Banner by Musichick2004 on LiveJournal
Chapter Three: Meeting the Paddingtons
Three days later, Tony was standing outside his car on the edges of the Paddington family estate looking at the Manor and trying to decide if this was really what he wanted to do. He’d never seen the family home or castle, as it seemed. His Father always called it old and drafty hinting it was rundown, but at least from his current vantage point, it was fearsome and marvelous. There was something about it that called to him.
It was as if the lifeblood of the castle itself was running through his veins beckoning him closer. He both wanted to be closer to it and wanted to turn and flee with TJ as far away as he could. The conflicting emotions were not helping his nerves.
If he was completely honest with himself, he would admit that there was a huge part of himself that longed to reconnect with some portion of the only parent who gave a fuck about him. This was her home. This was the place and the people and the earth that she came from. If he had any chance of finding acceptance and affection from people who shared some portion of his genetics, it had to be here. Because, if it didn’t happen in this castle that was hundreds of years old, then it wouldn’t happen anywhere.
“Papa,” TJ called, and looking down he saw his son toddling toward him carrying a flower. Smiling softly, he knelt down, and when his son reached his side, he kissed his temple and lifted him into his arms. Tilting his head downward, he took a deep breath of the flower.
“That smells wonderful,” Tony praised smiling. “Why don’t you save it for your Aunt Olivia. I bet she will love it.”
“Kay!” TJ agreed bouncing and held the flower carefully as his daddy put him back into his car seat inside their rental.
“Come on, TJ. The future awaits.”
Reaching the house, Tony stopped and turned off the car. Walking around to where his son was, he got TJ back out, putting his son on his hip. The toddler immediately noticed the other flowers decorating the edges of the lawn.
Tony chuckled and shook his head. “Not right now, figlio.”
“Aww,” TJ pouted sticking out his bottom lip.
Trying to look stern despite how cute his son looked. Tony grabbed the lower lip and gently tugged. “What has papà told you about that stickin’ that thing out, huh?”
“Gon trip,” TJ replied not looking the least bit concerned. “No can papà. You has me.”
Tony chuckled and kissed TJ’s temple. “Papa loves you, TJ. Don’t ever forget that.”
Carrying his son to the flowers, he oohed and aahed with the little boy, who was miraculously guarding his treasure. Tony hadn’t expected the flower to survive this long, but there may actually be a chance that the present would make it to his Aunt.
“Well now, who do we have here?”
Quickly, he turned toward the sound of the female voice, to see an older man and woman coming toward him. “Uncle George and Aunt Olivia?”
“Yes, child,” the older woman confirmed coming to his side and reaching up pressed a kiss to his cheek. “The gate said that you were Anthony DiNozzo Jr? Elizabeth’s son?”
Tony nodded smiling somewhat awkwardly and still a little nervously. “Yes, ma’am, and this is my son Tristan Jordan, or TJ for short.”
“Nis meet yu, Aunt Libia,” TJ chirped holding out the flower he’d picked. “Fo you.”
The older woman smiled as she reached up to pat his cheek. “He’s a precious boy! Thank you so much! It’s beautiful. Did you pick this yourself? George! Come here and say hello.”
“I’m coming, Olivia,” George chided as he crossed from the front steps. Tony noticed that he was using a cane to help a limp. Once he finally reached them, Tony was startled, when the older man wrapped an arm around his shoulder.
“It is so very good to finally meet you, Anthony.”
“Please, call me Tony. I don’t… Senior goes by Anthony. We don’t… I don’t like being reminded of him if I don’t have to be.” Tony admitted softly, as TJ watched the older man before sticking a hand out.
“I TJ Nosso,” the child proclaimed. “Nis meet you.”
“It is very nice to meet you as well, TJ,” George said very seriously as he shook the child’s hand.
“Like horsey,” TJ added pointing to a man leading a horse toward what appeared to be stables across the far lawn making the older couple smile.
“My son has become a horse fanatic. We watched Black Beauty a couple months ago, and he’s become obsessed.”
“Aah,” Olivia nodded smiling. “That animal is a pure beast around any adult other than Edward. His name is Drake. The funny thing is that should a child appear he’s as docile as a rocking horse. I am sure Edward would be willing to take TJ for a ride later.”
“Well, I appreciate it, and I know it would make up for the long boring hours he’s spent the last few days.”
TJ nodded seriously. “Boring!”
Olivia chuckled, before addressing Tony. “TJ’s wonderful! And, he’s the spitting image of you as a child, Tony. Between you looking so much like that scoundrel Father of yours, and TJ looking just like the pictures that Elizabeth sent us of you as a boy, I would have recognized you two even without introduction. I hope you’ll be staying with us. How long are you in England?”
Tony shook his head at his son’s antics. “As to how long we’re here, the two of us have actually moved to the UK. I was offered a position here and decided that a fresh start was just what the two of us needed. My Mother talked fondly of London, and would talk about the places that she’d take me someday.”
Tony stopped and looked off into the distance for a moment to gather himself before continuing. “Things with mom were… complicated. As an adult, I understand things now I didn’t then. We got here two days ago and had to wait for our things to be delivered yesterday. It’s felt like this place has been calling to me, though. I know I should have called first but…”
Tony shrugged looking at the two Paddington family elders studying him and was relieved to see only compassion and understanding on their faces. He knew, though, the talk of his Mother, who would have been George’s younger sister, had to bring sadness as well.
“I honestly wasn’t sure if you would be willing to see me, and Rule #18 it’s better to seek forgiveness than ask permission seemed to apply here.”
Olivia nodded sympathetically. “Who don’t we go inside and chat. There is so much I would like to say, and I am sure you didn’t come all this way to stand in the drive. George should get off his leg anyway. He’s recently had knee replacement surgery and is still recovering. Edward will hopefully join us when he’s done taking care of Drake.”
Nodding, Tony followed the couple up the stairs and into the castle. So far, things were going well. He hoped that they stayed that way once the pleasantries ran out.
Tony’s home as a child was large and lavish. His Father had always made sure that anyone entering knew he was wealthy. This though was so far beyond that Tony wasn’t sure even he knew what to do in a place like this. When Olivia met what he guessed was a maid and asked her to make sure her flower was put in a vase, and then moved to her reading room where she could see it, he found himself more moved than he imagined he could be by such a simple request. He knew that it meant a great deal to his son, who would have been heartbroken if the flower was simply discarded.
Eventually, they reached what appeared to be a library or study. His Aunt helped his Uncle settle into a chair with his leg propped up on an ottoman. She then took a seat on a nearby sofa and patted the empty cushion next to her. “Please, Tony, have a seat. Let’s talk.”
Nodding Tony sat on the other end, with TJ on his lap. It took only about a minute though before his inquisitive son was squirming to get down and explore.
“He is more than welcome to get down and roam, Tony,” George offered generously. “We have two grandsons by our daughter Marie and are familiar with the energy of little boys. There is nothing in this room that he can hurt, in fact, there are quite a few shelves of books around his height that he may find that should be suitable for his age. If he is into that sort of thing that is.”
Nodding, and offering a smile of thanks, Tony let TJ slip down, and the toddler quickly took off to explore the room. “Stay in the room, though, TJ, with Papa.”
“He already speaks Italian?” Olivia asked, and Tony nodded proudly.
“Simple words and phrases only right now, but yes.
“My Father may be a horrible man, but my Uncle Vincenzo is a wonderful hard working man. My Nona and Papa DiNozzo were good to me the few times I saw them as a child. I am proud of my heritage and want to make sure my son understands his roots. I don’t know as much of my British side as my Italian, but I am hoping to rectify that.”
“Your Mother didn’t tell you about the family?” George asked sounding pained, and Tony hesitated to answer. Eventually, the older man continued on, when it became evident Tony wasn’t sure how to answer.
“Please, just tell us the truth about my sister and your Mother. I’m not sure that there’s anything you could say that would shock me.”
Tony studied George, and finally nodded carefully. When he spoke, he tried to keep his voice down so that TJ, who was investigating the other side of the room, couldn’t hear.
“You have to understand, I loved my Mother more than anything as a child. She was truly all that I had. Senior didn’t like children, and the only time that other kids were ever around was if it was to his advantage to help him close a deal. Since his deals never lasted long, the kids never stayed long. There were things that happened as a child that at the time I just… accepted, but looking back… As a man who has spent his adult life trying to help people, and has seen abuse in all of its forms, I understand that things with my mom were much worse than I understood even then.”
Tony huffed and ran a hand through his hair before continuing. “I thought my Mother was the most beautiful woman in the whole world as a child. I suppose even now that holds true. It’s just as an adult I understand that beauty on the inside doesn’t usually match inner beauty. In fact, at times it really only is skin deep. My Mother was an alcoholic, as was my Father. After she got ill, she also became a drug addict abusing her pain medicine and quite often mixing it with her cocktails, which led to a scary outcome for me normally.
“She liked to dress me up in cute little outfits and parade me around in front of her friends so that I could entertain them with my cuteness or my piano playing or whatever trick I’d picked up. There were very few times when she was sober. One time she was so drunk that she drank my sea monkeys because she confused them with her mint julep. Of course, it was all my fault, and she smacked the shit out of me for it. The next day though there was a present and a trip to the movies to make up for it. Being a stupid little kid, I was easy to bribe into forgiving her.”
“Your Mother was… spoiled, to say the least,” George said softly, as a door opened and shut on the other end of the room. The man who had been on the horse came in, pausing to look at TJ briefly before moving towards the adults.
“Edward! Come over and meet your cousin Tony. Tony, this is your cousin and our oldest son Edward.”
Tony stood and shook the man’s hand before settling back onto the couch. Edward moved to a chair near his Father. Just as he sat, the maid came in with some drinks. “Tony, can Julia get you and TJ anything to drink?”
“Juice for TJ would be great. Probably a sippy cup or juice box if you have it would be safest. Water or iced tea is fine for me. Thank you very much.”
When the woman left, George continued. “She was the only living girl, and Father adored her. They’d had two other daughters born, but both died shortly after their birth. She was once a sweet loving girl, but she knew her beauty and rarely heard the word no. She liked to party and have fun, even before she married your Father. I wish I could say that I am surprised that things didn’t turn out well for her attempts at Mothering, but… I’m honestly not. She was the one that I think always had good intentions, but never had the patience to wait and do things the right way. Then, of course, Anthony DiNozzo came along…”
Tony snorted and shook his head. “I am sure it was all downhill from there. Sometimes I’m not sure if my Father is the dreamer he claims that he is, or if he’s just that good at playing his game. Either way, he wasn’t the best husband or Father. He still claims that mom was the love of his life, but he didn’t waste much time after her death before replacing her that’s for sure. I know you have no reason to believe me, but I can assure you that I may share his name, but that’s about all I share with Senior.”
“Your Father is a con man, right?” Edward asked speaking for the first time.
Olivia scolded, but Tony held up his hand. “Please, Aunt Olivia. It’s nothing more than the truth. Although, he insists that he’s not because he supposedly believes in all the things he tries to sell. Considering all the people that he’s scammed out of money, I’m not sure that matters. I don’t honestly believe it myself.”
“What is it you do then?” Edward asked, again. Tony tilted his head to one side studying his cousin and could tell that for some reason the man seemed not to like him. He didn’t have the foggiest clue why, though.
“I work for NCIS. That stands for Naval Criminal Investigative Service. It’s an American law enforcement agency that handles crimes committed against Navy or Marine personnel or their families. Director Vance has opened a new office in London to deal with major crimes that have both domestic and international ties. I will be leading that team.”
“And your two murder accusations?” Edward pushed, but Tony just rolled his eyes.
“Edward James!” George snapped, but again Tony held up a hand.
“Both were false accusations. The first one didn’t even have a full body. Just parts. The second was an accusation made by a woman I’d had a relationship with while working undercover. Her Father was an international arms dealer, and my former director, Jenny Sheppard, thought we might be able to get some information on her Father from her. SIS or Interpol? And, how is Crispin these days? The smarmy little jerk.”
“Smarmy because he demanded that you pay back a loan you reneged on from Uncle Clive?”
“That’s enough!” George snapped loudly, and little feet were heard as TJ came from where he’d been playing, and threw himself at his Father.
Tony kissed TJ’s head and whispered in his ear rubbing his back, as the boy looked at Edward wide-eyed. It was obvious that he was afraid. He wasn’t used to shouting. Tony had spent too much of his early childhood hiding from his parent’s fighting and did his best to shield his son from them.
“Tony, I’m so very sorry,” Olivia said quietly, and Tony could see the obvious upset on her face.
Offering a half smile, he waited as Julia came back in with the bottle of water and a juice box. Tony put the straw in the hole and handed it to TJ. “Everything is ok, figlio. Why don’t you take your juice back to where you were playing?”
“No more yells?” TJ asked eyeing George and Edward uncertainly.
“You have my word of honor, Master Tristin,” George promised earnestly. Finally, TJ nodded and toddled back to where he’d been exploring. Leaving the adults to their conversation.
“That money was never meant to be paid back,” George said sternly glaring at his eldest child. “I don’t know what bullpucky that Crispin has filled your head with. What’s more, I don’t know why you would choose to listen to him about this, when you don’t believe anything else that comes out of his mouth.”
Edward opened his mouth to respond, but a look of embarrassment flashed across his face before it was locked down. He then turned his eyes in Tony’s direction. “Why do you think that I work for Interpol or SIS?”
“I don’t think, I know that you must,” Tony offered steadily and quietly. “The public was never made aware of the preliminary information on either investigation. Ever. I was never charged with anything, even though the FBI did have me in custody during the first case, charges were never brought. The only place that you can get that information is by requesting official files, which they don’t hand out to any Tom, Dick, or Edward. If you’re a journalist, I’ll eat my Italian leather shoes.
“That means you work in law enforcement. Scotland Yard doesn’t seem to fit right. While there are rich upper crust boys who go into the PD’s, it’s more common for them to go to some kind of government agency.
“My gut says it’s bigger than that. So, Interpol or SIS. My guess is SIS because there is an Interpol connection within NCIS, and had you been with them and talked to Emily, she would have told you that Crispin was full of shit.
“I don’t know why he doesn’t like me. To be honest, I don’t much care at this point. All I wanted was to meet the family that I never got a chance to know. I was hoping that someone I have some genetic connection to wouldn’t think that I’m a complete waste of humanity, and maybe my son would have people he could call Auntie, Uncle, Nonna, and Nonno. I want more for him than I had. I’m beginning to wonder if that was a mistake. It seems that maybe I’m just not meant to have a family.”
“Anthony, I mean Tony, No!” Olivia cried quietly and glared at her son obviously upset. “You fix this, Edward James Paddington. We raised you better than this! Is this what that place is turning you into?”
Edward sighed, took a mental deep breath. It was obvious that he’d made a mistake. He hated having to admit that his Father was right, but in this case, he was. Edward never listened to anything that Crispin said, but somehow, he’d allowed himself to be poisoned against Anthony. What’s worse was that he hadn’t listened to Crispin’s younger brother either, whom he saw nearly every day if he was in the country. Nodding he tilted his head to one side before responding.
“My deepest apologies. As my Mother pointed out, I was raised better, and as my Father pointed out, Crispin and I have never seen eye to eye on anything. Unfortunately, I cannot confirm or deny your guess, which… I suppose is an answer in itself, isn’t it? I think it’s best that I excuse myself for now. I will see you all after dinner. Tony, please don’t let my arsehole behavior place my parents in a bad light. My Father has been talking about meeting you since the day Aunt Elizabeth first sent pictures of you. You and your son deserve a place in this family as much as any. If you’ll all excuse me?”
With that Edward got up and left, leaving the three adults to hopefully continue their conversation. He had a boss to visit, and a confession to make. Hopefully, M didn’t tear too big of a strip off his arse.
Tony sighed as he watched Edward leave the room. At that point, he had no idea what to think. As irritated as he was, he wasn’t really mad. It was more hurt and disappointment than anything. If Edward did what Tony thought that he did, then he wasn’t exactly surprised by his attitude. He knew what his record looked like. It was hard not to get defensive, though.
He was so tired of playing parts, and everyone always expecting the worst of him. He hadn’t allowed himself to think about how much he actually wanted this family connection with these people, but now that it could slip away from him he had no choice but to contemplate what he could be losing.
“He’s right you know,” Olivia offered softly. Her accent sounding so familiar, and so like his Mother’s soft lilt that it made him ache for a moment deep within his soul. Briefly, he closed his eyes to hold in the flair of pain, and then after opening them turned to look at her.
“You belong in this place as much as any of the rest of us. This is your birthright too, Tony. Yours and TJ’s both. We have made it clear that while Edward may be the successor, this place belongs to all of the Paddingtons. It is all of our refuge. I don’t know what your schedule is like right now, but I would love for you to spend a few days with us if you could. I know George agrees with me.”
“Yes, Tony, please say that you can stay here through the weekend. We have a suite that would be perfect for you and young Tristan. I am sure some of the other family members will want to come meet you once they find out that you’re here. I would love to get to know my sister’s only son and only grandchild. Even if she may not have deserved the man you turned out to be.”
“I don’t understand,” Tony finally admitted after several long moments of silence spent studying the rug under his feet. “Why would you believe me? Why would you want me? Why now, and not when I was a child and needed you? Needed any of you? I’m not trying to be ungrateful. I would love a chance to get to know you all, but if Senior has taught me anything it’s not to trust people who say they love or care about you. I seem to always pay a harsh price for it in the end.”
“We made a horrible mistake,” George admitted. The grief and regret evident in his voice.
“We judged you based on your Father, and bad memories of your Mother. As you said, your relationship with her was complicated, so was ours. She was my sister, and I loved her. A lot of the time, though, I didn’t like her very much, and most of the time I didn’t approve of her antics. Certainly, not those before she left England for America. We should never have left you with that man after Elizabeth died, but we were too wrapped up in our own pain and anger. Unfortunately, it seems that you’re the one that paid the price, and for that, I am deeply ashamed. Give us a chance, Tony?”
Tony frowned, his brow furrowing as he tried to put the mismatched pieces of this puzzle together. He’d expected to have to beg for their forgiveness and had prepared himself for having to prove himself to be more honorable than his Father. Yet, the exact opposite was happening and he wasn’t sure that he knew what to do with it. One thing he’d learned in his life, though, was to never turn up his nose at a second chance or an outstretched hand. People may have thought his loyalty to Gibbs was all about his former boss’ domineering personality, but the truth was that it was really about Tony.
He’d always held loyalty as one of his most important personality traits. He’d grown up with not a single person loyal to the child he was, and he’d be damned if he’d treat other people that way. No matter how many times he found out that others didn’t share the importance of being loyal to him, he refused to become the man his Father was and live his life being loyal only to himself. The second most important trait he considered to be was forgiveness.
He’d never been one to feel the need to hold a grudge forever over one tiny little infraction, or in most cases even a dozen little infractions. Generally speaking, it took a considerable amount of time, and many dozens of second chances thrown away before he decided that you weren’t worth another.
This wasn’t to say that he was some peace loving, tree hugging hippy who looked at the world through rose-colored glasses, no offense to peace loving, tree hugging hippies. That just wasn’t his deal. As much as he believed in loyalty and forgiveness, he was still incredibly cynical and slow to trust just about anyone. That was why, when the people he did trust betrayed him, it felt like he was being burned from the inside out. It seemed he was forever putting everything that he could into those around him, and all he got, in the end, were more scars.
It was so hard not to put his heart behind walls of steel and protect it from these people, but what would that get him? And, hadn’t he sought them out? How ungrateful would he look? How much his Father’s son would he appear if he shits on their offer of family and belonging? What had protecting his heart ever gotten him?
“Alright,” Tony finally said softly. Nodding, as if to emphasize his decision, he looked up. First to George, and then to Olivia meeting each of their eyes.
“Ok, I’ll give it a chance, if you promise to give me the same, and not expect my Father or even Mother every time I open my mouth. I’m not either of them. Hell, I doubt I know enough of my Mother to be her. I’m just Tony. A man with an incredible son, and an amazing job where he gets to help people in the worst moments of their lives.
“A man who maybe knows a little too much useless movie trivia, and hides behind his piano on long, horrible days. But, movies have always been my happy place. My piano is the only thing my Mother left me when she died, and it’s the only thing that I have that really connects the two of us. I don’t know anything about being a nephew or a cousin, and some days I wonder if I really understand what it means to be a friend. I try my hardest, though, even when it always seems I come up short.
“There will be things I can’t tell you about my job, and for some reason, I’m always the one that attracts trouble. But, maybe that’s because I’d rather take it on myself then watch it dig its claws into someone else. I’m about as far from perfect as it gets, but if you’ll just give me a chance, I swear I’ll be the most loyal person you know. I just… I just want a chance.”
When Olivia crossed the short space between them and put her arms around him, he startled. As he relaxed, though, he pretended neither of their cheeks was getting wet.