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Chapter One: Where it all Began
Seventeen-year-old Tony DiNozzo sat on the couch in the basement of his parents’ house. He was singing Simple Man by Lynyrd Skynyrd, and playing the secondary guitar part. His older half-brother Aaron Hotchner was sitting on the other end of the sectional sofa playing the first guitar part. Their younger brother Spencer was playing a piano part on the electric keyboard that Tony had gotten him last Christmas. He’d been wanting an instrument so that he could play along with his older brothers. With both Tony and Aaron playing guitar though he wanted something different. When Tony saw the electric keyboard in the second-hand shop, he’d known that it was the perfect solution.
They were on their third day of Aaron’s leave. The 23-year-old was one year into a six-year commitment. When he’d told Tony that he couldn’t stay anymore, and therefore had enlisted in the Army, Tony had been devastated. Aaron was his hero. Aaron was the person that he wanted to be when he grew up.
The announcement had been a shock because his older brother had been just about to start his fourth year at college. Unfortunately, Aaron and Senior, Tony and Spencer’s father, had one too many arguments about Senior meddling in Aaron’s affairs.
While Tony loved his father, he wasn’t blind to the man’s faults. Senior hated Aaron and didn’t even try to hide his disdain. For his older brother, he knew the feeling was mutual. Aaron often talked to Tony about his own father, and how wonderful of a dad he’d been. When he’d died, Aaron had been devastated.
Because he didn’t care for his wife’s oldest son, Senior often stuck his nose in the boy’s business, often to do something to hurt him in some way. It didn’t help that Aaron had been working toward a law degree, and Senior was…
Well, one of those faults of Senior’s was his criminal escapades. Senior didn’t bother to try very hard to hide them within the walls of his own home. He had complete confidence in his own ability to keep Tony and his brothers’ mouths shut, and their mom was… well, she was even less of a threat.
Tony’s mom was pretty checked out in his opinion. He hated the woman. He’d almost rather tolerate Senior’s criminal bullshit than his mother’s constant physical or mental absence. Even the rare times she was home she wasn’t really. Aaron had done more to raise his two brothers than either parent had. Hence the devastation when Aaron announced his decision to leave.
Two days later, Tony was standing in the driveway with an arm around Spencer who was already crying. Aaron and Senior had almost come to blows the night before. Tony was afraid that it would put an end to his bother trips home.
“T-bird,” Aaron called softly coming over with his dog tags in his hand. “I want you to keep these safe for me until I get home.”
Tony was trying hard not to cry. He had to be strong for Spencer. “You’re not coming back. Are you?”
“I think it’s for the best, Tony. You and Wolfgang will do better without me. The old man likes you two. Just stay away from his business as much as you can. Don’t let him get you wrapped up in that. You’re too smart. Take care of Spencer for me. I’m counting on you.”
A blow to his head brought Tony back to reality. Looking up he saw his father’s black eyes looking down at him. “Quit fucking daydreaming. You don’t have time for that shit, or do you want me to get Spencer to do your job?”
Quickly, Tony shook his head. He tried hard not to be mad at Aaron. Somewhere inside of him, he knew that it wasn’t his fault all this was happening. Technically he knew that he could say no, but he couldn’t take the chance that they would stick to their word. There was no way he was taking a chance with Spencer. It was bad enough his little brother was so angry all the time now. He knew that he’d fucked that up, but he just didn’t know how to fix it. He could only hope the letter that he sent got some results.
The dog tags under his shirt gave him a tad bit of comfort as they lay against his skin. Reluctantly, Tony stood and followed his father out. One of his “friends” was in town. It was his responsibility to entertain him because he would be fucked if he was going to have them force his little brother.
Three weeks later, Tony was sitting in the library wasting time researching things that he had heard his father and his friends say. He’d gotten a text message from a Bobby Singer saying that he was on his way with a friend to help. They’d agreed to meet at the local library.
He only hoped that the guy was for real because he wasn’t sure how much more that he could take. He couldn’t remember the last time that he’d heard from Aaron. He suspected that Senior was stealing his letters. Trying to hope for the best he’d continued his letters to his big brother, and was trying his best not to worry him. It was hard though. Sometimes he just wanted to come clean with everything that had been going on, and beg for him to come home.
The problem was that he was scared what would happen if he did. Of course, he was scared of his brother staying overseas in combat also. In general, Tony was just scared. He was scared and sometimes numb too, which made his life confusing. Overall, he felt like a failure. He felt like he’d completely let his hero older brother down. As mad as he was, and that anger was locked firmly away as often as possible, he was more afraid of disappointing him.
Even though he was 22 years old, Tony most of the time felt more like he was 12 and being picked on by bullies after school. There were so many things going on that he didn’t understand or couldn’t control. It had been so long since he’d felt safe. He just wanted to be safe. He just wanted to stop feeling like a failure and a whore.
He just wanted Aaron back. He just wanted to know his big brother still loved him.
“That’s some heavy reading material that you’ve got there.”
Looking up, Tony saw two men standing in front of the table he was at. He’d picked the most secluded table that he could find. He was afraid that one of Senior’s cronies would see him. The likelihood that they’d enter the library was small, but still.
“Not many kids your age would be looking up exorcism spells and druid rituals.”
Tony looked from one man to the other, as he tried to find his voice to speak. He didn’t talk much anymore. He was afraid what would come out if he did. When Spencer didn’t believe him about what was going on and what their father’s friends were doing to him, when he yelled at him to stop causing trouble with mom and dad, Tony’d given up mostly all of his hope of being believed. What was the point in trying to convince a stranger, when his own flesh and blood called him a liar?
He’d had to take one last shot though, and these two strangers hopefully wouldn’t turn out to be a mistake. Senior had been too focused on Spencer lately. It seemed that he was always talking about him, and about how pretty he was. Tony had already failed the kid enough. He couldn’t let those things inside of his parents get their claws into him.
Even if he’d turned into a little bitch, he was still Tony’s little brother and his responsibility. He loved the kid no matter how much his words of hate hurt him. He refused to fail the kid another time, and he knew somewhere along the way he must have. Spencer wasn’t this hateful before, so the only logical conclusion was that Tony messed the kid up somewhere along the way.
“Bobby Singer?” He finally asked. His voice horse and trembled from not being used.
One of the strangers nodded. “That’s me, kid. This is my friend Pastor Jim Murphy. He’s gonna help us get this all fixed for you.”
The two men pulled out chairs and sat across from him, and Tony tried not to shrink away.
“How old are you, son?” The one wearing the priest’s collar asked. Tony played with the book in front of him, studying its words without really seeing them as he answered.
“I’m 22, sir. I have a younger brother at home with me, Spencer. He’s 15. He’s not… I don’t… Please, I need you to believe me. I can’t do this all by myself anymore, and I don’t have anyone else.”
“You sound horse, kiddo,” the one who said that he was Bobby observed. “Are you sick?”
Tony closed the book and pushed it aside. Reaching for the pad that he’d been using to take notes, he flipped to a blank page and began doodling nervously.
“No, sir. I just don’t talk much anymore. I’m… I’m afraid to.” Because he was looking at his paper, he missed the look of concern that the two men shared.
“I know that you explained things in your letter, but we’d like to hear the story from you once more if we could. Why don’t you tell us what is going on?”
Sighing, Tony peeked at the two men trying to judge their honesty. Seeing only sincerity on their faces, he began to go over what was happening to him.
“My name is Tony DiNozzo, Jr. I have an older half-brother named Aaron Hotchner. He’s 28 and is an Army Ranger overseas. His parents got divorced, then his mom married Senior. When his father died when he was ten he came to live with us. They already had me and my younger brother Spencer. He’s 15, and really super smart. Spencer doesn’t believe that there’s anything going on. He says it’s not logical what I’m claiming, and that the things I say aren’t physically possible. Aaron… he doesn’t write me anymore. Either that or someone is stealing my letters.
“Aaron enlisted when he was 22. He and Senior don’t get along. My brother was in college studying pre-law when he just decided to go into the Army. Even before these things took over, my father wasn’t on the up and up. I guess one day Aaron just had too much of Senior’s interference and had to leave.”
Tony fidgeted as his pencil moved over the paper almost of its own will. “He only came home once. He said that things would be better for me and Spencer if he didn’t come back, and told me to take care of our little brother. Aaron was my hero, and then he left.”
“Sounds like you’re mad about that, son,” The pastor pointed out, and Tony shrugged.
“I try not to be. I miss him. I need him to come home, but I’m afraid that he won’t ever come back again. I’m afraid that those things will kill him, and he won’t be able to.”
“Did they threaten him?” Bobby asked. Tony felt himself freeze before nodding jerkily.
“Yes, sir. They said that they would make sure that he was killed over where ever he is. Then they said that they’d take Spencer, and I’d never see him again. Can we… I’m sorry, but I’m kinda thirsty and hungry. Can we go get lunch, sirs?”
It’s just Bobby and Jim, my son,” The pastor advised kindly. “Is Spencer safe? Or do they have him.”
Tony piled up the books and shoved the paper and pencil in one of his brother’s old backpacks that he’d stolen. Spencer switched to a leather satchel that Tony bought him, and didn’t use the old backpack anymore. Looking around, Tony packed up faster.
“Spencer is at school. He’s really smart and should have been moved up a few years, but Senior wouldn’t let him. Please, can we leave? I don’t feel so good about being here anymore.”
“Lead the way, kid,” Bobby said as he and Pastor Jim stood to follow.
Looking around once more, Tony led the way out of the building. He didn’t know why, but he knew he would have been caught if he’d stayed. He’d found that he could always tell when Senior or his buddies were near. It was one of the weird things that had started happening to him.
He knew that he had to avoid being caught at all costs. If his father or one of his associates saw him with a holy man, they’d kill Aaron and Spencer in a second. He couldn’t have their blood on his hands. He’d take the men to the safest dinner he knew of and finish his story there. They just had to believe him. There just wasn’t any other outcome that he could survive.
Tony @ 22: