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Chapter One: Final Port in a Storm
When TJ finally fell to sleep, Tony released a deep shuddering breath as he tucked the blanket around his son and turned off the light above him. He’d picked an overnight flight so that his son at least could sleep and start the day fresh when they reached London. Ideally, he would also be sleeping, or at least ready to fall asleep, but with all of the emotional turmoil going on inside of him, Tony simply didn’t see it happening. Fortunately, if NCIS had taught him anything it was how to exist on little to no sleep.
After turning off the light above himself as well, Tony reached over TJ and opened the window shade so that he could look outside. Then, turning his Thumbs Up list on his Pandora which he had downloaded to his phone on, Tony put in his headphones and just let his mind free. He only hoped that he could hold in some of the overwhelming emotion until he reached his destination. Once free of the rigid constraints he’d been putting on it so as not to upset TJ, Tony’s mind seemed to fly through the swirl of emotions inside of him like a tornado in a storm.
The mother that he’d always loved and adored wasn’t actually his mother. Con. The abusive asshole conman father wasn’t actually his father either, though. Definite positive. The friends and pseudo-family Tony created for himself at NCIS seemed to have taken the side of the asshole father and ignored all the hints of abuse Tony dropped over the years. Absolutely con. However, it seemed, if Claire’s letter was correct that Tony had actual blood family out there who wanted him. Huge positive. While Abby, Ziva, and McGee adored Senior and fell for his charm and schmooze, Gibbs hated the man and fully supported Tony’s exit. Another positive. Unfortunately, that meant leaving Gibbs behind, and with the way things were currently, Tony wasn’t sure when, if ever, he’d see the man behind. It wasn’t as if Gibbs was a great communicator that he could have long distance phone conversations with or trade emails with. Heartbreaking con. London meant Alexander or whatever his name actually was. The positive that might make everything else worth it.
Tony met Alex years back on one of his island vacations where he sunned himself on gorgeous white beaches, surrounded by beautiful bodies. Tony’s arm was still in a sling from his encounter with Ziva in Israel after Rivkin’s death, and the blond Brit’s foot was in a walking boot from what he’d called a climbing accident. Alex was shorter than Tony and slightly older with scars on one side of his face that indicated he’d survived a fire or explosion at some point. However, it was the man’s sarcastic wit and the hint that something dark was hidden behind the sparkle of laughter in his eyes that drew him in. It was the whisper of something that Tony saw in his own eyes when he looked in the mirror that pulled him toward the man. It was rare that he met someone that understood his complicated psyche let alone shared a similar one.
By the time Alexander, “call me Alex”, introduced himself, Tony knew that whatever name came out of his lips would be a lie.
“So, that’s what you’re gonna go with, huh?” Tony quipped with a grin and a look of understanding. When the man went along with it instead of making protestations of truthfulness, Tony knew not only was he right but that the other man had recognized their similarities himself.
“Well, it’s as good a name as any,” Alex quipped, and Tony gave a snort of laughter in return before ramping up his flirting. The two spent days in each other’s company. Sometimes just the two of them and sometimes in bars or on beaches surrounded by people. They’d made an agreement to no personal details and hadn’t even exchanged last names. It had been meant to be nothing more than an island vacation affair, but by the end, Tony knew that it would be harder than usual to shake loose of his attraction to Alex.
The exchange of email addresses had been an impulse led by Tony, and as he’d watched the island growing smaller as his plane flew back to the states, Tony had really believed he’d never see Alex again. However, less than 9 months later, Senior had popped back into Tony’s life, and the NCIS agent had felt the need to escape and get himself back together. The decision to go see Alex had been impulsive, but fortunately, the older man was enthusiastic about the idea, and Tony found himself in the first flight to London.
That trip wasn’t really dissimilar to this one, in that Tony was escaping his life to find a safe haven in Alex. That time, though, the Senior Field Agent still had a job, still had an identity that he was semi-comfortable with and didn’t have a child. Or, more accurately, he didn’t know he had a child. There had been no plans to do anything but hide out in Alex’s apartment, preferably naked as much as possible. That time when he left, the parting had been incredibly painful. Tony had come to realize that this was a man he could not only be everything that was actually Tony DiNozzo with but whom he could see spending the rest of his life next to. Unfortunately, they both had lives they couldn’t leave behind, and agreed that there would be no more visits unless it was forever.
While they still kept in touch by email on occasion, it was mostly funny bits and all hints of anything personal was left to the wayside. Despite this, Tony would have let him know, but he was trying to keep to a minimum the information the team beyond Gibbs would be able to find to locate him. Gibbs and Vance were the only ones who knew he’d quit with both men agreeing to keep things quiet. As far as the rest of the team knew Tony was off on an assignment. Gibbs had letters for Jimmy and Ducky. The others were getting nothing.
Tony gave Gibbs cash so that the older man could buy their tickets on his credit card. His cellphone, laptop, and any other traceable electronic were left behind in the townhome Tony and TJ lived in. Cash was being used when it could be, and when he couldn’t, Tony had traveler’s checks and prepaid credit cards he could use. Tony’s personal lawyer was the only other person who knew what was going on and had been warned to keep an eye out for people snooping into Tony’s personal financial information. The majority of Tony’s finances were transferred to one of the law firm’s accounts and would then be transferred back once he settled. It was all a little more cloak and dagger than Tony wanted with a 2 almost 3 yr. old in tow. The reality was though that Abby lone was unpredictable on the best of days, and with Ziva’s contacts, Tony wasn’t taking any chances with either himself or his son when he had no idea how they’d react to the news Tony left for good. There would however be consequences if they invaded Tony’s privacy. He just wasn’t going to play with them anymore.
Pushing aside the unpleasant thoughts of the irritating threesome, Tony decided to shut his eyes and try and get some rest. He still had more hours left in his journey than he wanted to spend fretting. So, taking a few deep calming breaths, he closed his eyes and willed himself to fall asleep hoping by the time he awoke he’d be in London.
~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~
By the time Tony got to Alex’s building with TJ on his hip, and baggage in tow, he was full of nervous exhaustion. Fortunately, the building came with a doorman, who helped Tony get himself, his son, and the luggage filled with the things he hadn’t wanted to leave behind into the building. Being as they weren’t that far past Christmas, his son had quite a few new toys that he hadn’t wanted to leave behind.
When the face of the concierge at the desk in the lobby was familiar, Tony almost wept. The building that Alex lived in was… special. While he knew he could get in if it was someone he wasn’t familiar with, he found the sight of a friendly face comforting. Tony had honestly never heard of anything like it and was surprised to find out after some very discreet inquiries that such a place did exist in DC you just had to be the right person who knew the right person and made a boatload of cash with the right security clearance.
The building itself was a historic 6 story building with 10 apartments and a penthouse. Everything was anonymous. Utilities and all extra expenses were paid for by the owner so there was nothing to pinpoint the apartment resident to the location. There were always two people on duty at the door with one standing outside and one inside the lobby. While the person at the building entrance could often be found helping residents doing things like hailing cabs, getting large loads to their apartments, etc. the guard in the lobby absolutely never left his post, unless relieved by the doorman. No one used names. The guards all had nicknames. Most of them were given by the residents. Tony wasn’t familiar with the doorman, but he’d nicknamed the lobby guard Woj the last time he was there because he physically reminded him of Stan Wojciehowicz from Barney Miller. Make no mistake though, neither man was going to be confused with a bumbling sitcom cop or an elderly door greeter that you’d find at a fancy hotel or Walmart.
These men were, at least to Tony, very obviously retired military, probably special forces, or something of that nature. While they were never anything but friendly, there was no mistaking the fact that they were considered the first line of defense for the building’s residents. Tony guessed that the guards all took their jobs very seriously. The lobby was elegant but sparse. There was no mail delivery. Residents were expected to have mail delivered elsewhere, and absolutely no one exchanged their real names. Everything was done by preset codes based on your apartment location, or nicknames assigned to the very rare visitor.
When Tony was checking into whether buildings like this existed in DC and how they worked, it was explained that visitors were frowned upon unless they met some very stringent requirements. After he explained that he and Alex hadn’t exchanged real names or even fake last names, he was assured that while Alex may not have known who he was, whoever owned the building certainly did. Otherwise, he never would have been granted access.
Access meant a key.
A key that he had and neither the doorman or lobby guard had. There was no losing your key in this building and having the friendly doorman help you into your apartment. If you lost your key you were screwed, and the hoops you had to jump through to get a new one were many. It was why Tony’s key was always on a strap of leather that he wore around his neck. Residency was given by invitation only. You would never find these apartments listed on ReMax.com or in your local realtor’s listings.
Tony’s contact advised that resident codenames varied by the building and the owner’s preferences. This building used British peerage titles. Left side apartments were male titles. Right side apartments were female titles. No one gave a shit if the owner was male or female unless you were offered the top floor. The penthouse apartment was the only one that changed depending on the sexual identity and number of owners. Since the building had six floors, the first-floor residents were identified by Lord and Lady, the second floor was Baron and Baroness, the third floor was Viscount and Viscountess, the fourth floor was Earl and Countess, the fifth floor was Marquess and Marchioness, and the penthouse was identified as Duke because Alex was the only resident.
To be honest, Tony found the whole thing equally cool and nerve-wracking. It was, however, the perfect place for both himself and his son. There was absolutely no way that anyone anywhere was going to find him unless he wanted to be found. Since no one exchanged names if someone came asking for Anthony DiNozzo both the doorman and lobby guard could honestly say they’d never heard the name. When he asked about being showed a picture of him, he was assured that in a building like that the security staff was paid very well to say that they’d never seen that person before.
“Mr. OSU!” Woj greeted happily from his seat behind the desk. Tony knew that despite the friendly smile and greeting that the guard was most likely already in contact with Alex about their entry. This was after checking to make sure Tony and TJ were both still on the entry listing stored in the building’s database that had no connection to the world beyond the building and no ability to be accessed by a computer that had access to the outside world. While certainly, each apartment had all the modern comforts like cable or satellite, internet, Wi-Fi, etc. They each also had a monitor near the front door that was hardwired into the building’s security system.
“Woj,” Tony greeted with a tired grin. “I’ve never been so happy to see your baby face in my life.” The laugh he got in return for his quip felt honest, and Tony was relieved for it. His instincts told him that if Alex didn’t want to see him that the greeting might still have been polite, it wouldn’t have been nearly as friendly. “Is the Duke in residence this morning? He’s not expecting me.”
Because Tony had a key to the elevator that would unlock the penthouse residence, he knew that he could get in as long as Alex hadn’t removed his access approval. However, he knew that this wasn’t the older man’s only residence in London. The one and only time he’d been to visit, Alex admitted that he had another apartment that was much smaller, cheaper, and resembled something like a crash pad that he used when he needed to be at work at a moment’s notice. It was also where he took his occasional hook up that didn’t want to go back to their place as a random one-night stand would absolutely not be allowed entrance into the building.
“He is Mr. OSU,” Woj assured with a nod. “I informed him of you and Wee OSU’s arrival. He’s waiting for you upstairs. McFly, help Mr. OSU and Wee OSU upstairs, please.”
While Tony was never one prone to easily succumbing to his emotions, he knew when he found himself fighting to stay calm and collected on the short elevator right up to the penthouse that he’d reached his emotional limit. It felt like everything stable in his life had crumbled out from underneath his feet and Alex’s acceptance of Tony’s reappearance with a not yet 3 yr. old boy in tow was the last solid patch of soil beneath his shoes. Fortunately, when the elevator doors opened, it was almost immediately obvious that his worry was for naught. There right in front stood an obviously worried Alex looking as gorgeous as ever in his old worn jeans and sleep-mussed hair.
“Fu…dge, Alex,” Tony breathed in a half sigh and half moan of relief. He was barely off the elevator before he and a mostly asleep TJ both wrapped up in the blond’s arms. “I’m sorry I didn’t warn you. I didn’t want to risk it. I’m probably being paranoid, but I just… I didn’t know where else to go… hell, I didn’t want to go anywhere else… I…” Tony trailed off and recognizing his tired ramble for what it was and turned his face toward the older man’s neck taking in a deep breath of his scent.
“Zaichonok,” Alex returned quietly as the doorman set about unloading the luggage and bags from the elevator before leaving them to their reunion.
“I’m not a bunny,” Tony murmured sleepily before lifting his head and pulling back slightly when he felt TJ squirm. “You speak Russian.”
Alex nodded with a half smirk that tried to hide a brief flare of annoyance. Tony wasn’t sure if it was at Tony for knowing it was Russian or at Alex himself for letting it slip. Tony guessed the latter, but he was too tired and wrung out for once to investigate further. “As do you,” Alex returned before he lifted a hand to brush the back of a finger over TJ’s cheek. “I saw the picture you sent, but he looks so much like you, AJ. He’s a beautiful child. Come inside. You can put him down in the guest room. I don’t know if you remember that the flat has a build in intercom system that we can turn on to listen for him. You look worn out yourself. Do you want to sleep first or talk?”
If you have coffee, I’d like to talk first,” Tony admitted as he made his way inside ignoring most of the baggage for the moment. Picking up his son’s backpack with the things he absolutely needed like Mr. Potamus to sleep, Tony turned and headed toward the open doorway. While the majority of the floor was Alex’s apartment, there was a small hallway for the elevator. Tony knew from his previous visit that at one time there had been two apartments on the floor, but when it was last renovated before Alex moved by the current owner in the top floor was made one big residence with exception of the elevator. Even the stairway to the rooftop patio was inside the apartment as it was for use exclusively by the penthouse owner.
“Alex, can you bring that computer bag? I didn’t bring any electronics, but it has some important paperwork that I don’t want to be left out here.”
“Of course, Sweetheart,” Alex agreed as he picked up the bag and another next to it since he had a spare hand.
Slowly, Tony made his way through the spacious penthouse, and when he reached the furthest of the two guest rooms looked to the bag Alex had brought. “Good choice. That’s TJ’s things. So, it can go in here.”
“Score one for the home team, Luv!” Alex cheered softly as he placed the bag inside the doorway then offered a tender smile. “Get the wee one settled, and I’ll make you some coffee. You completely ruined it for me after your last visit. I even have cream and some hazelnut syrup to flavor it with.”
“You?” Tony snarked back softly as he lay TJ down and pulled his blanket out of his backpack. “Mr. black coffee is the only coffee has cream and flavored syrups?” Alex just smiled and gave a small shrug.
“They remind me of you, Luv. I’ll be in the kitchen making us a pot and something to eat. I know how you dislike eating when you fly.”
“God, I’ve missed you,” Tony admitted back as he sat on the bed and rubbed TJ’s back when the little boy opened his eyes to look at him. “Food will be marvelous. He’ll fall asleep quickly. So, I shouldn’t be long.”
With a nod, Alex left the room, and Tony turned his attention to putting his son back to sleep with a backrub and a song. There were no childish lullabies for his son. He hadn’t really known and when the boy came into his life, and as a result, sang him old Sinatra and other Rat Pack songs. He was halfway through Fly me to the Moon when the little boy finally snuffled and rolled over burying his face in his hippo. Finishing the song to be safe, Tony gave the offending stuffed animal a glare. He hadn’t decided how he was going to explain to his son that he’d most likely never see any of his Auntie Abby or any of his various Uncles or stand in Grandfather again. It was a subject that he refused to contemplate because he was terribly afraid that the discussion was going to come with a lot of tears.
Standing with a yawn, Tony made his way from the room, pausing to turn on the intercom, only to see Alex had done it for him. After a detour to the bathroom to wash off his face, the tired father headed to the kitchen following the scent of coffee, eggs, and sausage. Hooking his foot around the leg of one of the nearby stools, Tony brought it closer to him and sat down with his elbows resting on the granite countertop while he studied Alex.
Tony had never been attracted to men who would be labeled pretty or beautiful, at least not enough to be drawn into a relationship with them. Alex certainly was not either of those descriptors. Handsome, sexy, even gorgeous, were the words Tony used when they met, and still used to describe the man who had stolen his heart. He knew that other people wouldn’t see it. All they’d see were the weathered burn scars on the man’s face, and he’d be written off. To Tony though they only made him that much more attractive, because they spoke of a man who fought when it hurt and when it was hard. The scars told him a story that words couldn’t fully express. It was a story that Tony loved to look at.
Tony had very definite needs and wants in his partners. For women, they had to be able to fight for themselves, be willing to stand up to anyone who crossed their path. Physically, he preferred them dark haired with a beautiful smile. He needed a good sense of humor, intelligence made him hard, and since he loved a wide variety of sports, an athletic nature was preferred.
He generally was pulled toward someone slightly younger than himself, but definitely not the extremes that his coworkers assumed. 5 to 7 years was his max. Feisty was probably a common term for his female partners. It was why he’d been distracted by Ziva a time or two. The caveat though was that they had to be able to turn that off and recognize when the two of them were a team. He wasn’t willing to put himself into a relationship with anyone, man or woman, that he had to constantly fight for his footing with. Ziva didn’t know how to do that.
Tony wasn’t blind. He knew whose primary fault that was. He knew the scars that a parent could leave on their child’s mind. For Tony, though, that didn’t forgive the manipulative bitch that the Mossad agent was. People grew up. They explored the world and were changed by those experiences.
Smart people looked at themselves and made the changes that were necessary to become the type of person they wanted to be. Either Ziva had never done that, or she was just fine being a miserable, scheming, bitch who always looks out for herself first and was willing to cause any destruction she needed to as long as she succeeded. It was why despite Ziva’s wishes, and her many attempts, Tony would never give in to her advances. Especially not once TJ came into his life. Tony couldn’t imagine letting someone like Ziva influence a small child. It sounded like a nightmare that Tony had already lived through.
With men, he liked someone older than himself and was willing to consider a much bigger age difference. At one point early in their working relationship, Tony had a thing for Gibbs, but it didn’t take long to realize that he too would not make a good partner much for the same reasons Ziva wouldn’t. There was no off switch with Gibbs that the younger man had ever found, and there certainly was no sense of equality that was necessary for any healthy relationship.
Tony liked men slightly shorter than himself. Intelligence and a good sense of humor were common themes shared with really anyone he found himself attracted to. He liked the Alpha personality. While he could pull it off himself even comfortably and even easily given his flexible personality if needed, he liked that feeling of natural power in his male partners that drew people to them to be led.
Physically he liked his male partners to be his height or slightly shorter, blue or green eyes, there wasn’t really any particular hair color preference, but again he liked someone athletic enough they’d enjoy sports with him both watching and participating. Alex was… Well, to be honest, Alex was just nearly perfect.
At 5’10” he was slightly shorter than Tony, who was 6’2”. He was in incredible shape, and his easy laugh never failed to make Tony smile. However, Tony also saw a flash of darkness or intensity cross the older man’s face that the NCIS agent recognized and found himself incredibly attracted to. Whatever Alex did, Tony could only imagine that he was one of the best. He couldn’t imagine the other man being just a guy at whatever he did. Especially since Tony was pretty sure that whatever he did involve undercover work and violence. There was an air of leashed, deadly power about the man that made Tony think of one of the big cats stalking their prey. It was an enticing aphrodisiac that worked better than any little blue pill could.
When Alex turned and flashed him a crooked smile, Tony almost melted into the stool and hid his grin in the coffee cup that Alex left for him on the island. When the unmistakable taste of hazelnut hit his tongue, Tony couldn’t hold back a moan of pleasure. “You not only remembered, but you had some syrup on hand? I remember now why I love you.”
Alex laughed happily before plating their breakfasts and carrying them over to the island where Tony was sitting perching next to him. “I left some for the little one once he wakes up. We’ll just need to heat it up and cook his eggs.”
Tony smiled and leaning over stole a quick kiss. “You’re amazing. I have a ton of things I need to tell you and I’ll probably meltdown, but… seriously, you’re amazing. I knew I missed you, but when I saw you there in the doorway, I didn’t realize how much till that second. I want you to know… no matter why it happened, I’m here for good. If you still want it, I mean.”
“I want,” Alex said softly, and it was his turn to lean over to steal a kiss before they tucked into their meal shifting the conversation to safer things like sports and movies. After they were done eating, Tony insisted on cleaning up, given Alex had cooked. While he was doing that, the older man said he’d go check on TJ and get Tony’s things settled in the master suite. When they were done, they’d meet in the living room to talk.
After the kitchen was clean and freshening up their coffee cups, Tony noted that Alex’s cup had the same hazelnut syrup, which made him smile. After picking up his Computer-less computer bag, Tony headed to the living room tossing his bag onto the couch, leaving the cups on the coffee table in front of it, and moved to stand at the big windows to take in the sights. The apartment, or flat as Alex would say, was basically a U shape with the living area on the left side of the elevator and the bedrooms on the right side. The buildings immediately around them were smaller two- or three-story buildings, so there were nice views from all of the windows. Tony was enjoying doing some people watching until he felt a pair of arms wrap around his waist and a chin rest on his shoulder.
“TJ was sitting in bed coloring. I told him to come out of he got hungry. I hope that is acceptable.” Alex advised kissing the side of Tony’s neck. “I love seeing you here, AJ. Whatever the reason, I am glad that you’re finally here. Feels like it’s been a bloody long wait, but it’s worth it to have you and the little one in the end. We’ll have to redecorate his room and anything else you wish. I didn’t do much after moving in. I’m not too picky, and I’m not really here constant enough to deal with the fuss.”
“I love finally being here,” Tony admitted turning in Alex’s arms to look at his smiling partner. “I’ll be honest. The reason is… Fuck, I don’t know what to think about it. Maybe we should sit and talk? I don’t know how much longer I can keep it in.”
Instead of replying, Alex pressed another kiss to Tony’s lips before leading him over to the couch. Tony sank down into the soft brown leather with a shaky sigh and turned so that he could look at the man who’d drawn him to England. Despite the letter, Tony wasn’t sure that he could have come if he didn’t have a safe haven in Alex to go to.
“I guess I will start with my real name,” Tony said as he twined his fingers with Alex’s. “AJ stands for Anthony Junior, but honestly I hate both in their full forms. I normally go by Tony, but in college, they called me AJ. My father calls me Junior, and a very small number of people are allowed to call me Anthony.”
Tony frowned for a moment as a bit of sadness overcame him as he thought of Ducky and hoped that there would be a way to reconnect with the older man. “I can honestly say I hate my father. I don’t even think there’s some secret part of me that loves him because he’s my father. I wish that we could have had a different relationship, but we don’t. I don’t see longing and wishing as being the same thing. Senior made sure we couldn’t have a close relationship with how he treated me, and his recent reappearances in my life have only confirmed that it’s best he stays away from me and especially TJ.
“So, AJ if you want to continue that, or Tony is what I prefer being called. Never Junior, and I’d prefer not Anthony unless you’re going to become a quirky elderly ME who loves his bow ties and talks to dead people. Up until yesterday, I worked for NCIS, which is a federal intelligence and investigation agency that serves the Navy and Marine personnel and their families. I don’t know what I’m going to do here, but I was a cop before I worked at NCIS. I would like to keep doing something along the lines of what I’ve been doing if I can. My mo… my mothers are actually from England and I have family here although I’ve never met them. That’s… it’s complicated and it the other part of why I’m here.”
“Well, being an ME has never been a life plan,” Alex admitted with a grin. “So, I’ll stick with AJ or Tony. My real name is Alec Trevelyan. I was born in Russia, but my parents were killed. After that, I was adopted by a couple and brought here. I can’t tell you where I work just yet, and definitely can’t tell the little one. As soon as I am able though I will tell you as much as I can. We’ll have to think up something to tell TJ though. I can handle complicated. Tell me what’s going on, Luv.”
Instead of answering, Tony took a deep breath and pulling his computer bag into his lap, pulled out the letters handing them to Alex… Alec is mind corrected. He was glad the real name was so close because it should be a fairly easy mental shift to make. Pulling out two envelopes, Tony handed them both to his partner. “Read the legal one first,” Tony instructed before handing the letters off and picking up his coffee cup to give his hands something to do. By now he knew both letters by heart and could mentally recite them in his head as the other man read. Nervously, he turned his attention to the television that had one of the British sports channels on giving a rundown of the day’s sporting news. Focusing on the TV, he tried to ignore the letter reading and the upheaval they’d made of Tony’s life.
~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~
Alec noted AJ – or Tony, he’d have to get used to calling his love his preferred name – had turned his attention to the telly. Quietly, Alec handed Tony the remote from where it was lying next to Alec before he turned his attention to the letters. He first noticed the differences in the letters. One was obviously stationary of a legal firm named Sheffield, Morgan, and Sager, while the other was on a more feminine stationary with only the name Anthony written on the front in an elegant script that screamed woman. Setting the second letter aside for the moment, Alec opened the first to see what had his love so upset.
Dear Mr. Anthony D. DiNozzo, Jr.
My name is Charles Sheffield, and I was your Uncle Clive M. Paddington, Lord of Southcott’s solicitor while he was alive. I am currently serving as the executor of his estate and I am writing to you as per his final wishes. I would like to express my sympathy for your loss before I get into the reason for this letter. Your Uncle was a good man whom I was honored to not only serve but call a friend. His death is a loss to not just me and your family, but Britain as a whole.
Your uncle held in his possession a letter from your mother that was given to him upon her death, as well as proof of your dual citizenship. It was her wish that he should hold this letter and paperwork until his death, and at that time it should be delivered to you. With your uncle’s passing, her letter and the legal documents are now yours. There is also a second trust that he held for you. which had been passed along from her estate in addition to the smaller one you received previously. The courier from our law firm that will be delivering the letters will also have in his possession the legal citizenship paperwork.
There is some extra paperwork that needs to be signed for the second trust. Your Uncle also wrote you a letter of his own, which I hold in my possession. He was embarrassed at how he’d handled things after her death and was not sure you would welcome contact from him upon his death. He was aware of what you had made of your life and was quite proud of the man you became. My number is at the bottom of this letter. Please call me at your earliest convenience to advise if you wish to get your Uncle’s letter and how you would like to deal with the trust paperwork. If you cannot come to London, I can have the information sent to any number of law offices there in the States to be reviewed with you.
Again, you have my deepest sympathies for your loss, and I look forward to hearing from you.
Charles V. Sheffield
Alec had forced himself to read the entire letter, but once done, he went back to the top again. He was finding it hard to believe whom Tony’s Uncle was. “You are related to Lord Clive Paddington?” Alec asked letting the letter rest on his lap as Tony’s eyes turned his direction.
“Yes, my mother was the only daughter,” Tony explained turning his attention away from the soccer match, or football game as Alec would say. “Supposedly mother and Clive were very close until she married Senior. She told me once that her family and Clive especially didn’t approve of the marriage. I’ve never understood then if that was the case, why he helped me out in college, but I’m glad he did. I wouldn’t have been able to go that first year while I was fighting Senior for my trust fund if Uncle Clive hadn’t loaned me the money. I believe she has two other brothers who were alive last I heard, but I’ve never met any of them. For that matter, I never even met Clive. All of our dealings were over the phone.”
“Are you going to contact them now that you’re here?” Alec asked trying to decide how to reconcile the fact that he knew more about his lover’s family than Tony did. He also wasn’t sure how the new knowledge of who Tony was related to would change all the other secrets Alec was keeping and wanted to share with his luv.
“Well, I’m not sure,” Tony began sleepily, and Alec noticed that his partner looked to be nearly asleep. “You need to read my mo… Claire’s letter before we talk ‘bout that.”
Alec nodded and taking a deep breath, put the legal letter back in its envelope, set it aside and dove into the other letter. He had barely gotten into the second paragraph when his brain nearly exploded, and he wondered if he was being set up. He felt a brief flare of anger at the thought and lifted his head to demand answers from AJ, only to find his partner sleeping. With the sleep, the obvious worry and fear were more easily read on the other man’s face. Setting aside the paper for a moment before finishing it, Alec stood and paced to the liquor cart where he poured himself a healthy splash of Vodka swallowing it and pouring himself another before moving to the windows.
He needed to calm down and think logically. He knew that his greatest weakness was his habit of letting his temper, which was quick to flare, get the best of him. In this situation, he couldn’t let that happen. As much as it looked like some kind of elaborate set up at the moment, Alec needed to calm down and think about what little he knew.
While he and AJ didn’t have a lot of face to face time with each other, they’d known each other for years. Not only that, but Alec made a living at reading other people. The grief, exhaustion, and fear that nearly poured off his partner when AJ stepped off that elevator had been real. While Alec read signs that AJ had done some undercover work, the MI6 agent knew enough to feel confident that he could read honest emotion from fake emotion. After all, James was the best Alec had ever known and Alec could read him like a book. Not to mention Edward Paddington and the rest of the 00’s. No, whatever was going on here, AJ was not lying to him. His lover was wrung out, afraid, and looked like someone whose entire life had been shattered. Then there was the letter.
From what little Alec had read, it was obvious that whatever Claire Paddington had done she carried a great deal of guilt with her all the way to her grave. Again, Alec found himself in the odd position of knowing more about AJ’s family and life than his partner did. The letter from the solicitor was real. While Alec didn’t know the name of Lord Paddington’s solicitor, he knew enough about the man’s death to know the dates lined up. This was thanks to his brother-like friendship with both Lord Paddington’s nephew Edward, son of Clive’s older brother George, his friendship with Clive’s son Ashcroft aka Q, who was the quartermaster at MI6 where Alec worked and having been raised on the family’s estate.
Having decided that the solicitor’s letter was real, and the emotions Tony was showing to the two letters were real, Alec had to admit that the letter from Claire Paddington was therefore also real. Thus, it wasn’t an elaborate set-up, just one of those very odd coincidences that some didn’t believe possible. Alec wasn’t one of those people though. He might be a cynical bastard, but he’d seen enough life to know coincidences happen. So, turning back to the couch, he headed back over, giving his lover a kiss on the temple in silent apology, and retook his seat to finish the letter.
By the time he got to the end, Alec’s heart hurt for both his partner and his best mate. It was a good thing that the Paddington daughter was long since deceased, because the MI6 agent wasn’t sure he could control his burning anger toward her had she been alive. While they hadn’t shared details like names, addresses or other information that could be used to pinpoint who each was, they had traded stories of their lives that were general enough that they told more about how they came to be the people they were than their identity. Through these stories, Alec had come to realize, just how lucky he was to have two sets of parents who loved him a great deal.
While he had only fuzzy memories of his Russian parents, the Trevelyan’s despite being intended to simply be guardians who were to mold him into the perfect MI6 agent had shown him love and affection. It was thanks to them that when the opportunity presented itself to avenge his birth parent’s deaths at the hands of Britain and MI6, he’d been able to keep his head and not turn traitor. Not only had he had his parents, but he had grown up around most of the Paddington clan, as well.
George Paddington had, at the time of his birth parent’s deaths, been ascending amongst the ranks of MI5. The couple that raised Alec had been a newly married couple who had retired from MI6 and took in one of the handful of children orphaned by Stalin’s death squads and brought to the UK. George’s father, who had still been alive at the time, had upon the couple’s retirement and George’s request taken the couple into his estate’s employment. Thus, Alec had grown up still being groomed to be an MI6 agent but also had been informed of the reality of his birth parents’ deaths at an early enough age that he’d worked through his anger well before he’d had revenge dangled in front of his face on a mission in Russia.
Looking to his right, Alec saw that AJ was still sleeping, and after running a finger down his lover’s cheek, stood up to head to his study. Alec had a couple calls to make to ease the way for what was to come for his lover. Before that though, he was going to call his mum and dad to tell them he loved them.
~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~
When Tony woke up, his face was squished into the back of the couch, and he could hear a faint murmur of voices somewhere toward where the kitchen was. Sitting up, he ran a hand through his hair making a mess of it and turning on the couch toward the sounds behind him, he saw Alec sitting at the table with TJ. They both seemed to be coloring and talking, but they were speaking too quietly for Tony to hear what they were discussing. Briefly, he cursed his lack of phone or tablet, which prevented him from taking a picture. Shrugging it off quickly, he stood and after gathering up his cup with now cold coffee, headed toward his boys.
“What are you two up to?” Tony asked with a voice husky from sleep.
“Papà!” The little boy exclaimed happily looking up from his picture. “Unco Alec an mes color’n an tawkin bout tings. Him splainin’ dat socca stuffs.”
“Aah,” Tony said with a smile as he pressed a kiss to his son’s temple. “I see you’ve introduced him to your favorite pastime. Is he staying in the lines?”
“Creatib genus no be confined to lines, Papà,” TJ said with a scowl, “that wat Auntie Aby say.”
Tony barely repressed a sigh as he turned his attention to Alec who was watching them with a fond smile. Before the older man could speak though, TJ tugged in Tony’s sleeve to draw his attention. “Papà, hungry.”
“You just ate breakfast,” Alec pointed out, and Tony snorted.
“My son is a bottomless pit. Let’s see what Uncle Alec has in his fridge, and I’ll whip you up a snack to tide you over to lunch. Maybe then we can go exploring the neighborhood. You’ve been cooped up inside too long. You need some air and exercise.”
“Yay, splorin’” TJ cried out bouncing in his seat. After ruffling his son’s hair and giving Alec a pat on the shoulder, he headed to the refrigerator. While he was standing with the door open surveying the contents, Alec wandered over and hovered so close that Tony could feel the other man’s breathing on Tony’s neck.
“We will need to work on your food buying,” Tony quipped as he rummaged around until he found a block of cheddar and some grapes pulling them out. “Do you have any like mini crackers and nuts?”
Alec turned and headed to the pantry and pulled out a package of Whitworth’s Shots Salted Caramel Nuts and a package of Unsalted Mixed Nuts. Tony debated in his head for a moment before nodding toward the Salted Caramel Shots. They weren’t as healthy but probably had fewer things that TJ would pick out. Alec then turned and put the mixed nuts back and came back with some mini breadsticks which Tony accepted. They had those at home on occasion and his son loved them.
After putting a little plate together, Tony and Alec headed over to the windows where they could talk and still keep an eye on TJ. “I know we have several things to speak about, Luv,” Alec began as he leaned against the window and took one of Tony’s hands in his. “I am working on some things so that I can be more open with you. I am hoping that by the time that the poppet will be sleeping, and we can talk as honestly as possible until you sign some paperwork. There are things I know about you that I need to share, but I don’t want to do it while the little one is awake. I want to tell you though that…”
Alec trailed off and turned his attention out the window for a moment as Tony shoved down his surprise pausing the mass of questions forming in his mind. He trusted Alec. He ran to Alec when everything else crumbled. Tony knew there would be details they hadn’t shared, and Alec knowing the Paddingtons wouldn’t be the weirdest thing that ever happened in Tony’s life. So, he took a deep breath and waited.
“I’ve had to accept quite a few things in my life that I just would never have. I have lived in many houses in my life. I have friends that I have called family. I have had two pair of parents who love me, and I love them in return. I don’t remember my birth parents, and despite my love for them, I don’t feel as if I ever had the type of connection to them that I see in other families. I had given up on finding that or having any children in my life that I could call mine. I don’t live a life that leads to healthy relationships. So, I imagined that when the time came I’d die on some mission somewhere alone. Then you happened.
“You gave me someone to miss me. You gave me someone to think of when the missions pile up and there seems no end to death and crime. Now… Now you have given me your son. You came back into my life and brought me your son to share with me. I don’t care what he calls me. I only care that I get to share his life with you and think of him as much my poppet as he is yours. You have given me a gift that cannot be measured in money and whose value has no equal. I give my life and my soul and what is left of my honor to you to have and call your own. All I ask is that we share the rest of our lives together until one of us no longer walks the earth.”
“Fuck I love you,” Tony breathed and leaning in captured Alec’s lips in a resounding yes.
~*~~*~ ~*~~*~ ~*~~*~
That evening Tony carried a sleepy little boy from the bathroom to the guestroom that was his new home. It was fortunate that his son was a good sleeper at this stage in his life because Tony figured that it would be a while yet before daddy and Uncle Alec got to go to bed themselves. One thing that the father needed for sure was a good night’s sleep. As he crossed the threshold into the room and made his way over the short distance to the bed, Tony looked around and made a mental note that as soon as he was sure this would be their home he would talk about redecorating this space. While it would be fine temporarily, TJ needed something more child-friendly if this was to be his new home.
“Papà,” TJ said sleepily as Tony laid him on the bed. “Why couldn’ we call Auntie Ab? I waned to tell her ‘bout the ducks. An’ I wan’ to tell Nonno Unkol Gibbs bout tha boat, an Unkol Goo bout tha park, an’ an’…”
Sighing, Tony sat down on the edge of the mattress after tucking the little boy back in and giving him Mister Potamus. “Do you remember when you got mad at me a few months ago and said some things you didn’t mean because you were mad?”
“It made Papà sad,” TJ said remembering with a frown. “Did they say something bad to you?”
“Sort of,” Tony hedged momentarily, but knew his time was up and he needed to just be as honest as he could with his little boy. “Papà got some letters and found out that you have an Uncle he didn’t know about. I found out that I have another mommy and daddy that died when I was little like you. That’s when… my mommy and Senior took me. Some of papa’s friends got mad at him when he told them.”
Tony watched his son’s face shift into a frown as he thought about what he was being told. “Auntie Ab?” TJ finally asked, and Tony held back a deep sigh before he nodded.
“Yes, figlio, Auntie Abby was one of them,” Tony confirmed verbally and felt a flare of anger as he saw the hurt and confusion mar his son’s features. Abby had been insistent that Tony was being selfish in wanting to find his brother and maybe he needed to think of poor Senior. Tony still wasn’t sure how even Abby could make the old con-man a victim in all of this since he’d known the truth all along, but she had. Her actions had been the final nail in the coffin that held their friendship, and by the time he’d left the States, Tony had been more than happy to leave it and her behind.
“Tha Man?” TJ asked interrupting Tony’s thoughts, and again he nodded his agreement.
“Yes, Senior, too,” Tony again confirmed as his thoughts shifted to his son’s stubborn refusal to call Senior anything other than That Man. Tony tried his best to limit his son’s exposure to his grandfather and certainly tried his damnedest to make sure he was never left alone with the asshole. Gibbs told him once that Senior had shown up while the Team Leader had been babysitting. When the former sniper tried to go to the kitchen to get TJ a sippy cup, the little boy had crawled after him. When Senior tried to stop him, the toddler screamed his head off until Nonno Gibbs came and saved him.
When TJ gave a little huff, Tony smiled and shook his head in amusement. “The Mad Lady?” TJ asked, and like before Tony nodded.
“Yes, figlio,” Tony agreed. “Ziva, too.” Like Senior, TJ had never taken to her, and for the longest time had called her That Lady. Then one day he learned what mad was, and after that Ziva became The Mad Lady.
“Nonno Unkol Gibbs? Unko Goo? Nono Doktor Duk? Unko Gemin?” TJ asked apparently tired of asking one person at a time. From the way his son’s eyelids were at half-mast, Tony knew the questions wouldn’t last much longer.
“No, Figlio,” Tony said with a soft smile. “None of them were mad. Nonno Uncle Gibbs, Nonno Dr. Ducky, and Uncle Gremlin all said that we were doing the right thing in looking for your Uncle James. Uncle Goo said he wasn’t sure he understood what to believe, but that if this was what I thought we should do then he supported us. Papa’s hoping that someday we’ll be able to contact Nonno Gibbs and Ducky, and Uncle Goo and Gremlin again and they can come to see us. Right now, though, Papa doesn’t want Auntie Abby, That Man, and The Mad Lady to find us.”
“Unko James here?” TJ asked apparently not out of questions, and Tony gave one more nod. The father wondered though given how much his son’s eyes were drooping that the small boy would remember. He had a feeling that at some point he’d be repeating most of this.
“I believe he is, baby,” Tony advised softly. “Papà also has some family on his mommy’s side that he is thinking of contacting. I am hoping that I can find us some more family, munchkin.”
“Keepin’ Unko Alec?” TJ asked with a big yawn as his eyes fell shut, and Tony suspected that there wouldn’t be many more questions.
“I’d like to,” Tony admitted as he pulled the sheet up higher over his son’s chest. “Papà likes him an awful lot. Would you be upset if you and I lived here forever?”
“No,” TJ admitted softly as he rolled onto his side hugging Mister Potamus tightly. “Papa, dos I got get rid of Misser Potamus?”
“No, baby, no,” Tony said quickly, and leaning over kissed his son’s forehead when he saw a quick lip tremble. “Mister Potamus is your buddy! It doesn’t matter if Papà and Auntie Abby aren’t friends anymore. Mister Potamus is still your friend and I would never take him away from you. Maybe we can get you another friend to go with him though, huh?”
“Ok,” TJ agreed with a sigh and it wasn’t much longer before his son’s even breaths told Tony that the little boy had finally fallen asleep. Leaning over, he kissed TJ one more time, and then Tony stood and left making sure the intercom was still on and the bathroom light across the hall was on.
Making his way back to the living room, Tony heard Alec’s deep voice coming from his study. So, needing some caffeine to get him through till he could go to sleep himself, the former NCIS agent set about making a cup of coffee. Once that was done, he moved to the windows for more people watching, until his Love joined him again.
When he heard Alec coming, Tony turned away from the quiet street and leaned his back against the glass as he waited. “Did the poppet get to bed alright?” Alec asked, and Tony nodded as his lover came up and gave him a kiss on the lips before pulling back slightly. “Why don’t we go to the couch? I think we’ll be more comfortable there. I would like to finish our talk. There are enough secrets in my life, and I don’t want there to be any more of them between us than is necessary.”
“I agree,” Tony offered as he allowed himself to be led with his coffee in his free hand. As he sat, Tony noticed that Alec had a tumbler of clear liquid, most likely Vodka. After the two of them settled on the couch, the Brit put his tumbler on the coffee table and turned his body so that the two of them were facing. Tony echoed his actions but picked up one of Alec’s hands to curl their fingers together as he waited for the older man to start.
“I was born in Russia,” Alec started, and Tony offered a nod of understanding but remained silent as he listened to the story. “My parents tried to leave because they were in danger with all of the political things going on at the time. They didn’t trust that things were really changing and wanted something better My parents escaped in the middle of the night with just themselves and me in a group of other people doing the same. We made it all the way to Britain before we were stopped. They tried for asylum, but it was denied, and everyone was sent back. There were those that were not happy about it though, and the group was monitored, especially the 6 of us that were children.
“Once we got back to Russia, my parents along with the rest of the adults were all murdered by a radical group who still believed in Stalin’s way of doing things. Stalin had died, but not enough was really changed yet even though Khrushchev was in place. So, those that had been watching us found a way to sneak the 6 children back out of Russia and we were taken back to Britain to safety. Two of the agents in charge of that operation became my parents. I was only 6 when I was adopted, and my parents began working for the Paddington family in 1974.”
“I was two,” Tony murmured quietly drawing a grin from his lover and a quick kiss on the lips.
“And a beautiful babe I am sure you were, Luv,” Alec threw back saucily. “Me mum and dad still work on the estate. It was your Uncle George that really got them the job there. At the time we moved there, your Grandfather Albert was still alive and running things, but it was Georgie who convinced him. Dad started out working in the security detail for the grounds, and my Mum was Albert’s secretary. When he passed things to Georgie, my mum moved with him. Eventually, dad moved up and basically heads the estate security, which includes a protection detail for your Uncle George.”
“George needs a protection detail?” Tony asked with an arched eyebrow and watched Alec nod as he went on. “And you grew up with my relatives. This is so weird, and honestly, so my life.”
Alec snorted with amusement going along with the mask his love was offering as he recognized the pain and uncertainty the humor was trying to hide. “I guess that is what makes us perfect together, Zaichonok. There’s more to tell you though. As you have, I am sure, deduced from my tale thus far your Paddington family and I work for a British intelligence agency. I cannot tell you more about that right now. They are still finishing up the background work on you to make sure it is safe to bring you up to speed. Fortunately, your former Directors Vance and Morrow have been very helpful in that manner I am told and gave uhh Q the information he needed. In addition to the Paddingtons and myself though… Your brother James works with us as well.”
Tony gaped at Alex in surprise as his mind tried to process what he was being told. “OK, this is getting too weird. You have to be making shit up.” Tony threw back and got up to pace around the room for a moment.
Alec watched him head into the kitchen and poke through the cabinets coming back with a bottle of Fuze Peach and Hibiscus Tea and a container of Pringles. Both of which Tony and TJ had been happy to find at the grocery. There were definitely foods in Alec’s refrigerator and cabinets that didn’t normally reside there, but he was more amused by it than anything. As Tony pointed out, finding familiar things would help settle both himself and TJ into a new country. When a bottle of water was set down next to his tumbler of Vodka, Alec did let out a soft laugh and gave his boyfriend a grin.
“You really work with James?” Tony asked before popping a crisp in his mouth and offering the open top to Alec to take some. While he worked a few out from inside, the Brit nodded.
“I do, Luv, and I know it must be hard to believe that this is all coincidental, but as far as I know it is. I believe that it is something that is being verified to make sure there was no one sinister behind our meeting. Even as cynical as I am though I cannot imagine what nefarious scheme would hinge on our meeting. I can also promise this is not part of any kind of plot I am aware of. I would not have participated in such a thing once there was a little one involved.”
“No,” Tony shot back quickly shaking his head in emphasis, “I’m not worried about that.”
“At some point in the process that brought me here, I had to decide if I was going to trust you completely or not despite how few life details we know about each other. So, I trust you. I can’t…. Yeah, I can’t imagine why someone would plot to get us to meet. So, I’m gonna ignore Rule #39 here, ‘cause despite what Gibbs thinks sometimes there are coincidences. I just… You know James. I can’t… I thought it would be harder to find him. This is a little Days of Our Lives for me.”
When Alec arched an eyebrow in question, Tony just shrugged and offered a half smile. “American Daytime Soap Opera. I used to watch it in college. Actually, a bunch of us at the frat house watched. Is James…. Can I… Does he know… Fuck! I don’t even know what to ask right now.”
“Hey, now, Luv, easy,” Alec soothed as he moved closer so that he could move a hand over one of Tony’s shoulders. “You’re tired. You got very little sleep last night and had only a short nap today before we chased a small child all around London today. Your life has been tossed into a bloody blender, and you could only pin your hopes on someone you know very little actual information about. If you weren’t frustrated and flustered I would be highly surprised.”
Once Tony took a deep breath and nodded, Alec continued. “Now, to answer your question, yes. I really do work with your brother James. Or, I should say I believe we do. God help us all if there’s more than one James Bond in the world. We’re having visitors in the morning. So far, only George and the… Director, as you’d call him, of the organization I work for are aware of the full details you have shared with me. Your cousin Ashcroft doing a background check on you, but he is not aware of why he’s doing it just yet. Mallory and George didn’t want to take complete control over this. They understand this is a delicate situation. He will be by in the morning for brunch with your cousin Edward to be filled in with whatever information you want to share with them, and Ash will have swabs to get some DNA from you. That will allow us to compare it to James to be sure of things. Uhh… there’s also something of a… romance going on between your cousin Ashcroft and your brother James that I think you need forewarning about.”
“Holy shit,” Tony breathed and set his empty bottle and the half-empty Pringles container on the coffee table. “How very Jerry Springer of us. I can’t even… I am waving the white flag. I think I’ve hit my limits. We need to talk about things concerning TJ and if it’s ok for us to live here with you and… But I can’t…”
“Hey, it’s alright,” Alec soothed setting his empty tumbler aside and moving so that he could pull Tony into his arms. “Of course, you and the little one can live here. I thought we’d settled how much I want you both here with me. This is actually the perfect place for you because it is about as secure as you can get. There’s enough room for you and me, TJ and a nanny should you decide you need one. Let’s go to bed, Luv. You need to sleep. I will probably wake before you. So, I will get things ready in the morning for our half of the brunch. Ash and Edward are bringing some things with them. So, we don’t have to do everything. Alright?”
Nodding his head, Tony allowed himself to be pulled up and herded toward the bedroom. His mind and body were exhausted enough from the day’s activities and revelations that for once, he fell right to sleep. The next day would have more revelations of their own, but they could wait for now.
End Note: I write fanfiction for fun. It’s a hobby and a stress relief. I refuse to stress over my writing. What you see is what you get. Errors, plot holes, and all. Thank you for reading my story!
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