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Chapter Two: The Last Goodbye
Three weeks later, Tony was walking around his empty apartment taking in the memories, one last time. All of their things had been picked up the day before to be shipped to their new London town home. He hoped that it was as nice as it looked.
The building was supposedly historical and looked to have beautiful historic features both inside and out that had recently been renovated. He had to dip into his trust fund money to pay for it, but he decided that it was worth it. Hearing tiny footsteps behind him, Tony looked back to see his two-year-old son TJ, aka Tristan Jordan DiNozzo, toddling toward him.
TJ was the miraculous child born out of a brief weekend fling that he had with a woman named Amber, who worked at the state department. They kept in touch by text so that they could check in with each other on occasion for work issues, or bitch about co-workers, right up to the day before she was murdered. Never once though in their conversations had she informed him that she was pregnant. He was incredibly thankful that she’d at least told her boss and her doctor who the Father was. Every once and awhile he had gotten the feeling that she wanted to say something to him, but she had never done so.
Because her parents had died years before, and she had no siblings, there was no question as to him getting custody of his son. A DNA test was done while TJ was in the hospital, and his status as the Father was confirmed. He’d debated on telling the team, but it had never felt right with most of them. Looking back, he realized that things hadn’t felt like “the team” for a while. The fact that he was so reluctant to tell them about TJ should have been the first hint he needed to leave.
When he felt a small collision with his legs, and two little arms wrap around one, he bent down and lifted his son to rest on his hip. “Tings gone,” TJ observed, and Tony nodded smiling before kissing his forehead.
There were a few on the extended portion team who had known about his son prior to his accepting the promotion. Vance for one. Tony let the man know right away so that he could get the time off without jumping through Gibbs’ hoops. Ducky and Jimmy both knew. They’d served as stand-in doctors for the toddler on occasion, and Breena was TJ’s babysitter.
The others had just started finding out recently. Gibbs was the first to know. He found out a week prior when he came to try, one last time, to convince Tony to stay. Tony introduced him to his son, and the two had a very frank conversation. The end result was that Gibbs was going to give into the psych evaluation that Vance was mandating, and they both knew would mean an end to Gibbs’ NCIS career. Tony had pointed out that it should have happened long ago, and it was a minor miracle that the man hadn’t gotten anyone killed.
For once, Gibbs had been frank and open about things. Tony had a feeling that it was a combination of knowing he couldn’t change things, and Ducky having a hand in urging the older man to make some kind of peace before it was too late.
Tony honestly felt much better after their conversation. While things weren’t magically all better, it had begun to heal some open wounds. It had also given him hope that maybe someday they could be friends once more.
Tony was about to make TJ something to eat with the bits he’d left to feed his son when someone started pounding on the apartment door. His son squeaked in fright, and immediately started clinging to his neck. Frowning, Tony rubbed his back, as he made his way to see who it was. He was already upset that whoever it was had scared his son, but seeing his visitors, and having Abby start yelling right off the bat, didn’t help.
“I don’t know who the hell you think you are, DiNozzo, but you aren’t going to get away with these shenanigans! Who are you to try and ruin Timmy’s career like this? You’re a traitor!”
TJ started crying, making Tony angrier. Pulling his son to his chest, Tony whispered in his ear, as he watched Tim pull Abby away, whispering to her. The arms flying all over the place suggested that he wasn’t happy. Once his son was quieted down, except for little snuffles in his ear, Tony gritted his teeth and glared at the Goth speaking as calmly as he could.
“I don’t know what your deal is, Ms. Sciuto, and frankly I don’t care. You have 30 seconds to remove yourself from my sight. I don’t owe you anything, and I am done rewarding or excusing your bad behavior. At one time, I considered you like a sister, but over the last several years, you have proven that it was a foolish notion. Whatever happened with McGee is between me and him. I don’t like the idea of us parting on bad terms, but my son is more important to me than you. Your current behavior is scaring him, and yet you aren’t doing a single thing to correct it.”
“That’s not fair!” Abby shrieked stomping her foot, and Tim hissed in her ear again, when TJ whimpered. “How was I to know that he was your kid?”
“Keep your voice down,” Tony replied. His quiet and calm tone not matching how aggravated he was. He wasn’t about to have his son get more upset though because he couldn’t control his temper.
“I don’t care if you knew TJ was my son or not. That isn’t the issue. The problem is you saw a child in my arms when I opened the door, and yet you saw fit to act like more of a child than he does. So, you now have 15 seconds to leave before I call the cops. McGee, if you can act like an adult, then you can come in, and we’ll talk. I’m not kidding Sciuto. You’re down to ten seconds.”
It took another hissed conversation from Tim in her ear, but eventually, the Goth stomped off angrily. Once she was gone, Tony held open the door for his former co-worker to come in. After McGee entered, Tony shut it, placing another kiss on TJ’s temple.
“I’d offer you a seat, McProbie, but they have all been shipped off already.” Heading to the kitchen, Tony stopped at the refrigerator to get the prosciutto and mozzarella rolls and veggie and dip containers that he’d made up for his son’s lunch. Placing them on the island for whenever TJ got hungry, he pulled himself up to sit on a countertop with his son settled in his lap, still peeking at the stranger.
“McGee, this is my son, TJ. Figlio, this is papa’s friend Tim.”
TJ wiggled his fingers, and McGee waved back. “Good mornin’. Nise meet you, Unko Tim.”
“It’s very nice to meet you also, TJ. Tony, he’s adorable! How old is he? Did you… why didn’t you tell us about him? Do you not trust us that much?”
Tony sighed curling his arms tighter around his son’s chest to hold the squirming child in place. Eventually, though, he just let him down to toddle around in the empty apartment.
“TJ was born right around the time that Ziva decided not to return after the three of us quit. Everyone was upset, and somehow it seemed like you all were mad at me for not making her stay. I know that Abby expected me to chase after her, but what was that going to accomplish? She’d made up her mind, and despite what everyone wants to believe, we didn’t have some big love affair. We’d settled into something less than hate, but not quite friendship either by the time she left. That doesn’t mean I wanted to settle down with her and have babies, either.”
Tony smiled, as his son toddled around the island Tim was leaning on. He saw the younger man look down, and then his son appeared again as McGee lifted him to sit on the island top. TJ sat with his legs crossed and pulled his food containers near. He could see him eyeballing his coloring book and crayons and figured that would be next on the list. He’d been working on a picture earlier and hadn’t finished before he’d gotten bored.
“Anyway,” Tony said picking up where he’d left off. “I just didn’t want to tell everyone at the beginning. Amber hadn’t even told me that she was pregnant. Then suddenly she was dead, and I had a premature baby to take care of. Ducky and Jimmy knew because I needed medical advice, but with everyone else unreasonably pissed off at me, I didn’t feel like opening up myself to another vulnerability.”
“You shouldn’t have been alone, though,” Tim protested quietly, and Tony shrugged.
“I wasn’t. Like I said, Ducky and Jimmy were there. A couple of my frat brothers came in to sit with me, and my buddy Danny took some time off and flew in from Hawaii to help me until I was settled. He has a daughter that’s older than TJ. So, he was familiar with everything I would need.
“I had to do what I thought was best for TJ and me. Then, once I didn’t say anything, there never really seemed to be a good time to bring it up. Things have been improving lately. So, I’d like to think I would have said something before too much longer. Honestly, I’ve been thinking about it. I just… Let’s be honest, McProbie. Things haven’t been good for quite a long time on our team.”
“I don’t want you to go,” Tim admitted softly, watching TJ finish his lunch. “Things were just starting to improve between us. I know I messed up, and let Ziva feed my ego. I feel like I’m never going to get to fix what I broke. Vance booted me back down to Junior Agent, and I have to retake a bunch of FLETC classes on ethics again, but I don’t even care about that. I messed us up. I let down my partner.”
Tony sighed and looked off across the room for a moment, warring with his own instincts. Making a quick decision he turned his gaze back to his Probie. As much as he felt letdown, there was a huge part of himself that still believed in McGee, and like the younger man, wanted them to get back to being friends, again. Unlike Abby, he was at least owning up to his mistakes and making an effort.
“I can’t give details, McTryingHard, but I can say this. Bust your ass. Do your best. Become the agent I trained you to be, and believe you can be. Prove that you’re better than you have been and that you deserve the faith people have in you. Stop listening to people who only want to feed your ego and lead you around by the nose. Do all of that, and someday we’ll be working together again. Fuck it up this time, though, and I’ll scorch the earth of you.”
“I promise. I won’t let you down again, Tony. You’ll take care of Ellie?” McGee asked, and Tony nodded seriously.
“You have my word of honor, McGee. Things are going to be changing, and it’s going to be up to you to prove that you belong. This time you’ll have to do it on your own. I believe that you can do it, though. Don’t let me down.”
McGee nodded and ruffled TJ’s hair making the young boy squeak with indignation. Snorting, the younger man then rounded the island and held out his hand. “It’s been an honor, Tony. Until I see you again, I promise you that I’ll work hard to do you proud and make things right.”
Nodding, Tony used their clasped hands to pull him in for a half-hug. “I look forward to it, Probie.”
Telling TJ not to move, Tony followed McGee out locking the door behind him. Taking a deep breath, he closed his eyes for a brief moment and then forced himself to let the past go. He had a full future ahead of him, and there was no room for it where he was going.