away from school before.  But Tony didn’t want to know what happened next, he wanted to stay here – he really did. “You must have some sort of way that you can keep me…?” he asked curiously, he really hoped that the older man had an idea; he seemed like he could make it happen, no matter what a piece of paper might say.

 

Then Jethro was promising that he would do whatever it took to keep him, to get him back.  Tony believed him and wanted nothing more to then just hug the older man but he was so tired now as he stared at the queen bed.  Once Jethro was out of the room, retrieving his backpack from outside, Tony climbed into the bed and laid down, almost as soon as his head hit the pillow he was passed out.  Tony felt his body shifting and then the heavy blankets on the bed were laid over him; he swore he heard Jethro speaking, and had called him son. It was the first time in all of his thirteen years that someone had called him something and sounded so sincere and affectionate; if he were awake, he would have definitely hugged the man, thanking him for everything – even though his future was still a battle of uncertainty.

Chapter Text

Tony woke with a start the next morning, he was disoriented and it took him a few minutes to get first his breathing under control, and then to figure out where in the world he was.  Realization dawned on him after checking out his surroundings, he was safe and at his biological father’s home.  Tony glanced over at the alarm clock on the nightstand and sighed tiredly – it was just after six in the morning, he was usually up by five because of the strict schedule that St. Albans ran; it felt good to sleep in, even if it was just by a little bit.

 

Jethro knocked on the bedroom door before poking his head around the corner, smiling when he saw that his son was awake “Hey kiddo.  I have to go and speak to a friend of mine… You want to join me?” Jethro asked curiously as he leaned on the doorway of his son’s bedroom, looking around the small space – he would have to think about updating the room soon if Tony was truly going to stick around; the room would need to reflect his teenage son, instead of this dull yellow.

 

Tony looked up, shocked at the suggestion – Michael had never invited him along to speak with friends or even business associates.  “Are you sure?  I would probably just get in the way…” Tony said meekly, looking down at his hands that were resting in his lap.

 

Jethro shook his head as he walked over to the bed and sat down on the edge of it, he almost reached out to touch Tony but remembered the way his son had reacted last night and settled his hands back in his lap.  “You won’t get in the way – This is about you and me.  I want to talk to this friend to see if he could help us…” Jethro said honestly, looking down into his son’s green eyes.

 

After several minutes of silence, Tony finally nodded his head and smiled tentatively “Okay, sure… I just need fifteen minutes to get ready.” Tony said as he slipped off of the bed and grabbed his backpack off of the floor.  He felt extremely giddy that his biological father was including him in things, he just hoped that it would last – he really wanted to have a connection with the man, he had only known him for ten hours but he felt accepted and safe for the first time in his life here.

 

Jethro smiled when not even ten minutes later, Tony was bounding down the stairs – he had clean clothes on, his hair was brushed and he was put together like any of the Marines he had ever worked with in the past.  The duo headed out to Jethro’s challenger “So, was Michael in the military?” Jethro asked as he pulled out of the driveway and turned his car in the direction of DC.

 

Tony laughed boisterously, almost doubling over from the sheer audacity of the question “God no!” Tony squealed, laughing even more; tears were pooling in the corners of his eyes and he had to take several deep breaths before regaining control of himself.  Tony shook his head “No.  Michael would not have lasted in the military longer than a few hours – he hates dirt, grime… He just took the… discipline from the military and used it in the home.” Tony shrugged uncomfortably and tugged at the collar of his white button-up shirt.

 

Jethro could see his son’s immediate discomfort speaking about his adoptive father and wisely decided to change the subject “So… How about sports and stuff?  You into any of that?” Jethro asked as he continued driving, merging onto the highway and then into the early morning traffic.

 

Tony’s eyes lit up and he nodded enthusiastically “Yeah!  I really like baseball, basketball, and football… Unfortunately because of my size… They won’t let me play football or basketball, but I am on the baseball team at Saint Alban's.” Tony said happily and proudly, although his smile quickly faded when he realized that he may have to leave the private boarding school if he were to be legally adopted back by his biological father.

 

Jethro sighed, his fingers twitching slightly as he glanced at Tony out of the corner of his eye “Hey… If I can get you back legally, you won’t have to leave your school – I have enough money to cover the tuition.” Jethro confided, almost immediately knowing that this had to be why Tony got upset all of a sudden.

 

Tony shrugged “I don’t have to go back to that school… It’s not like it was my choice to go there.” Tony said, his tone just on the wrong side of bitterness – he hated Michael for pulling him out of his school, he missed his friends, and especially missed his best friend Garret “I wished I could have stayed in New York… I had a best friend there… We did everything together.” Tony confessed quietly, pulling his legs up onto the edge of the challenger’s bucket seat and crossing his arms over his shins.

 

Jethro was happy when he pulled into the parking lot of his lawyer’s office – he wanted to just take his son into his arms and hold him; the devastation on the boy’s face was breaking his heart.  “We’re here,” Jethro announced quietly as he shut the engine of the Challenger down and climbed out of the driver’s seat; Tony was slower to get out, his arms still wrapped around his chest.  Jethro couldn’t take another second of it and wrapped his arms around his son’s shoulders, he felt the boy immediately tense in his arms but he didn’t let go “Hey… If you want to go visit your friend, at any time, you just let me know… I will take you, Tony.” Jethro promised, lifting the thirteen-year-olds head up slightly and forcing their eyes to make contact.

 

Tony had a hard time believing this man, someone he had only met yesterday night, was actually promising all of these things “Sure…” Tony said quietly, quickly turning out of Jethro’s embrace and heading toward the frosted glass doors of the lawyer's office.  To be honest, he hoped that his father would keep his promise.  Tony missed Garret more than he missed anyone from New York – maybe his first two nannies, but he had no idea where they had ended up after being fired by Michael, but Garret had been his best friend since Preschool and had practically grown up with each other.

 


 

 

Jethro hated waiting, especially when it was to talk to lawyer’s of any kind, but he had known Leon Vance since his first enlistment and he was one of the better lawyer’s.  It didn’t take long to be called back and he watched as Tony sulked into the conference room; he had to do something to lift his son’s spirits, but to be honest, he had no idea what the young boy truly enjoyed except for carpentry and a handful of sports.  Jethro shook hands with the African American man before him and smiled “Leon, been a long time bud – How are you doing?” Jethro asked as he sat down at the conference table next to his son.

 

Leon nodded his head “Been doing alright.  How about you?”  Leon asked as he glanced from his client to the silent teenager that was seated at the end of the table – the teenager seemed to be trying to make himself as small as possible, not wanting to be noticed by anyone in the room; the leather chair that the teenager was sitting in seemed to be swallowing the small boy whole.

 

Jethro sighed and rubbed a hand over his mouth slowly “I’ve been… It’s been difficult for the past year… to say the least.” Jethro said quietly, his eyes locked down on the table in front of him “Anyway… Things are starting to get better… But, I do have a bit of a problem – That’s why I came here.” Jethro said, nodding his head in Tony’s direction and smiling slightly.

 

Leon nodded again and smiled encouragingly at his long-time client “Well, tell me what’s going on.  I’m sure I can figure out a way to help you… and if not, I’m sure I know people who can help you.” Leon said as he leaned back in the leather chair he was sitting in, crossing one leg over the other and cupping his hands against his kneecap.

 

Jethro nodded, took a deep breath and looked down the long wooden table at his silent son; he began telling Leon everything, from the moment he met Caroline Scott, to the very hard decision of having to put Tony up for adoption.  Then Jethro explained how Tony had just shown up at his doorstep yesterday evening. That Michael – they no longer said he was Tony’s father, by some mutual silent agreement – had kicked Tony out a year ago, sending him to an all-boys school without even so much as a warning.  Jethro watched his son the entire time he spoke, watching as the teenager tensed up and drew further in on himself; it was like watching a hedgehog close in on himself.

 

Leon frowned as he also looked at the withdrawn teenager at the end of the table “I’m not sure what I can do yet… Legally you have no claim over Tony.” Leon said honestly, clasping his hands together on the table and lowering his head slightly “There is one course of action we could take… And that’s asking Mr. DiNozzo to terminate his parental rights over Tony.  Aside from that, I would have to look into all of our options and speak with several people.” Leon said as he stood up slowly “I’ll call you later in the week… I think the two of you should speak with Mr. DiNozzo and see what his take on it is… Depending on his answer, we may not have to do anything except for reinstituting parental rights.” Leon said as he shook Jethro’s hand and then guided the duo out of the conference room.

 

Jethro and Tony walked out of the lawyer’s office and Tony quickly reached out and grabbed Jethro’s wrist “Are you serious about all of this?” Tony asked quietly, waving his hand backward at the office building and then up at his father, tears glistening in his forest green eyes.

 

Jethro nodded as he set both of his hands down on Tony’s shoulders and squeezed lightly “I’m entirely serious about this, Tony.  You’re my son, and…” Jethro blew out a breath and lowered his head “I never wanted to give you up… Being sixteen… I couldn’t… I couldn’t afford to keep you at that age.  My father and I, we weren’t getting along… Hell, we still aren’t getting along.” Jethro shook his head and looked straight into Tony’s eyes “I always wanted you, and now that I have at least a chance to have you in my life – I ain’t going to give that up.” Jethro said firmly, squeezing Tony’s shoulders once more before releasing them and letting his hands drop to his sides.

 

Tony nodded and shuffled uncomfortably on his feet for a few seconds before throwing caution to the wind and launching his arms around Jethro’s neck “Thank you.” Tony whispered into his father’s neck, tears slipping silently down his cheeks as he held onto the man he knew would always be there for him, even if they couldn’t be legally related anymore, they were biologically related and that was enough to erase the shitty first thirteen years of his life.

 

Jethro was shocked that Tony had actually initiated a hug with him, but he quickly recovered and held onto his son.  Jethro kissed the side of Tony’s head and then set the young teenager back onto his feet and set his hand on the side of Tony’s head “You don’t have to thank me.” Jethro whispered as he looked down into Tony’s glistening green eyes; he smiled as he reached up with his thumb and brushed the tears away from Tony’s cheeks “I would do anything… Anything to keep you.” He added in a whisper as he bent his head forward and kissed Tony’s forehead lightly.

 


 

 

Tony looked around the parking garage that his dad had just pulled into “What are we doing here?” Tony asked curiously – after leaving the lawyer’s office, Jethro had said they had one more stop to make before heading back to the house, and Tony didn’t even question it, he just agreed with a simple small head nod.  Now they were here at the Navy Yard and Tony had no idea why.

 

Jethro smiled as he reached over and knuckled his fingers through Tony’s hair lightly “Don’t worry about it… Just come on.” Jethro said as he slid out of the Challenger fluidly and headed toward the service elevator.

 

Tony quickly scrambled out of the Challenger himself and skidded across the slick pavement of the parking garage, just in time to squeeze between the closing doors of the elevator “You were just going to leave me out there?!” Tony questioned indignantly, his green eyes wide as he stared up at his father, brown fringe of hair falling in his eyes in the process.

 

Jethro shook his head and smirked as he pressed a button on the elevator panel and allowed the car to start its ascent “I wouldn’t have left you.  You just gotta learn to be quicker, especially if you’re going to be hanging out with me more often.” Jethro said as he slipped off the elevator as soon as the doors were opened wide enough for his frame to escape.

 

Tony quickly slipped off of the elevator and matched his stride to his father’s stride, which was incredibly difficult given Jethro had about a two-foot advantage on him.  Tony cursed his short stature but was also thankful that it seemed like his father was slowing down specifically for him.  Tony stared in awe as he and Jethro walked through sliding stainless steel doors, and then shock when he heard the words coming out of Jethro’s mouth “Ducky, I’d like for you to meet my son – Anthony.” Jethro said, waving his hand in Tony’s direction while looking at a slightly greying bespectacled man that was leaning over a stainless steel table with medical equipment lined up on the table.

 

Ducky put down the scalpel that he was shining and turned around with a bright smile on his face “I never thought I would see the day!” Ducky exclaimed happily as he walked over to the duo, snapping off his white gloves and tossing them into the large stainless steel trashcan “Hello, Anthony.  I’m Doctor Donald Mallard, but most everyone calls me Ducky!” Ducky greeted as he held out his hand for Tony to shake.

 

Tony blushed furiously as he and Ducky shook hands; he was feeling slightly overwhelmed with the fact that he was meeting so many of his father’s friends and they had only known each other for a little over twelve hours now.  “It’s a pleasure to meet you, sir,” Tony said meekly, his eyes looking anywhere but at the older man – he knew that it was polite to continuously make eye-contact when meeting someone new, but he was having a hard time trying to reign in his emotions at the moment.

 

Ducky laughed boisterously and squeezed Tony’s shoulder lightly “No reason to call me sir, son.  You can call me Ducky.” He insisted and then released the younger man, glancing in Jethro’s direction.  Ducky could feel and see how undernourished the teenager was and was quite concerned about his physical health and even his mental health “Perhaps we could get to know each other better over a cup of tea?” Ducky questioned, dismissing the teenager’s father and taking Tony by the elbow, guiding him to his inner office.

 

Jethro shook his head as he watched his thirteen-year-old being guided away from his oldest friend.  He had told Ducky years ago about Tony, and finally getting to introduce the older man to his son was something he had wanted to do ever since telling Ducky that he had a kid when he was sixteen.  Getting the chance now was a miracle in itself, he never thought he would ever get to meet his son, and now he was going to introduce the teenager to every one of his friends – not that it was a long list of friends, he just wanted everyone to know about his boy and how proud he was to have him in his life, finally.

 

Tony looked over his shoulder, skeptical to be left with a man whom he had just met only minutes ago.  He really just wanted to hang out with his father and get to know him better; he felt like he was back with Michael yet again, being sent off to other people “Actually, Ducky… Tony and I have a lot of things to do today – Maybe we could do this later?” Jethro quickly stepped in, and Tony couldn’t have been more grateful and quickly slipped out of Ducky’s loose grip and slinked back over to Jethro’s side, hiding behind him slightly.

 

Ducky looked disappointed for all of a few seconds, but then quickly pasted on a bright and cheerful smile “Yes, yes of course.  I have to finish polishing the equipment anyhow.  I will see the two of you at a later date then.” Ducky said as he walked back over to the autopsy table that had his tools on them still, he snapped on a pair of gloves once again and grabbed the cleaner he had been using.

 

A few seconds after that, and Tony and Jethro were loading back up onto the elevator.  Jethro hit the emergency stop button halfway between the floors and looked over at his son “I’m sorry…” Jethro whispered, shaking his head slightly “I didn’t think that Ducky would try and whisk you off… I really only meant to introduce the two of you.” He said sincerely, shifting uncomfortably on his feet; he hated making apologies, but this time it was necessary.

 

Tony smiled shyly and just hugged Jethro around the waist tightly, he really was starting to feel more and more comfortable showing affection to his father.  “So, I was thinking…” Tony said as he pulled away and hit the emergency stop button to throw the elevator car back into motion “Since you have to talk with Michael… Think we could go to Long Island, and while you talk to him… I can go visit with Garret?” Tony asked curiously, looking up at Jethro and biting his lower lip nervously.

 

Jethro nodded slowly as he looked down at Tony, and then walked out with him and back into the parking garage “Sounds like a good plan to me…” Jethro said as he settled into the driver’s seat of the Challenger, waiting for Tony to get in as well.  “We’ll swing by the house now, pack up a few things… and then we’ll drive up to Long Island.”  Jethro decided as he started the engine, grinning as the motor purred and vibrated off the cement walls of the parking garage before he pulled out of the parking spot, squealing his tires and headed for the exit.

Chapter Text

Once the duo arrived at Jethro’s house, it didn’t take either of them long to get packed; seeing as Tony was already still packed and Jethro had a go-bag ready and waiting in the downstairs hall closet.  Both of them were on the road within five minutes and headed in the direction of New York City – Jethro had never been to the City but with a map and Tony as a guide, they made it to Long Island, New York in just under four hours.

 

Tony smiled sadly as he watched a lot of familiar mansions pass by the windows of the Challenger.  He was robotically spouting off directions to the DiNozzo Mansion, but his eyes were scanning for a more familiar mansion – the one that held his long-time best friend Garret, the one home that was directly across the street from the home he had grown up in for twelve years.  When Tony stopped giving directions, a smile of pure enjoyment was in its place “Garret only lives across the street… I’ll make sure that the security guards know you’ll be coming to pick me up!” Tony spouted off quickly before barreling out of the car and rushed up to the large metal gate that was now the only barrier between him and his best friend.

 

Jethro shook his head as he watched Tony bounce excitedly on the tips of his feet while talking to the speaker on the outside of the gate.  He waited until his son disappeared before turning the Challenger toward the driveway across from Garret’s home and then proceeded to press the call button near the closed gate.  A security camera swiveled in Jethro’s direction and he produced his badge, holding it out “Special Agent Gibbs, I’d like to speak with the owner of the home please.” Jethro said, knowing that using his badge in this manner was completely illegal, but it was also the only way he knew that he’d get beyond the black-iron gates and up that driveway.

 


 

 

Tony stood nervously at the bottom of the stairs, the butler – John – had said he would retrieve Master Garret, and now Tony was waiting for his best friend to appear down the staircase.  The wait only lasted a few seconds, but it felt like hours, before Garret – blonde hair and blue eyed, just as Tony remembered him – came rushing down the stairs.  Tony squealed excitedly, launching himself at Garret and clinging to the taller teenager and Garret immediately reciprocated the enthusiastic embrace.

 

Neither boy cared that the butler was standing in the foyer, they kissed each other full on the lips and smiled into each other’s faces “I missed you, T.” Garret said quietly, resting his forehead against the brunette teenager’s forehead, pressing a featherlight kiss against Tony’s nose and smiling even wider – they both knew that they wouldn’t get in trouble for their affectionate display, Garret’s parents were aware of the semi-romantic nature of their relationship.  Even encouraged them to explore safely but never beyond something that they weren’t ready for.

 

Tony nodded and laid his head against the taller teen’s shoulder, his arms holding loosely around Garret’s waist “I missed you too, Gar.” Tony whispered and sniffled as his green eyes immediately filled with tears; he hated being separated from his best friend, and just wished he could shove the taller teenager into his backpack and take him home with him, back to his biological father’s house.

 

Then Tony pulled away and looked around the home he had so readily called his second place of living when he lived across the street, he noticed that packing boxes were stacked up in several corners of the home “Are you moving?” Tony asked quietly, hesitantly, he almost didn’t want to know the answer, fear was already gripping at his throat that his best friend might be moving even further away.

 

Garret nodded and shuffled his feet uncomfortably “Yeah… Dad lost his job…” Garret said quietly, snagging Tony’s hand and dragging him upstairs and into the very large bedroom that belonged to the teenager – it was now painted in a Navy Blue and Light Blue color, as opposed to two years ago when it was green and yellow.  Garret sat down on the king-size bed and pulled Tony down onto it with him “We’re moving to Virginia… Dad got a new job there, and since my mom can pretty much work anywhere… She agreed to transfer from the hospital she works at now, to a smaller hospital…” Garret said quietly, his voice filled with tears and crackling slightly – although whether from puberty or emotional clogging, neither would have been able to tell the difference.

 

Tony gasped loudly “Oh.  My.  God!” he exclaimed, right before throwing himself at Garret once again, toppling both of them down onto the mattress.  Tony planted his hands on either side of Garret’s head and looked down into his shiny blue eyes “You do realize that I also live in Virginia!?  How freaking awesome!” Tony squealed as he planted yet another closed-mouthed kiss on Garret’s plump pink lips.

 

Garret laughed and playfully tossed Tony down onto the mattress, rolled onto his side and propped his head on his closed fist, elbow digging into the plush mattress “Where at in Virginia?” he asked curiously, setting his free hand down on Tony’s stomach and gently rubbing up and down in a soothing manner that Tony had so sorely missed.

 

Tony felt the butterflies that had once died re-enter his life almost immediately, his stomach twinging almost painfully “I live in Alexandria… Or… I will be, as soon as my biological dad can adopt me again.” Tony whispered, turning his head away as tears started pooling in his green eyes once again; he hated how vulnerable he had become in such a short period of time, having not lived by the ‘DiNozzo Rules’ in nearly a year, they were all but extinct in his mind.

 

Garret gently turned Tony’s head back toward him, brushing away the tears with the knuckle of his index finger “We’ll be really close to each other then… That’s where we’re moving too.” Garret whispered right before he sealed his lips over Tony’s lips and kissed him, with every ounce of love he had ever felt for his best friend.  He smiled into the kiss when the smaller teenager moaned into his mouth, and he rolled to be slightly on top of Tony’s lithe body.

 


 

 

Jethro stood outside of the large wooden doors, waiting for them to open – he was slightly nervous to find out what was behind the double doors, but he hoped that his fears of never seeing his son again would soon be extinguished and he would be able to keep Tony, like he should have done thirteen years ago.  When the door on the right opened, Jethro straightened his spine and pulled every ounce of professional agentry he had in him into greeting the owner of the home.

 

Although he never expected to be face-to-face with a young blonde teenaged girl “Yes, may I help you?” she asked politely, not at all like a normal teenager would ask someone who had bothered them during the middle of the day, especially during a three-day-weekend from school.

 

Jethro cleared his throat a few times before nodding his head “Yeah, I’m looking for Michael DiNozzo… Is he available?” Jethro asked as calmly as he could – saying the man’s name now brought on a fit of anger and bile that would just not go away, knowing how his son had spent the past twelve years of his life in this home.

 

The blonde sighed loudly before turning away from the door “DAD!  Someone is at the door!” she shouted and then promptly disappeared up a spiral staircase that led up to the second and third floors of the extravagant mansion.  Jethro’s mind was swirling though – Dad?  Michael had another kid?  Couldn’t be… Maybe a stepdaughter… Made more sense than him having a teenaged daughter, especially since Tony hadn’t mentioned him having any other kids.

 

A few seconds later a portly man with salt-and-pepper hair, which was more salt than pepper, and honey-brown eyes came down the hallway – Jethro knew, immediately, that this was not Michael DiNozzo, even if it had been thirteen years since he last saw a picture of the man.  The older gentleman extended his hand and confirmed Jethro’s suspicions with his introduction “I’m Joseph White.  How can I help you…?” Joseph left the question hanging, wanting an introduction as well.

 

Jethro cleared his throat uncomfortably “Ah… Gibbs, Jethro Gibbs.” He said nervously as he settled his hand in Joseph White’s firm grip and shook hands with the older gentleman “I was looking for Michael DiNozzo, but it seems that he no longer lives here… Do you happen to know where I can find him?” Jethro asked, wanting to get this over with as quickly as possible.

 

Joseph nodded almost solemnly “Yeah… Holy Sepulchre Cemetery.  Mr. DiNozzo died four months ago.” Joseph stated, setting his arms across his chest and looking down at his work-roughened hands.

 

Died four months ago?  And nobody thought to inform Tony?  “I… I see.” Jethro said quietly, rubbing the back of his neck “Ah… Do you happen to know how he died?” Jethro asked cautiously, this man had a guilty look on his face, although he highly doubted that Joseph White had killed Michael DiNozzo, but he wouldn’t put it out of his mind entirely, and he also doubted he would get a confession, not that he was even here for one – he didn’t quite care how Michael died.

 

Joseph nodded again “He was killed in his office.  Four months ago, like I said… I don’t know the specifics, I didn’t even know the guy very well, except for reading about his business ventures and reading about his death in the newspaper and on the news.” Joseph said with a slight shrug “It’s all I really know… So, I’m sorry if you had business with him… But there isn’t much else I can do other than tell you to perhaps talk to his lawyer.” Joseph said before taking a step back into his home and shutting the heavy wood door in Jethro’s face.

 

Jethro heard the click of the lock and sighed heavily before turning around on the marble steps that led to the front doors – Michael was dead, which meant… Tony was technically an orphan, a ward of the state; which state, he didn’t know… seeing as Tony had been living in Washington DC for the past year, but his adoption records would reflect his residency here in Long Island.  Jethro headed down the steps and slid into the driver’s seat of his Challenger, hanging his head and resting it against the cool leather of the steering wheel.  He had to talk to Leon… and he had to figure out what would happen now, and there was only one person he could think of that might have some answers, to at least some of his questions.

 

Jethro slipped his phone out of his pocket, resting the extendable antenna against his forehead as he tried to recall the number to his old buddies phone.  After several seconds, he flipped the phone open and dialed the number, listening to the incessant ringing until it was picked up “Detective Stabler.” A tired voice said when the phone was finally picked up on the fourth ring.

 

Jethro frowned, he must have woken his buddy up “Stabler… It’s Gibbs…” Jethro said into the phone as he started the engine of his Challenger finally and pulled out of the White’s driveway and parked across the street in front of Garret’s family home “You got a minute to talk?” Jethro asked once he was certain that Stabler had gotten over the initial shock and was more awake now.

 

Stabler grunted slightly, rubbing a hand over his tired face as he sat up in the too small bed in the sixteenth precinct cribs “Yeah, I got a couple of minutes – what’s going on Gunny?” Stabler asked as he reached for the bottle of water that was resting on the floor underneath the cot he had been sleeping on.

 

Jethro sighed, scrubbing a hand down his face as he gave the bullet-points version of his current situation to his long-time friend and fellow veteran Marine.  “I’m at a crossroads here, Elliot… He’s my son, but not legally… Not anymore, anyway… but I want nothing more than to make him legally my son again… I just… I need to find out why, how, anything… about Michael DiNozzo’s death that I can take back to my lawyer.” Jethro explained as he laid his head back against the headrest.

 

Elliot held his forehead in his hand as he stared down at his sock-clad feet, “Why don’t you come down to the 1-6, Gibbs?  I’ll look into it as far as I can… This case would technically fall under our purview since a child was left abandoned, but I’m not sure how far our reach would be since this DiNozzo character lived in Long Island and your son was living in DC…” Elliot offered quietly as he slid off of the cot and shoved his feet carefully back into his black dress shoes.

 

Jethro nodded, even though he knew Elliot couldn’t see the action “Yeah, alright… Tony and I will swing by there in a couple of hours.  He’s spending time with his best friend right now, and I really don’t want to separate the two at the moment…” Jethro said quietly before saying goodbye to his buddy and slipping his phone back into his pocket – he really did have a lot he needed to think about now, now that Michael was dead.  He resolved to talk to Leon later when he had more facts about the situation that he now found himself in.

 


 

 

Two hours later, Jethro was standing at yet another set of large wooden doors, this time though he was welcomed into the home and greeted by Garret’s parents Raymond and Denise Turner.  Jethro and Raymond – or Ray – walked into the living room while Denise said she would go upstairs and get the boys “Tony has told us that he was adopted, but we never thought we would actually meet his biological father.” Ray said as the duo sat down on the furniture that had yet to be packed up.

 

Jethro nodded and smiled lightly, rubbing his palms together slowly “If I’m honest, I never thought I would meet him either… But he was determined to meet me and now I can’t imagine going a day without him.  Not again.” Jethro said quietly, looking down at his feet.

 

An awkward silence fell over the two men for a moment, and then Jethro’s eyes lit up on all of the boxes that were lining the walls.  Before he could even comment, Tony and Garret came down the stairs and Jethro could see that Tony’s lips were swollen and red “Well, we should probably get out of here…” Jethro said as he stood up, wrapping an arm around his son’s neck and pulling him close to his chest.

 

Tony smiled brightly as he set his hands on Jethro’s forearms, his green eyes still locked with Garret’s blue eyes “Yeah…” Tony said quietly, blinking a couple of times and then finally breaking eye-contact with Garret to look up at Jethro “Hey, there is this really awesome Ice Cream place on the way out of Long Island, think we can stop there?” Tony asked happily, grinning up at Jethro.

 

Jethro rolled his eyes but nodded his head as he released Tony and ruffled the teenagers long brown hair “Yeah kid, we can grab some ice cream.  But you have to eat it on the go because we have to go meet up with someone.” Jethro said as he nudged Tony over toward Garret “Say goodbye to your friend, I’ll be out in the car.” He added before moving over to Ray and shaking the man’s hand “Thanks for keeping an eye on Tony for me.” Jethro said then turned on his heel and headed out of the house and back to his Challenger.

 

A few minutes later, Tony slid into the passenger seat of the Challenger and hooked the seatbelt over his chest – there was a mile-wide grin on his face and an absolutely dreamy look in his green eyes.  Jethro took a deep breath as he started the engine of the challenger “Alright, direct me to this Ice Cream shop…” he said while driving down the driveway to the gate that would let them out, giving himself a few minutes to figure out how to ask the question that was now burning a hole in his throat.

 

Tony gave the directions happily and it only took them about three minutes to get from Garret’s mansion to Walt Itgen’s Ice Cream Parlour.  Neither of them made an effort to get out of the car after getting there though, Tony having sensed that something was bothering his father “Is there something that’s bothering you?” Tony asked quietly, drawing his legs up onto the seat of the Challenger and wrapping his arms around his shins.

 

Jethro shook his head and killed the engine of the Challenger, leaning back slightly in the bucket seat; he had so many things that were bothering him right now he didn’t even know where to begin “I don’t even know how to begin…” Jethro said quietly, rubbing a hand down his face and sighing loudly “Michael died four months ago.” Jethro said and then quickly turned his head to look over at Tony, wanting to offer any support for his son if he took the news badly.

 

Tony nodded slowly into his kneecaps “Yeah, I know… Garret told me already.” Tony said as he looked straight ahead at the old-fashioned ice cream shop “If you expected me to be upset about it… I’m not.  I haven’t seen Michael in over a year, and even in the…” Tony shrugged and closed his eyes “Eight years that I can remember? He’s never once accepted me as his son… And he kicked me out after…” Tony shook his head and quickly got out of the car, unfolding himself gracefully and headed toward the entrance of the ice cream shop.

 

Jethro nearly fell out of the Challenger in his haste to get out and stop Tony from entering the shop; he lightly grabbed Tony’s elbow and turned the teenager around to face him.  Jethro could immediately see the pain in Tony’s eyes and it wasn’t from the grip on his son’s arm “After what, Tony?  You know you can tell me anything…” Jethro asked quietly, gently pulling the teenager away from the front door so an elderly couple could exit the shop.

 

Tony shook his head and yanked his arm around of Jethro’s hand “It doesn’t matter… You’ll probably hate me just as much as Michael did!” Tony shouted as he took several steps away from Jethro, crossing his arms over his chest and trying to hide the tears that immediately sprung up in his eyes; wanting to be back at Garret’s house, wrapped up in his best friends arms, protected from the world like he always felt when he was with Garret.

 

Jethro growled as he grabbed Tony’s shoulders and spun his son back around to face him “I will not hate you!” Jethro snapped, staring into Tony’s green eyes “If you are in love with your best friend?  Guess what, Tony.  I do not care – You are my son and I’m going to love you no matter who you are in love with… Guy, Girl, or any other gender that might be out there!” Jethro growled as he glared at Tony, daring the teenager to try and argue the depth of love that he had for his son.

 

Tony openly gaped at his father, blinking the tears that were forming in his eyes away.  Aside from Garret and Garret’s parents, no one had ever truly accepted who he was, and to have his father saying that he didn’t care who he loved, was more than Tony could honestly handle.  Tony flung himself into Jethro’s arms, letting out an almost silent sob as he clung to the older man “Why are you so nice to me?” Tony whispered into his father’s shoulder, hoping beyond hope that the older man wouldn’t hear the question he just asked.

 

Jethro chuckled and kissed the side of Tony’s head lightly, setting the teenager back onto his feet “Come on, let’s go get that ice cream… We still have a drive ahead of us since we’re going into Manhattan.” Jethro said, opting to ignore the question his son asked – The thirteen-year-old would soon enough understand why Jethro was so nice, but he wanted his son to figure it out for himself and accept that parent’s were just supposed to be nice to their kids, and accept anything that their children wanted out of life.

 

Tony nodded and took a step away from Jethro, quickly wiping the sleeve of his shirt on his face to get rid of the tears that had slid down his cheeks.  Tony grabbed Jethro by the wrist “I promise, you are going to love this ice cream – it tastes like nothing I have ever tasted before!” Tony proclaimed, his enthusiasm and happiness returning tenfold as he pulled Jethro toward the front door of the ice cream parlour.

Chapter Text

Jethro ran a hand through his hair and sighed heavily “Are you sure you’ll be alright in here while I talk?” Jethro asked, glancing over his shoulder at Elliot Stabler, and then back down at Tony who was currently sitting in the Sixteenth Precincts breakroom, with the pint of ice cream that they had bought earlier.

 

Tony nodded absently as he slotted the plastic spoon into his mouth, slurping off the Cookies and Cream ice cream from it and grinning as the exquisite flavor swam on his tastebuds “Yeah of course… Not to compare you to Michael, but I’m completely used to being left alone by now…” Tony said with a shrug of his shoulders as he tilted his head back to look up at Jethro “I know if it weren’t important, you wouldn’t leave me here…” Tony said confidently as he smiled and dipped his spoon into the mostly liquid ice cream once again.

 

Jethro nodded and kissed the top of Tony’s head, pulling the mop of brown out of the teenager’s eyes briefly “You’re right about that.  And if you get bored…” Jethro trailed off as he dropped a brand new notebook on the table as well as a large quantity of brand new colored pencils; half of the pages were blue-lined while the other half was sketch paper “You can either write or draw to entertain yourself with.” Jethro finished as he squeezed both of Tony’s shoulders and then headed out of the break room and walked over to where Elliot was sitting at his desk.

 

Elliot looked at his Marine buddy and smiled a little sadly, he really didn’t know what to say to his pal.  He leaned back in his office chair and cupped his hands over the crown of his head “So, how is renewed fatherhood?” Elliot asked curiously and quietly, knowing that his friend wouldn’t want the entire squad to know about Jethro’s past and the horrors that Jethro had experienced in the past couple of years.

 

Jethro shrugged as he leaned back in the visitor's chair that was beside Elliot’s desk, resting his interlocked fingers against his flat stomach “So far?  Pretty simple.  I’ve only had him back in my life for fifteen hours but I definitely expect things to get more difficult as he gets older and we get more comfortable with one another’s personalities.” Jethro said honestly as he closed his eyes and blew out an exhausted breath “So, have you looked into DiNozzo’s death?” Jethro asked as he reopened his eyes and looked at Elliot.

 

Elliot nodded, but before he could respond one way or another he quickly stood up and smiled as he moved around his desk and helped his heavily pregnant partner into her desk chair.  “You okay, Liv?” Elliot asked as he set both of his hands on his partner’s shoulders and started massaging the kinks that he knew would be resting in between her shoulder blades.

 

Olivia groaned and lowered her head forward “I’ll be okay when I’m not the size of a goddamn pumpkin.” Olivia groused, subtly shaking Elliot’s hands off of her shoulders as she sat back up straight and looked at the man sitting in Elliot’s visitor's chair “You must be Jethro Gibbs?” she asked, sticking her hand out for Jethro to shake.

 

Jethro nodded as he delicately shook Olivia’s hand and smiled at her “That’s right.” He said as he retracted his hand and then looked down at her rounded belly “How far along are you?” He asked, quickly having to bite his tongue before he said ‘Looks like you’re ready to pop’ having remembered that Shannon hated how people would say that.

 

Olivia smiled, but before she could answer, Elliot was moving, sitting on the corner of Olivia’s desk and looking down at her pregnant stomach with what only one could describe as pride “She’s seven and a half months along.” Elliot said quietly as he settled his hand down on the top curve of her pregnant stomach, his thumb moving in a rhythmic circular motion.

 

Everything that Elliot was doing looked so familiar, as if this happened on a daily basis – that thought struck Jethro as odd, since the last time he knew, his buddy was married to… Kathy.  Jethro looked between the two work-partners and immediately he could see the look of love that was being conveyed between their eyes – who was he to judge? “Seems like you’re a pretty proud dad.” Jethro commented, hoping he hadn’t just dug himself a hole too deep.

 

Elliot beamed brightly and nodded his head, then slipped off the desk and grabbed the file folders that Olivia had set on her desk before sitting down “I am.” Elliot said with every ounce of pride he could muster, he bent over and pressed a kiss to Olivia’s forehead before rounding the desks once again and sat down next to Jethro “Anyway, these are all of the reports I could find on Michael DiNozzo.  There are a lot of things in here, much more than just his autopsy report – That’s on the very top.” Elliot said, tapping the medium-sized stack of papers and sliding them across the desk to Jethro.

 

Jethro nodded as he leaned back, making himself as comfortable as possible in the leather and metal chair, he grabbed the top folder and flicked through the autopsy report and incident report on Michael DiNozzo.  As he read, his eyes continued to flick over to the break room where his son was located, and then back to the two silent partners, his mind was a whirlwind of questions, but right now he needed to focus on how Michael DiNozzo died, and if it was going to come back to bite him in the ass at a later date; he’d already lost two of his family members, he sure as hell wasn’t going to lose a third because he didn’t have all of the facts – if someone were out to kill Michael for revenge, his son could be in danger, even if Michael was already dead.

 

After closing the autopsy report, he sighed heavily and dropped the file back onto the pile and closed his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose.  Michael DiNozzo died on an overdose of methamphetamines, it was ruled accidental.  “So…” Jethro breathed out slowly, lifted his head and then tilting it down, looking at his battle-scarred hands “He died of an overdose… Nothing malicious… No crazy people coming after him…” Jethro said quietly as if he almost couldn’t believe that this was going to be extremely easy – he was always ready for the big fight, the huge explosion, the never-ending battle.

 

Elliot nodded and shrugged his shoulders “Looks that way.” Elliot said sympathetically.  He knew what his friend had been gearing up for, knew that Jethro had been looking for some sort of fight, wanting to put the Marine-Grit he had in himself to good use.  “Listen, why don’t you stay in town for a couple of days?  We can catch up… You can leave Tony with his friend so they have a chance at being together?” Elliot suggested, cutting a quick glance over at his partner and getting an OK nod from her.

 

Jethro shook his head “Don’t need to leave Tony with his friend, they’re moving to Alexandria in a few weeks… They’ll have all the time in the world to hang out.” Jethro said as he stood up slowly “But, I will stay in town… It’ll be nice to catch up, and I’m sure Tony would be okay with meeting your kids.” He added with a smile, he could tell that, even if Elliot was divorced from his first wife, his four kids were still very much a part of his life.

 

Elliot nodded and stood up “Yeah… Yeah, that would work.  I’ll text you my address, you and Tony could stay with us while you’re here!” Elliot exclaimed as he clapped Jethro on the back and smiled warmly at his friend, then cut a glance over at Olivia again “You don’t mind if he and Tony crash with us, do you?” he asked, almost hesitantly, having mostly forgot that Olivia was sitting just across from his desk, being that he was almost as excited as a kid on Christmas to have his old Marine pal around.

 

Olivia smiled and shook her head – how could she deny her fiancee of this delight?  He looked so excited to have a friend from the Corps here “Of course I don’t mind… I think it would be wonderful to have Jethro and Tony staying with us… In fact, instead of texting him the address – Why don’t I take him home with me?  I’m done here for the day.” Olivia said as she slowly started standing up, having to use her desk as leverage to get her pregnant body into an upright position.

 


 

 

After getting their stuff settled at Olivia and Elliot’s house, and Tony was properly introduced to the four Stabler children – Maureen, Kathleen, Richard ‘Dickie’ and Elizabeth ‘Lizzie’ – Jethro and Elliot decided on a quick boys night out, however, they both decided on doing it in the remodeled basement that Elliot had – it was almost like a sports bar, and none of the kids would come down to disturb them, nor would Olivia who was reluctant to come down the basement stairs.

 

Elliot sighed as he dropped down into the recliner and set two bottles of chilled beer on the end table next to him.  Both men grabbed one bottle and popped the tin lid off, clinking the necks of the bottles together; they didn’t really cheer to anything, but then again, they really hadn’t need to, since their first beer of the night had gone to ‘Good friends and good times’.  Jethro leaned back in the recliner and sighed happily as he sipped from his bottle “So, what happened to Kathy?” he asked, knowing that his friend would more than readily open up to him – that was their way of getting through Desert Storm together, and it hadn’t changed in the ten years that they knew each other.

 

Elliot snorted and shook his head as he drained almost half the contents of his beer down his throat “She left me… and the kids… About five years ago.” Elliot said and shook his head at the memory “Said she couldn’t take the job anymore… Couldn’t take the fact that I loved working more than being home with her… But, she left the kids, too, because I spent more time with them than anyone else… Aside from Liv.” Elliot shrugged his shoulders slightly and looked up at the ceiling “Small Miracles.” He muttered before setting the lip of the bottle back to his own lips.

 

Jethro looked over at his buddy and furrowed his brows “Small miracle that she left you?  Or small miracle that she left the kids with you?” Jethro asked, thoroughly confused by his friend’s words. 

 

Elliot laughed bitterly “That she left me.  We hadn’t been in love for nearly half of our fourteen years together.” Elliot shook his head and ran a hand over his stubbled jaw “We were just co-existing in the house together, co-parenting two one-year-olds, a four-year-old, and an eight-year-old… There was no love lost between us.” Elliot chuckled humorlessly and levered himself up from the recliner to grab two fresh beers from the fridge.

 

Jethro snorted and shook his head ruefully “Maybe its time you thought about a change of scenery, Stabler… What has this place have to offer you anymore?” Jethro asked curiously as he grabbed the fresh bottle from Elliot and popped the cap off, setting the lip of the bottle against his bottom lip and tipping it back.

 

Elliot slumped down in the recliner and looked over at Jethro “Aside from this being the place where all of my kids were born?  Not much…” Elliot said as he tipped the bottle back against his mouth and swallowed some of the beer inside “Why the sudden interest?  Are you trying to offer me a job?” Elliot asked, looking over at Jethro with one finely raised eyebrow.

 

Jethro shrugged as he downed the remains of his beer “If you’re interested.” Jethro said as he stood up, yawned, and stretched languidly “Talk to your fiancee about it.  See what she has to say, then get back to me.” Jethro said with a smile, he squeezed Elliot’s shoulder and then headed up the stairs and toward the guest bedroom that he and Tony were sharing for the night.

 


 

 

Elliot finished off his beer and sighed as he levered himself up from the recliner, he dropped the empty bottles – a total of six between the two men – into the recycling bucket and then climbed up to the second story of his home.  Elliot checked on all of his children, and even the two guests he had staying in his home before disappearing into the master bedroom where his heavily pregnant fiancee was sitting up against the headboard, a thick book propped against her stomach “Thought you’d be asleep by now.” Elliot commented as he started disrobing and dropping his clothes into the hamper by the door.

 

Olivia shook her head as she set her book down on the pile that was steadily growing on her nightstand “Unfortunately not.” Olivia said quietly as she rubbed the protruding foot that was showing underneath her thin shirt “Your little ones are being very active tonight.” She said with a smile as she slowly shimmied down the mattress and turned onto her side, facing Elliot’s side of the bed and slipping a pillow between her legs and underneath her rounded stomach.

 

Elliot smiled fondly as he slid into bed beside his fiancee and set one of his hands against the swell of her stomach “I’m sure they’ll settle down now that their daddy is here.” Elliot said confidently as he began rubbing soothingly across the expanse of Olivia’s stomach “Have to talk to you about something though…” he ventured as he scooted closer to Olivia.

 

Olivia smiled as she laid her head on Elliot’s shoulder and wrapped an arm around his waist loosely “Can I take a guess first?” Olivia asked as she looked up at her fiancee – he nodded his head and kissed Olivia’s forehead lightly.  Olivia got herself comfortable once again and sighed “Jethro offered you a job, and now you’re considering taking it.” She said.  She knew Elliot better than anyone in the world, and could always read his innermost thoughts.

 

Elliot chuckled as he wrapped an arm around Olivia, continuing to gently rub her stomach; he could feel the movements of his unborn children and it made a wide smile cross his features.  “You’re right about that…” Elliot said quietly, stretching out on the mattress and yawning “What do you think about it?  I mean, obviously, we wouldn’t be able to move right away… Not with the twins on their way, and all of the cases we have that need closing out.” Elliot said decisively, pressing his lip against Olivia’s temple and sighing.

 

Olivia nodded as she ran her hand up and down the firm planes of Elliot’s abdominal muscles “Maybe by next summer.  We’ll wait until the kids are out of school… The boys will be six months old by then.” Olivia said softly, smiling into Elliot’s shoulder “As much as I love New York City, I think that moving to Washington DC might be good for us… All of us.” Olivia said as she rubbed up and down Elliot’s chest and stomach slowly.

 

Elliot grinned as he lifted his head and tilted Olivia’s head back, kissing her softly on the lips.  Then a thought struck him and he pulled back, looking down into the love of his life’s brown eyes “What’re you going to do?  I mean, if we move there… I don’t…” Elliot shook his head and sighed “I don’t want you to be limited… Being a stay-at-home-mom… Kathy hated it, and ended up resenting me for it – I don’t want that happening to us, Liv.” Elliot said quietly, almost sadly as he rested his head in the crook of Olivia’s neck and shoulder.

 

Olivia shook her head and smiled, looping her arm around Elliot’s neck and gently scratching her manicured nails over his short brown hair “I’m not going to be a stay-at-home-mom forever, El.  Just until our boys are able to handle going to Daycare by themselves, six-months to a year, at least.  After that?  I’m sure I can get a job at Washington Metro… Or, even working at NCIS as well – Who knows?  The possibilities are endless.” Olivia said quietly as she continued running her fingernails over Elliot’s head and down his neck and back “Get some sleep, El… We’ll talk about this later.” Olivia whispered as she kissed the top of his head and closed her eyes, now finally ready to get some sleep now that her unborn twins had settled down.

 


 

 

Jethro sighed contentedly as he pulled into his driveway and looked over at his sleeping son – They had spent the past three days in New York City with Elliot, Olivia, and his four kids, as well as Garret and his parents – it had been an extremely busy three days, celebrating Labor Day weekend like they were just any other normal family – and he supposed that, now, they were an actual family, even if it was just the two of them; as much as he missed his wife and daughter, he knew that nothing could ever make him regret having Tony in his life, even if it were thirteen years too late.

 

Jethro reached over and lightly shook Tony’s shoulder “Come on, kiddo.  We’re home now, no more being a lump on a log.” Jethro said with a teasing smile as he ruffled Tony’s long brown hair and slid out of the driver’s seat of the Challenger “We’re going to need to get you a haircut, I have no idea how you can see with all that hair in your eyes.” Jethro commented as he moved to the trunk of the Challenger and grabbed his bag as well as Tony’s backpack, that now felt ten times heavier since their return.

 

Tony brushed his long brown bangs out of his green eyes and grinned up at Jethro “What if I don’t want to get a haircut?  What if I want to look like Cousin IT?” Tony asked with a cheeky grin as he and his father started for the front door of the two-story Craftsman home.

 

Jethro shook his head and shoved Tony’s shoulder lightly “I don’t have a tower high enough to lock you up in.” Jethro joked as he dropped their bags on the couch and then grabbed the mail that was piled up on the end table, flicking through the envelopes and tossing aside the junk mail while keeping the bills and other important mail in his hand.

 

Tony rolled his eyes “I don’t need a tower, promise.” Tony said as he pressed play on the answering machine and jumped up onto the kitchen counter to listen to the messages as they played, he skipped over the telemarketer calls, or people just selling things in general.

 

One of the messages played loudly “Jethro!  It’s Leon.  I got the e-mail you sent me regarding Michael DiNozzo’s death.  I know you’re still in New York and I didn’t want to disturb you while you were on a much-needed vacation – Call me back when you get a chance, I might have some very good news for you!” The message ended with the pre-recorded ‘If you would like to delete this message, press 1’ and Tony clicked the end button, but did not delete it and looked up at Jethro with a hopeful look in his eyes.

 

Jethro grinned as he also hopped up onto the counter, sitting on the opposite side of the phone and he dialed the number to his lawyer’s office, putting the phone on speaker so both he and Tony could listen in.  “Office of Vance and Mitchell, how can I direct your call this afternoon?” The secretary at the lawyer’s office asked of them.

 

Jethro cleared his throat “Hey Meredith, it’s Leroy Jethro Gibbs – I’m looking to speak with Leon.  Is he available right now?” Jethro asked curiously, picking up a pen off of the kitchen counter and flicking it against his kneecap nervously; he glanced over at Tony and realized that the teenager also looked nervous, he had his legs drawn up on the counter and was holding his shins tight.

 

Of course, Mr. Gibbs.  Let me just ask if he’s taking calls right now, and if he is I will patch you through.” Meredith said happily, her smile reaching through the phone and even making Jethro smile a little – the young receptionist was always so happy and always had a smile for him, even when he had been at his grumpiest and most pissed off.  The dull elevator-style music filtered through the speaker as Jethro and Tony waited to be connected to Leon Vance.

 

A few silent moments – save for the elevator music – passed by the duo waiting anxiously in the kitchen when the receiver clicked and the music stopped “Jethro, so glad you called.” Leon’s voice rang clear over the line as if he were standing right there in the kitchen with them “I’ve received the papers regarding Michael DiNozzo… As I’m sure you’re aware by now – This makes Tony a ward of New York State.  He is officially orphaned and I spoke with a friend of mine that deals with Child Abandonment cases…” Leon took a breath and they could all feel the tension in the air, Jethro wanted to throttle his lawyer, tell him to stop beating around the bush and just say what the hell they wanted to know.  “It turns out that Mr. and Mrs. DiNozzo never officially filed for permanent adoption of Tony when he was adopted – their lawyers never got the papers when he was signed over…” Vance said and then the silence enveloped the room.

 

Jethro gritted his teeth as he glared at the phone “Well what the hell does that mean Leon?!  Can I get my son back officially or not?!” Jethro demanded, shouting at the black phone that was sitting on his kitchen counter.

 

Leon laughed softly and shook his head “Jethro, calm down man… I’m getting there.” Leon said in placation to his friend and sighed “Because Mr. and Mrs. DiNozzo never filed the adoption papers… You’re still technically, and legally, Tony’s father.  Your parental rights will have to be reinstated, but that’s just a flick of the wrist on a piece of paper – there may be legal repercussions, but I’m sure that I can handle that.” Leon said, leaning back in his chair and letting the weight of his words sink in with his client.

 

Jethro ran the conversation in his head over a few times – That no good excuse for a man never legally adopted his son, so what was it then, kidnapping?  Not that it would matter now, Michael DiNozzo was dead and buried… He couldn’t bring the man up on kidnapping charges, and a judge would probably laugh him out of a courtroom, even if Michael were alive still.  Jethro sighed and rubbed a hand over his face “What kind of legal repercussions?” he asked because nothing else mattered – as Leon said, technically and legally, he was still and always had been Tony’s father, and nothing could take that away from him now.

 

Leon sighed and ran a hand over his bald head “My friend that deals with Family Disputes said you may have to appear before a judge… Plead your case to him or her, tell them the truth about everything that has transpired… All of this will have to happen in the state of New York, however, seeing as that is where Tony is a legal resident.” Leon explained as he tapped his pen on his oak desk “But because you are legally his father, the worst that could happen?  You’d have to pay a fine, I’m not sure how much it is but it could set you back at least ten grand…” Leon stated and held his breath, preparing himself for an explosion.

 

Jethro grunted as he slipped off of the kitchen counter and turned to face the phone “It won’t be a problem… You just tell me when I have to show up, where I have to be… I’ll do whatever it takes to keep Tony in my life.” Jethro stated decisively, he then pressed the speaker button, effectively ending the phone call, he then looked up at his son and smiled nervously – he didn’t know how Tony would react to the knowledge that he had never officially been adopted by the DiNozzo’s.

 

Tony chewed on his bottom lip, looking down at his kneecaps as he drummed the tips of his fingers against his shins – He had never been legally adopted by DiNozzo, and all of this time, he could have stayed with his real father; thirteen years of a miserable life could have been spared, had he only realized that the adoption papers that had been sitting in Michael’s office desk, were the papers they were supposed to file when he was given away.  Tony shook his head and let a tear dribble down his cheek “They never really wanted me in the first place… I was just a convenient tool to make them look good in their societal gatherings.” Tony whispered hoarsely, slipping off of the kitchen counter, he pushed past Jethro’s body and out into the backyard, slamming the wooden door behind him.

 

Jethro sighed and hung his head to his chest.  He knew Tony would need some space, and time, to process all of this information; honestly, all he wanted to do was go out there and hold his teenaged son.  But, he knew that Tony also wouldn’t appreciate it… He didn’t know how he knew, but he just did.  So he turned around to where the dirty dishes – the dishes that had been piling up since before his impromptu vacation – and started washing them, his eyes glued to the backyard where he could see Tony sitting on the tire-swing that had once belonged to Kelly.  He would give Tony his space, and when he felt that enough time had been adequately passed, he would head out to the backyard and see if his son was handling this, and if not, how he could help to better handle the situation they were in.

Chapter Text

A few weeks had dragged by, about as slowly as molasses pouring in the worst winter storm possible.  Tony had officially moved in with Jethro after Jethro’s parental rights had been re-established – That had been the easiest part like Leon had told them it would be.  Tony was still enrolled at St. Alban’s and thriving beautifully with his baseball team, even if he was the shortest teenager on the team.  Jethro had yet to miss a game, even when work demanded his attention, Jethro would blow it off to be there for his boy.

 

Tony had regained a lot of confidence in himself with the parental support he had gained from having Jethro at each of his baseball games, he had also become encouraged to take up more passions – For example, he had started entering the school weekly art-fair, showcasing his woodworking skills off to the entire high-school class.  Tony had also grudgingly signed up for St. Alban’s school play that would be collaborating with Bishop Ireton School for Girls.  He hadn’t expected to get casted in the show, let alone a leading role in the play.  He would be playing Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz, and that scared the hell out of him.

 

Tony flipped through the playwright and sighed heavily, at least he wouldn’t have to kiss a girl in this play, at least not on the lips.  Jethro had just walked in from work, throwing his keys on the table by the door “So…” Tony started, looking up from the playwright and smiling cheekily at his dad “I’m in this play at school… It’ll be the day before Thanksgiving Break – Think you’ll be busy?” Tony asked nonchalantly, not wanting to put too much pressure on his father.

 

Jethro shook his head as he flipped through the mail he had collected from the mailbox “Nope.  I took the week off, starting on the twentieth.” Jethro said as he dropped the mail onto the table into two separate piles – the bill pile and the junk pile.  “What play are you going to be in and what role?” Jethro asked as he nudged Tony’s feet off the couch and plopped down next to his son.

 

Tony sighed and flipped the playwright shut, throwing it onto the coffee table “It’s the Wizard of Oz… and I’ll be playing the Scarecrow.” Tony said quietly, looking down at his sock-clad feet.  He wiggled his toes and looked up at his dad “You really don’t have to come if you don’t want too… I’d understand.” Tony said softly, biting on his bottom lip nervously.

 

Jethro laughed, shaking his head as he reached over and slapped Tony as lightly as he could manage to the back of his son’s head “Shut up, Tony.  I’m going to be there.” Jethro said as he leaned over and lifted the playwright up “You need any help with your lines?  Running through them?” Jethro asked, glancing through the script and then glancing at his son.

 

Tony blushed furiously and shook his head as he snatched the playwright right back out of his dad’s hands and held it close to his chest “No… No.  I uh…” Tony stammered uncomfortably and shifted on the couch “I already know the play by heart.  I…” Tony’s blush grew redder as he stared down at his lap “I’ve wanted to be in the Wizard of Oz since I first watched the movie and knew that there were plays for it as well… I was reading the playwright since the minute I figured out how to read.” Tony admitted as he quickly got up off of the couch.

 

Jethro looked at his son skeptically and stood up “Okay, prove it then.” Jethro challenged, wiggling his fingers so he could take the playwright back from Tony.  Tony sighed as he handed the playwright back over.  Jethro flipped through the pages and settled on the very first scene that the Scarecrow and Dorothy were in together, he moved to stand in the middle of the living room “Follow the yellow brick road?  Follow the yellow…? Now, which way do we go?” Jethro questioned, reading off of the script.

 

Tony rolled his eyes and took a deep breath, rolled his shoulders and quickly got into the part of Scarecrow.  “That way is a very nice way.” He said, tossing his arm toward the right direction.

 

Jethro smirked “Who said that?” he imitated a female voice poorly, but it was endearing to see that his son was so intimately knowledgeable with the playwright.

 

Tony quickly pointed toward the left “It’s pleasant down that way, too.” Tony said, grinning up at his father and waiting for the next line of the script.

 

Jethro shook his head “That’s funny.  Wasn’t he pointing the other way?” Jethro asked as he slowly sat back down on the couch, flicking his eyes up to Tony.

 

Tony laughed as he crossed his arms over his chest, one hand pointing in the right direction while the other continued to point in the left “Of course, people do go both ways!” he exclaimed and then took a breath and let his arms drop to his side “So, you see… I don’t really need to read the script, but I probably will… Just because I enjoy it so much.”  Tony said as he dropped back down onto the couch next to his father and took the playwright back, flicking through the pages slowly.

 


 

 

Tony was right when he said that he would read the script for the Wizard of Oz several times over.  By the time the two schools assembled to re-enact the play, Tony had read the script at least one hundred times and was able to memorize every line, and even memorized the actions – although he only needed to know the lines that surrounded the part he was playing.  Tony took a deep breath and released it slowly before peeking around the corner of the closed theater curtains – the lights in the auditorium were still bright and he was easily able to scan the audience to see who was out there already.

 

Tony’s heart sunk into the pit of his stomach when he realized the one person he had hoped to see out there, was not currently there.  He hoped that perhaps his father was just late, that perhaps traffic had held him up.  Tony sunk backstage and slid down onto the bench, trying his hardest to not mess up his Scarecrow costume.  The wooden bench creaked and Tony couldn’t even bring his eyes away from the floor to see who had sat beside him “What’re you doing over here, by yourself?” a familiar male voice asked and Tony’s head snapped up immediately, looking into his father’s brilliant blue eyes with wide green eyes of his own.

 

Tony threw his arms around Jethro’s neck “You’re really here, right?  I’m not hallucinating or dreaming?” Tony questioned, almost frantically as he clung to his father.  Yelping in pain, Tony pulled away a second later, rubbing his upper arm, “What the heck was that for?!” Tony demanded, now glaring at his father – for where, just a few seconds ago, he was ready to start crying in relief.

 

Jethro grinned as he kissed the top of Tony’s straw hat “That was to prove that you’re not hallucinating, or dreaming.  I really am here, Tony.  So is everyone else – Garret and his parents, Abby, Tim, Ducky, even Leon showed up…” Jethro said with a shrug of his shoulders “Now, I’m going to go back out into the audience, and I’m going to watch my son be the best damn Scarecrow he can be… If that’s alright with you?” Jethro asked as he stood up, then pulled Tony up to his feet as well.

 

Tony nodded enthusiastically, throwing his arms around Jethro’s waist for a quick hug before pulling back “More than alright with me.  I hope you enjoy the show.” Tony said as he practically pushed his father in the direction of the backstage exit.  The play was just about to start, and while he wasn’t in the beginning scenes of the show, he didn’t want his dad to miss a single second of it, even if he and his father had watched the movie together last night.

 

Jethro quickly found his seat between Abby and Garret, he glanced over at the teenager that had captured his son’s heart long before he even knew his son and smiled lightly “He’s nervous as all hell…” he reported, having been sent back there by the teenaged boy in the first place – it was strange, taking orders from a thirteen-year-old, but he also recognized that Garret knew his son better than he knew his son, and would take the boy’s advice when it was doled out.

 

Garret nodded and smiled as he held the play program in his hands “I told you he would be.” Garret whispered, his eyes glued to the red curtain that was just now opening up – the lights began dimming in the auditorium and the lights around the stage brightened up considerably.

 

An older gentlemen came out onto the stage, microphone in hand “Welcome parents and friends to the annual showing of The Wizard of Oz, made possible by the student body of Saint Alban’s School for Boys, and Bishop Ireton School for Girls.  I hope you all enjoy the show!” the gentlemen announced, then just as quickly as he came, he disappeared behind the red curtains, which opened up to display the scenery for the beginning of the Wizard of Oz play.

 

Jethro yawned into his shoulder, having a hard time staying awake through the beginning of the play.  Abby and Garret were both elbowing him every time his head drooped to his chest, but really, without his son on the stage, the play was an absolute bore.  But when the curtains drew closed so the stagehands could quickly set the next scene – they were actually really quick and professional, able to get it done before anyone had time to really get up – Jethro was sitting up in his seat, excitedly waiting, because he knew that this was the part where Tony would become a constant in the play.

 

After another hour of sitting through the play – it was finally over.  Jethro and everyone that surrounded him cheered loudly as the student body came out onto the stage for the final applause.  Jethro was extremely proud of his son, and he may be a bit biased, but he thought that Tony was the best actor out there.  Once the other parents started dispersing, looking for their child that had taken part in the play, Jethro was itching to get out of there – he was not a big fan of huge crowds, so he sat back down and waited until the crowd started thinning out; everyone else sat down with him, because it was entirely impossible to move without being smashed up against another stranger.

 

By the time Jethro and the group moved out of their seats, they were all eager to finally meet up with Tony – especially Garret, who was vibrating with excitement.  Tony squealed once he saw Garret and the rest of the group who had come to see his play, he raced across the small distance and launched himself into Garret’s arms, “I can’t believe all of you actually came!” Tony exclaimed, dropping a small kiss on Garret’s lips before dropping off of the taller teenager and standing in front of his father, grinning brightly up at him.

 

Jethro shook his head as he wrapped an arm around Tony’s shoulder, kissing his son on the top of his head “I told you we’d be here.” Jethro whispered into his son’s ear, smiling lightly “Now, who wants to go out for ice cream?” Jethro asked, looking around at the group – several hands shot up into the air.  Jethro smirked, “Go ahead, I’ll be there in a minute.” Jethro said as he released Tony, allowing the teenager to take off with Garret; Jethro then turned to Ray and Denise “Since it’s Thanksgiving Break… How about I take Garret for the night?  We’ll swing by your place so he can pack a bag… After ice cream, of course.” Jethro offered, looking at the teenager's parents.

 

Ray and Denise both nodded their heads, a little enthusiastically “That would be so wonderful!  It’s been a nightmare trying to unpack the house…” Denise said quietly, hugging onto her husband’s arm and smiling “If you want, you can take him for a few days… He really is a good boy, does not cause much trouble.” Denise said, trying to entice Tony’s father to take their son for a little while.

 

Jethro chuckled and nodded “That’s fine.  I’ll take Garret for three days, and hopefully, you’ll get a lot of work done in that time…” Jethro said, shuffling his feet uncomfortably – he really did like the Turner’s, but it was still awkward to be in this position.  “We’ll be by the house about seven o’clock to get a bag packed for him,” Jethro added, quickly turning on his heel and making his escape from the High School – he had two hyper teenager’s waiting for him.

 


 

 

The Ice Cream parlor that Jethro decided upon was a midway point between Garret’s home and his own home.  Tony and Garret were the only two with Jethro, and it was blissfully peaceful – he loved his team, but he really didn’t want to spend the entire evening with them and was more than happy when they decided that they mysteriously had other plans, even after committing to getting ice cream.  Jethro paid for the two teenager’s ice cream and brought the bowls to the table that they were sitting side-by-side.  Jethro slid into the other booth and held his own cup of ice cream close to his chest as if to ward off the two teenagers from stealing his ice cream, even though they had their own.

 

Tony and Garret set into eating their ice cream eagerly “So, your mom and dad have agreed to you staying with Tony and me for a few days so they can unpack the house…” Jethro commented as he stuck his spoon into his ice cream and then the ice cream into his mouth.

 

Garret grinned widely and dropped his spoon into the glass bowl with a clatter “That’s awesome!  Tony’s told me how awesome your house is, and I cannot wait to see the boat!” Garret said as he once again lifted up his spoon and started digging into his ice cream at an almost too-rapid pace.

 

Tony nudged Garret in the side “Slow down.” Tony whispered harshly, glaring at his boyfriend, his brows furrowed together.  “So what are the house rules?  Because there are obviously going to be some…” Tony asked curiously, now staring directly into his father’s blue eyes.

 

Jethro smirked and shrugged his shoulders “What are the rules at Garret’s house when you’re there?” Jethro asked as he spooned the last of his ice cream into his mouth – He already knew the single rule that Ray and Denise had set for Tony and Garret, and he wondered if either teenager would lie to him, to try and pull the wool over his eyes or deceive him in any way.

 

Tony and Garret turned to look at each other briefly and then turned back to Jethro “The only rule they ever gave us was no closed doors.” Tony said quietly but confidently, his eyes now looking down at the ice cream that was slowly turning into soup “Did you have anything to add to that?” Tony asked, almost fearing that his father would be overbearing and put more limits on his and Garret’s relationship.

 

Jethro contemplated the question then shook his head as he put aside his empty paper ice cream cup “No, nothing to add – Not yet anyway.  I reserve the right to add rules if things come up, however.” Jethro said as he stood up, motioning for the two boys to stand up as well “You can finish those in the car.” Jethro said, wanting to make a hasty retreat from the ice cream shop, having spotted a group of giggling teenaged girls heading toward the shop.

 

Tony and Garret quickly ducked out of the ice cream shop, not wanting to get caught up in the swarm of teenaged girls either – they had spent time in the mall previously and were swarmed by girls their ages and Garret had commented: “It really sucks looking this damn good.” Which of course made Tony laugh and then they shared a soft kiss, which immediately dispersed the group of girls that had been hanging around them.

 

Garret and Tony shared the back seat, eating their ice creams “Good call on leaving.” Garret commented as Jethro began driving away from the ice cream shop “I think those are the same girls that were hassling us at the mall…” Garret said, glancing over his shoulder at the rapidly disappearing shop.

 

Tony nodded as he leaned into Garret’s side and snuck his spoon into his boyfriend’s ice cream “No kidding…” Tony whispered as he glanced into the rearview mirror where he spotted a pair of blue eyes looking directly at him “The girls would have started either hitting on us or just following us around in the mall if Garret and I hadn’t shared a quick kiss… Neither of us wants to find out what would happen if they noticed who we were.” Tony explained to his father, who had a curious expression on his face.

 

Jethro shook his head as he pulled the car over into a gas station, parking the car in one of the just recently emptied spots.  He cut the engine of the Challenger and turned around to face both boys “Unfortunately, there are going to be people out there who have their own opinions on homosexual relationships.” Jethro said quietly, looking both boys in the eyes “But, as long as you both remember that their opinions do not matter, then you will both be fine.” Jethro added and nodded slightly before withdrawing his wallet from his back pocket, he extracted a fifty and handed it over to Tony “Now go into the gas station and get some snacks for the next couple of days.” Jethro said with a smile, taking the empty ice cream bowls from the boys and dropping them into the trash bag he had on the floorboard.

 


 

 

Jethro gritted his teeth as he listened to the loud music emitting from upstairs.  The heavy metal was definitely not something he would listen too, it was more Abby’s thing, that was for sure – He had never known his son to listen to it either, so it must be Garret that preferred the loud noise.  Jethro tried tuning out the sounds, but it only seemed to get louder the longer he tried ignoring it.  Jethro looked up though when he heard the door to the basement creaked open, how he heard it over the horrendous noise of drums and guitars, he’ll never know, but he can see, and it's his son slinking down the stairs with a defeated expression on his face that spurs him into action.

 

Tony slumped onto the step at the bottom of the stairs and cradled his head in his hands, fingers rubbing at his eardrums – he wanted to just stick his fingers into his ears, but he couldn’t bring himself to doing it “I don’t know how much more of this I can take…” Tony said dramatically, crossing his arms over his knees and laying his forehead on his crossed forearms.

 

Jethro laughed as he sat down beside his son “He’s been listening to this… stuff…” Jethro waved his hand aimlessly toward the ceiling “For about ten minutes… Is something bothering the two of you?” Jethro asked curiously – he was never good with relationship problems, but he hoped he could help his son with whatever was going on with the two of them.

 

Tony shook his head and sighed, resting his chin on his arms “No, there isn’t anything wrong with us…” Tony said quietly, blinking the tears that started dancing in his eyes “He’s going through a phase right now because his parents are… Well, they’re not exactly happy right now… I guess Mr. Turner losing his job and having to uproot the family is really taking its toll on the marriage.” Tony said quietly, shrugging as he looked over at his dad, tears still glittering in his eyes.

 

Jethro stifled a laugh at his son’s maturity level, shaking his head as he leaned over and kissed the top of Tony’s head lightly “Why don’t you go talk to your boyfriend?  Tell him that he has to turn the music down because I really don’t feel like dealing with the cops.” Jethro suggested as he stood up, brushing his fingers through Tony’s hair before walking back over to the workbench where he had a blueprint laid out.

 

Tony sighed miserably as he bounded back up the stairs of the basement, then the steps to the second floor.  The music had lowered considerably but it was still painfully loud when standing right outside of his bedroom door.  Tony opened his bedroom door cautiously, the incessant noise of the heavy metal streaming out into the hallway, even louder than before now that the barrier was removed.  Garret was lying on the floor underneath the stereo, his eyes closed but Tony could see that he was anything but relaxed.  Tony sighed as he crossed the room and turned the volume of the stereo to more tolerable and less cop-inducing levels then sat down in front of his boyfriend, back leaning against the dresser.

 

Garret lifted his head and looked in Tony’s direction “How come you turned it down?” He asked quietly, rolling onto his side on the hardwood floor and looking at Tony’s sock-clad feet with a frown on his face.

 

Tony smiled sadly “Dad told me too.  Doesn’t want the neighbors calling the cops for a noise complaint.” He explained, then carefully turned and laid down beside his boyfriend, running his knuckles against Garret’s sternum while trying to gain and maintain eye contact with him “What’s going on Gar?” Tony asked quietly, ducking his head so he was able to finally connect with his favorite pair of blue eyes.

 

Garret shrugged as he scooted closer to Tony, pushing his boyfriend down onto his back and curled up around him, resting his head on Tony’s chest “I dunno… My parents are just… They aren’t adjusting so well to this whole situation.” Garret said quietly, drawing a random pattern on Tony’s chest and sighing heavily “They’ve been fighting a lot lately and I think they might be splitting up… Mom hasn’t been unpacking any of her belongings.” Garret whispered, burying his head against Tony’s chest and sniffling slightly.

 

Tony sighed as he wrapped an arm around Garret’s broad back and rubbed up and down soothingly “Maybe they won't… Maybe these three days will give them time to figure out what they need too, in order to salvage their relationship.” Tony offered in a whisper, kissing the top of Garret’s head and sighing as he nuzzled his nose into his boyfriend's soft blonde hair, trying to comfort the only person he loved with every ounce of his heart.

 

Garret shrugged noncommittally “Maybe…” he whispered unconvincingly.  But, maybe Tony was right – he at least hoped that Tony was right, because why else would his mom have come all the way to Alexandria, if she didn’t love his dad?  Maybe they just needed a few days to gather themselves and get back on a level playing field with each other.

 

Neither teenager spoke after that, just reveled in the semi-silence of Tony’s bedroom – the heavy metal CD that Garret put in was still playing in the background, but neither was really paying much attention to the words.  They just laid on the floor together, snuggled together until they grew too tired and they just slinked over to the queen size bed, they laid down on the bed together and resumed their position of snuggling; Garret on top of Tony’s chest and Tony holding tightly to his boyfriend as they fell asleep with each other.

Chapter Text

Tony sighed, tugging at the tie that he was certain had a mind of its own and was trying to strangle him.  They had just spent the past hour and a half in a Manhattan courtroom, and he had to sit through listening to a judge and lawyer speaking – he didn’t know the lawyer, didn’t care about the lawyer, hell he didn’t even care about the proceedings, even though they did directly involve him.  But, since he was still technically a minor, he had no say in what went on – The lawyer, Trevor Langan, was handling most of the conversation, and his dad spoke a few times as well, but no one ever spoke to him.  He just sat on the bench, squashed between Elliot and Olivia, listening as they spoke about him.

 

Now he was sitting at a high-end restaurant, much like he used to attend with the DiNozzo’s when he was younger, yet again squashed between Elliot and Olivia.  The only thing he could be thankful for was that Olivia was no longer pregnant.  What he really wanted to do was just go back home, where he could finish the project he had started before this trip.  Tony felt an unfamiliar bubble of rage growing in the pit of his stomach, and it made him want to scream and cry at the same time.  His stomach started hurting after a few seconds, too, and that only made him angrier, especially because Olivia and Elliot were having quite the animated conversation, hands moving a mile a minute and he kept getting elbowed and jostled around in the small restaurant booth.

 

No one around him seemed to notice his discomfort or the anger that was bubbling just beneath the surface “I need to use the bathroom.” Tony said through gritted teeth, trying his hardest not to explode.  No one at the table deserved his anger, it wasn’t their fault they were here, it was the scheduling department at the courthouse that had interrupted Tony’s weekend.  Once Tony was out of the seat, he immediately took off to the direction of the bathroom, needing to calm himself down and figure out how to release the anger that was inside of him without hurting anyone or himself.

 

Jethro and Elliot looked at each other and sighed, they knew that expression on Tony’s face all too well “He’s got your anger issues.” Elliot commented quietly, twisting the bottle of beer around in his fingertips against the wooden table, the condensation from the bottle making it easier to slide it around the lacquered wood.

 

Jethro nodded and scrubbed the sides of his head with his knuckles “Yeah, I can see that.  At least he didn’t haul off and punch anyone.” Jethro stated as he looked down into the beer mug in front of him, filled to the brim with foamy Guinness.

 

Elliot stood up, clunking his empty bottle on the table briefly “I think I’ll go make sure he’s not beating up any bathroom stalls…” Elliot said with a wink as he made his way through the throng of people and toward the bathrooms.  When Elliot entered the bathroom, he spotted the teenager sitting underneath the raised sinks, his back against the wall and his knees drawn up tight to his chest.  Elliot bent down in front of the teenager and sighed “Tony, what are ya doing sitting on the floor?” Elliot asked, even as he tried folding his muscular body into the confined space, sitting beside the obviously upset teenager.

 

Tony shrugged his shoulders minutely, lifting his head just enough from his arms to look at the man who had intruded on his brooding “It was cool, quiet, and dark under here… and I was unmistakably alone until a few seconds ago.” Tony bit out, he still felt that undeniable anger deep inside of him, there was no release for him here in the men’s bathroom at a fancy restaurant, he couldn’t even punch the bathroom stall doors because they were all unblemished – the place was mocking him, even if it had been built before he was born.

 

Elliot shrugged as best he could in the cramped space underneath the sink “There’s no reason to be alone, Tony… If something is bothering you – Don’t you think that your dad, me, and Olivia would understand?” Elliot asked the teenager, turning his head so he can look into Tony’s green eyes – he could still see the anger bubbling beneath the surface, and didn’t want to upset the teenager any further.

 

Tony nodded but said nothing to confirm Elliot’s question as he slid out from underneath the sink easily, his smaller frame capable of fitting seamlessly underneath the granite slab.  He took a deep breath and looked down at the tall man that was still sitting underneath the counter “It doesn’t matter if you guys understand or not… None of you can do anything to fix it.” Tony said quietly, glaring around the bathroom, looking for anything to vent his frustrations on.

 

Elliot groaned as he slid out from underneath the counter and straightened his protesting body into an upright position again, thankful that the teenager no longer felt it necessary to hide underneath the bathroom sinks “Well, why don’t you actually say what’s bothering you?  Maybe if you say it, we can figure out a way to help you…” Elliot questioned, propping himself up against the cabinets so the teenager wouldn’t be tempted to hide underneath them again.

 

Tony shifted uncomfortably on his feet, crossing his arms over his chest and staring anywhere but at the broad-chested man in front of him.  “I just wanna go home…” Tony whispered miserably, choking off a hiccupped sob as he turned away from Elliot, tightening his arms around his chest, which was now shaking with the effort to keep the emotions tight inside of his body.

 

Elliot sighed and moved toward the teenager, setting his large hands on both of Tony’s shoulders “Come on… Let’s go talk to your dad.” Elliot whispered sympathetically as he guided the distraught teenager out of the bathroom and back toward the seat where his fiancée and best friend were waiting for them.  Elliot sat down beside Olivia, allowing Tony to take the outside seat of the booth.

 

Jethro and Olivia looked at Tony and Elliot expectantly as they sat down, wanting to know the reason behind the teenager’s still very upset expression.  Elliot sighed and shrugged his shoulders “He wants to go home…” Elliot started, looking over at Tony who was hunched up over the table “Back to Alexandria…” Elliot finished, flicking his gaze in Jethro’s direction.

 

Jethro nodded, he could understand wanting to go back to the less populated city, he had wanted to go back to his stomping ground since arriving in New York City the day before as well.  Since they had already eaten their dinner, it was more than reasonable that they could leave now “Let's settle the bill, and then we’ll get out of here…” Jethro said as he waved his hand in the air, garnering the attention of their waiter “We need the bill, please.” He said to the waiter.

 


 

 

Tony grew less fidgety as they finally got onto the road, leaving almost as soon as they had gotten to the Stabler Residence.  As soon as the streets started growing familiar, Tony completely relaxed – throughout a four-hour drive, he had been tense and angry, ready to explode.  As soon as Jethro pulled in the driveway, Tony was out of the car and barreling to the front door, his house key already in his hand.  Tony stormed into the house, slamming the door behind him – for some reason, the anger had yet again resurfaced as soon as they got into the driveway and now he really needed to find an outlet to get rid of the anger that was rolling through his system.

 

Jethro sighed and hung his head, he really needed to figure out how to help Tony deal with this anger that the teenager was suddenly experiencing.  He could guarantee that it was just one of those ‘teenage-hormone-moments’ but it had been so long since dealing with the likes of a hormone-ridden teenage male, there was only one person he knew who would have the experience, but he just wasn’t sure if he was ready to sacrifice his pride to actually make an apology to his father.  Jethro climbed out of the Challenger, grabbed their bags from the trunk and then headed for the house, growling when he realized Tony had locked the door on him.  Jethro fumbled for his keys and unlocked the door, he entered the house and rolled his eyes – Tony was listening to obnoxiously loud music.  Jethro wondered if his son knew how much he was like his boyfriend when they were dealing with emotions, the only thing that Jethro was thankful for?  Tony was not a fan of heavy metal, so he was considerably okay with listening to loudly blaring Classic Rock.

 

Jethro sat on the couch, listening to the blaring music and staring at his hands, then at the cordless phone that was sitting on the coffee table.  Jethro gave up the fight, grabbed the cordless phone and then headed to the backyard, where he would hopefully have a bit of silence.  He sat down on the Adirondack chair on the back porch and dialed the familiar number that he likely would never forget.  Listening to the ringing, his nerves started ratcheting upward, and then his breath halted in his throat when he heard “Stillwater General Store.  How can I help you?” in his father’s chipper tone.

 

Jackson Gibbs stared at the phone in his hand and continued saying ‘Hello’ trying to get the person on the other end of the line to speak.  He could hear the heavy, uneven breathing, and while any other person might have been scared out of their minds with thoughts of serial-killers and other unworldly things, Jackson was not.  Then he heard a throat clear awkwardly and he shook his head “Leroy Jethro Gibbs if you do not say something, I will hang this phone up.” Jackson threatened his son mildly as he walked around the store counter and flipped the ‘Open’ sign to ‘Closed’ so he would have a few uninterrupted moments with his son.

 

Jethro frowned and sighed loudly “I’m having a very serious problem right now… and I don’t know who else to ask for advice.” Jethro stated, getting straight to the point.  Jackson made some sort of noise, and Jethro knew that meant for him to continue “How do I deal with a teenaged boy who is having serious anger issues at the moment?  Who, specifically, has the Gibbs genes, running through their body?” Jethro asked as he leaned back in the handmade wooden chair and stared up at the glittering night sky.

 

Jackson laughed boisterously, of course, he knew what was happening in his son’s life at the moment, Jethro – despite being ultimately pissed off with him, still kept him in the loop about the happenings in his life when it was important.  “Leroy, please… Dealing with your anger issues versus his anger issues are infinitely different.  Why not just talk to the boy?  Ask him what’s wrong… It doesn’t hurt to speak to the boy, it won’t ruin your ego!” Jackson said bluntly, rolling his eyes and shaking his head at his son’s obvious lack of knowledge, but to be fair, he had not raised the teenager, so it was understandable that he would not know how to deal with the mounting anger.

 

Jethro rolled his head back against his shoulder blades “Right… Just have a conversation with him…” Jethro breathed the words out and stood up from the chair “Thanks, dad.” Jethro said, promptly hanging up on his father and heading back into the house.  Thankfully the music had finally been turned down to tolerable levels again, and Jethro made his way up the stairs.  Once he was there, he knocked on the open frame of Tony’s bedroom and looked at his son, who was hanging upside down on the mattress “Think we can talk?” Jethro asked as he made his way into the bedroom and sat down on the bed, opposite of Tony, he scooted over and laid upside down just like his son was doing.

 

Tony turned his head and looked at Jethro, a deep frown marring his smooth features “I just wanted to come home… I didn’t mean to ruin the trip, even though it wasn’t really a vacation.” Tony explained quietly, effortlessly flipping upside down off of the mattress.  Tony walked over to the project he had been working on for the past few weeks and fingered the delicate wood carving “I wanted to work on this over the weekend… So I could enter it in the school’s Winter Art Fair…” Tony said as he lifted the carving – it was an intricately carved log cabin, in the dead of winter, surrounded by trees and winter-wildlife – carved into a deep dark oak wood panel that Tony had spent hours picking out a few weeks ago at the lumber yard.

 

Jethro sighed as he slowly rolled himself around before sitting on the edge of the bed, patting it so his son would join him again.  Once Tony was seated, carving still in his hands, Jethro wrapped an arm around Tony’s shoulders and inspected the artwork piece very closely “It looks complete to me… What more do you need to do?” Jethro asked quietly, running his thumb over the smooth surface of the wood – it needed a little bit of sanding, he noticed, now that he was touching it, but that was a rather easy fix.

 

Tony sighed as he held onto the carving “It needs to be sanded, stained and epoxied before the fourth…” Tony whispered, lowering his head and bringing his legs up onto the edge of the bed, the carving now cradled between his chest and his thighs as he stared down at it, tears dancing in his green eyes.

 

Jethro shook his head and stood up, the fourth was on Monday, which was two days away “We still have time, Tony… Come on.” Jethro said as he grabbed Tony’s ankles and swooped them out from underneath his son, he then stood Tony up and guided him down the steps of the second story all the way down to the basement.  In passing, he looked at the digital clock on the microwave and noted that it was just shy of midnight – it didn’t matter, he had a son who needed help finishing his art project, and he would stay up all night helping him if that’s what it took.

 


 

 

A couple of days later, Tony and Jethro stood at the booth that Tony had been designated for the art show.  The school gym was jam-packed with kids from the fourth grade all the way up to the twelfth grade.  Tony nervously looked around the gymnasium, twisting his hands together; he wished Garret was here, but unfortunately, his boyfriend had been grounded the week prior and was unable to attend any school functions that weren’t strictly necessary.  Which meant the Winter Art Fair was out of the question for Garret, especially since they didn’t go to the same schools.

 

Tony sighed and sat down on the metal chair in his booth “Next year, do you think I could go to the public high school?” Tony asked quietly, looking up at his father, who had previously been leaning up against the metal dividers to keep the art booths separated from one another, but was now moving to sit beside Tony.

 

Jethro turned the metal chair backward and straddled the seat, resting his forearms over the top of the seat “If you want, we can arrange that… Feeling a little lost without having Garret here?” Jethro asked curiously as he watched the students, teachers, and parents mill about the gymnasium, looking at the artwork surrounding them.

 

Tony nodded, drawing his legs up onto the edge of the chair and setting his forearms over the tops of his knees “We’ve been in the same school since Preschool… It’s weird not being in the same school as him when we’re in the same city…” Tony said quietly, watching as the judging panel came to their booth, the three teachers examined Tony’s carving, nodding in approval and then continued to the next booth “I’ve never been to public school before, its always been private schools, private tutors, private everything… I just want to be a normal teenager, I don’t want to live the life of a rich-kid anymore… because that’s not who I am, it’s not who I ever should have been.” Tony said quietly, taking the bite out of what could have been considered an insult.

 

Jethro smirked, letting the would-be insult slip right by into the open air “You’re still going to be a rich-kid, Tony… Ain’t no getting around that, but… If you wanna be a normal teenager, go to a public school…” Jethro shrugged nonchalantly, leaning forward in the chair “Who am I to stop you?  I’m only here to support and encourage the dreams that you have.” Jethro said with a smile as he reached over and ruffled his son’s head, sending long brown locks to fly in whatever direction they may land.

 

Tony nodded and rocked the metal chair from side to side slightly, only made easier by the missing rubber cap that was normally on the bottom of the chairs.  “Why would I still be a rich kid?” Tony asked curiously, looking over at his father.  “You live in a modest, suburban neighborhood, drive an old Ford F-150 and a car that has been in your family since the Challenger was first produced…” Tony tried thinking of more things that he knew weren’t considered rich-kid living “And… You have a government job.” Tony stated, because that was all he could think of – he didn’t truly know anything outside of that when it came to his father’s financial life… Whereas when living with the DiNozzo’s, money was flaunted like it was going out of style or something.

 

Jethro laughed and shook his head, clapping a hand down onto Tony’s shoulder and squeezing firmly “I live in a modest, suburban neighborhood, so I don’t have to pay HOA fees or maintenance fees… I drive an old Ford F-150 because it’s large and reliable, I’m able to haul wood and lug a boat around.  I drive a Challenger that has been in my family since it was first produced because my dad and I rebuilt it before I went off to the Marines and it holds a lot of fond memories for me – of the likes that you need not know.” Jethro said pointedly, glaring at his son – the Challenger was the first car he had sex in, and that was the car Tony had been conceived in, but his son did not need to know that.

 

Jethro took a breath and lowered his head slightly “And, I have a government job because I actually like the work that I do at NCIS… I don’t need to be some high-priced big-shot, sitting behind some gaudy wooden desk to feel like I’m doing something in the world when in reality I’m just warming cold leather.  I actually do make a difference in the world, and in our military… And, as you know… I’m a very big supporter of our Military.  IF I can’t be in the Marines, I’m damn well going to do everything that I can in order to help and support them.” Jethro said and shook his head again “I spend money sensibly… I don’t waste it on things that are unnecessary or just ‘look good’.  I save what money I make, I save my military pay for emergencies, and I have a sensible stock-market investment… Not to mention the money I got from Kelly and Shannon’s life insurance…” Jethro said, adding the last part on a whisper as he let his hands drop to his sides “We have enough money to sustain us, for a very long time, but I don’t flaunt it… because there is no reason – that just shows greed and pettiness… So yeah, you are a rich-kid, Tony… But it doesn’t need to be shown off in fancy clothes or sports cars… It can be shown off in better ways too…” Jethro stood up at that and glanced around, gauging whether the judges would soon be announcing the winners of the nine grades that were in attendance to the Winter Art Fair.

 

Tony is silent for a while, even after the main judge announces that its time to begin handing out the awards.  He and Jethro make their way to the row of chairs in front of the makeshift stage, and they sit down to watch as the fourth-grade class winners get called to the stage “Charity work… Helping people without them having to ask… Those kinds of things?” Tony finally asked, looking up at Jethro with uncertainty in his eyes.

 

Jethro nodded slowly and smiled “Yeah.  Those are good things that show wealth in a more productive manner.  Habitat for Humanity, Wounded Warrior Project, Disabled American Veterans, Fisher House Foundation, K9s For Warriors.” Jethro listed off the few charitable foundations that he himself was involved in “There are a lot of foundations out there, that you specifically could involve yourself in, if you felt a passion toward it… They’re always looking for volunteers.” Jethro said with a shrug as he watched the fifth-grade winners get called up to the stage to receive their awards.

 

Tony nodded and smiled as he thought about what his father said.  They sat through the rest of the lower-grade classes as they were called up to the stage, eventually, the judge got to the ninth-grade class.  Tony and Jethro both became anxious as they waited on baited breath for the judge to announce who would be the three winners of the Art Fair would be. “This year's Winter Art Fair Ninth-Grade Winners are…” a false drum-roll echoed in the gym as the judge pulled open the envelope that had the results inside “Lori Jenkins… Arthur Baker… and Anthony Gibbs!” the judge announced, waiting patiently for the three students to make their way up to the stage in order to receive their prizes.

 

Tony squealed happily, launching himself into his father’s arms for a brief hug before releasing him and rushing up to the stage with the two other winners.  Tony had only received second place for his artwork, considering that Lori Jenkins had created an almost full-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower out of popsicle sticks and toothpicks, it was not at all a disappointment to Tony as he took the red ribbon from the teacher and proudly pinned it to his shirt.

 

Jethro smiled proudly as Tony made his way back through the crowd, launching himself into Jethro’s open arms again “I am so proud of you.” Jethro whispered into Tony’s hair as he hugged his son close to his chest, kissing the crown of Tony’s head before releasing the small boy back onto his feet “Let's go home… I’m sure you’re going to want to tell Garret all about it, in that secret way that the two of you communicate without his parents knowing.” Jethro teased, winking at his son when a shocked gasp escaped the boy’s lips “I won’t tell them…” Jethro promised as he guided his son back to the booth where his artwork awaited, then the duo headed for the exit.

 

The wood panel of the log cabin, situated deep in a forest, surrounded by deer and pine trees, now proudly hung above the fireplace, where right next to it, the dark red ribbon sat beside it on the wall.  Everyday greeting Jethro and Tony when they came home or when they came down the stairs and into the living room, a constant reminder, that Tony had overcome a lot and was finally breaking out of the impenetrable shell that he had been encompassed in for the past twelve years.  That, with the right amount of love, support, and discipline, could hone the skills that had long since been buried deep inside, be brought back out into the light, cleaned up and polished off, so it could now shine brightly.