Chapter Five: Moving from one path to the next
The sun was bright in the sky when Tony found himself in the kitchen alone with Patrick. There were still people outside processing things, and someone had to come out to deal with the broken window, but for the most part, things were settled down. Still too wound up to sleep, probably from a lack of having anything constructive to do, Tony decided to start cooking. Eventually, there would be hungry people that needed to be fed.
Derek and Seeley were outside involved in things there. He was glad that Gibbs hadn’t yet moved into the guest house. He knew if he had that there was no way his friend and mentor would have stayed out of the situation going on outside. The last thing that Gibbs’ recovery needed was for him to be involved in the stress of the mess Ziva had created. Deciding to do steak and eggs after eyeballing the package of steaks that needed to be used, but hadn’t been, Tony took the meat out. He then decided to chop up some fruit that looked like it needed to be used also to make a big fruit salad.
He’d just begun cutting up the pineapple when Patrick came into the room heading straight for the caffeinated coffee pot. “Going for full leaded today, huh Papà?”
“Hmm,” Patrick offered before coming over to perch on one of the stools watching Tony work. “I have people coming out to look at the window today and what can be done until that part of the house is released back to us. I’m afraid you will have to use one of the other suites for the moment, Antony. I am sure John won’t mind if you use his.”
Tony scrunched up his nose, too busy dumping pineapple in a bowl to wave his hand like he wanted. “I’m not surprised. It’s not a big deal, as long as you’re sure John won’t care that I use his room.”
“He won’t,” Patrick assured easily before grabbing a parry knife and the bananas. “I will have Jack ask him though when he calls him to let him know what is going on. I know he will be upset if they aren’t informed. I think I am going to take this opportunity to change that wing into yours. I’ve been meaning to do it but didn’t want to make changes without you being here. Since you’re going to be around, I’ll have the people that I normally use come to find out what you want to do with it.”
“You don’t have to do that,” Tony objected, stopping his cutting to look up at his father who just gave him a look that clearly said the words coming out of Tony’s mouth were nonsense.
“Antony, you are my son. All of my boys have wings here at the estate. As you’ve noticed this place is huge and we have more wings for people than we have people to decorate them for. This house has been in the family for generations and added onto and redecorated more times than I can keep track of. That wing is yours and it needs to reflect your tastes and wants even if you only use it for holidays, or not even that often. John hasn’t been in his for at least two years. It isn’t as if he’s home often. David and Charlie are normally here every chance they can. Aiden is somewhere in the middle. This is your home as much as theirs and I want you to feel comfortable in it.”
Tony stared at his father for several long minutes but eventually nodded and just quietly gave in. He had no idea what the hell he’d do with an entire wing of rooms. Maybe he could convince Seeley into letting him decorate a suite for him and Parker. It felt like his friendship with the FBI agent was shifting into something more like brothers than friends, and he wanted his brother to have a place in the house. When he mentioned it, Patrick gave him a proud smile.
“Of course, Antony. I would love for Seeley and his son to have a space here. John’s wing has been redecorated to incorporate rooms for team members that have never even been in them. If Seeley is family to you, then he is family to us. Now, I believe you were beginning to tell me something before Derek ran into the study last night. Do you remember or want to tell me what it was?”
Tony very much remembered what he wanted to say, and after the conversation that he’d just had with his Papa, he felt like it was needed now more than it had been even last night. “I just… I feel like… Fuck.”
Tony huffed and turning moved to get himself some more coffee knowing he wouldn’t be getting more than a nap or two that day. Once he got back to the island, he moved on cutting up some veggies having diced up all the fruit he wanted. It was possible someone would want an omelet instead of steak and eggs and he wanted to have the stuff for them if needed.
“I think you have to understand the family situation I came from Patrick to understand what you’ve given me,” Tony started finally deciding to stop fighting his mind and just speak.
“Even when my mother was alive it wasn’t like she was the perfect doting mother or even the kind you’d see on a modern sitcom. She was an alcoholic who liked to dress me up like she would a doll. The thing is though that she loved me and did her best to make sure that I knew how much she loved me, even if she didn’t know how to be a parent. Senior never wanted anything to do with me unless there was some business deal or something that he thought a cute kid could earn him favor in.
“Senior was more apt to tell me how stupid and worthless I was then hit me, but it wasn’t like he never backhanded me in one of his drunken moments. I’ve never considered myself physically abused, but then I’ve been told my own perceptions of my childhood aren’t the best.
“When mom died, I was devastated because it felt like she was literally all I had. Then she was gone and all there was, was this guy who couldn’t stand me no matter how much I wanted him to love me. As I grew up and went from one boarding school to another until he threw me in a military school, I was this angry, lonely kid who got picked on or just ignored because I was weird or gave off massive leave me the fuck alone vibes.”
Tony paused to take a deep gulp of his coffee hating that his voice was so husky from the emotion and tried to blame a parched throat for it. “The entire time he had me locked up, except for that nightmare trip to Maui when I was 12, I just wanted him to love me, to notice me even as I was cursing him and his very existence. In his mind, I was just some faulty carbon copy of him and had truly little use. There were times I would spend days lost inside my own head imagining this very thing that ended up being true.
“He wasn’t my father, someone else was and any minute they’d come swoop in and save me from the crappy, lonely life I was stuck in. I’d make up whole situations and shit sometimes for strangers I’d see on the street. Sometimes it would be some movie star or someone I saw in a magazine. The older I got though that seemed less and less likely. So, one day I just stopped hoping and wishing and resigned myself to the notion that this horrible person was my only living parent.”
Turning away from the island Tony moved back to the refrigerator and pulled out some eggs, then gathered the steaks he wanted for himself and Patrick before moving to the stove. As he waited for pans to warm up, he turned and looked at his Papa leaning his back against the counter and looked at this man who had made his dreams come true.
“The older I got though the more I realized just what kind of a human being Senior was. I mean not only was he a crappy father, but he’s literally a criminal despite the song he likes to sing about being misunderstood.
“He’s sexist and a misogynist. He’s definitely a narcissist and extremely manipulative. So, the more I realized about him the more I loathed the fact that I was related to him while at the same time still had this little kid inside me locked away who desperately wanted a parent. Someone I could love and look up to and believe in and who wanted to be a part of my life. I’d watch movies and tv shows where families would go see their child, sibling, whatever, and try not to long for that same thing.
“I wanted so many things that a lot of people just have and take for granted that sometimes I had to fight to keep my mouth shut when say McGee is griping about his sister and not shout at the top of my lungs that he should be happy she at least loves him and cares! Then one day I have to take this odd blood test during my annual physical and my entire world gets turned on its head.”
Tony rubbed his hands over his eyes and paced back to the fridge getting out the butter he’d forgotten and orange juice forcing himself not to pull out the vodka that he knew was stashed somewhere in the kitchen to mix in with it. For several moments he puttered around the kitchen pulling things out he didn’t need yet and tidying things that didn’t need to be straightened before he finally calmed down enough to finish his story.
“All of a sudden there was this man in my life who fucking asked questions like how are you doing son? Is there anything I can do to help? Or sent me a text just to say not trying to push I just want to make sure you’re alive and ok without pushing the boundaries I know you still need. Fuck, I mean the day I got that text I almost made a fool of myself in the bullpen, ‘cause I couldn’t believe you’d actually care. They don’t let people who fucking cry at text messages carry around guns, but I wanted to weep like a hormonal teenager over a simple checking in text.
“Do you have any idea what you’ve given me? You gave me everything, Patrick. You gave me family. You gave me brothers who fucking do the same check-in shit you do, apparently even when they’re in another galaxy. I have a home that is partly mine that apparently has been in my family for generations that you’re fucking customizing an entire wing for me to spend a few days a year in! I don’t… I don’t know if I have the words to make you understand what you’ve given me.”
Tony turned back to the stove and dropped the steaks into the cast iron skillet he’d unearthed deciding to let the filets cook and then do the eggs after. Satisfied that they were set to cook he turned back once more to finish saying what he needed to, marveling at the fact that Patrick had stayed quiet this whole time.
“You didn’t give me a father, Papa. You gave me a family. You gave an identity to a man who’s been undercover since he was 8. You gave me a name I can be proud of not because of the digits in your banking account but because of the person you are and have become.
“The fact that we’re standing here after my best friend shot a Mossad Agent, because fuck if Ziva was really ever anything else, in your home breaking a glass window and you’re just all… well we’ll just use this as an opportunity to redo your wing instead of telling me how ungrateful I am. The fact that you’re not telling the entire SEAL team outside how incompetent I am and that you’re the true Sheppard is a brain fuck on the level I am not sure I can compute.
“My former boss is about to be installed in one of the guesthouses. You’ve hired Seeley a lawyer to help him get a better arrangement with Parker. Don’t think I don’t know you bought that fucking house Derek hasn’t been able to unload. It’s like I’ve stepped into my own fucking version of Leave it to Beaver and all I can think is how fucking much I love you and how fucking grateful I am for a goddamn blood test.”
The last bit was forced out with a half sob as Tony put his hands over his face trying to calm down. When he felt arms go around him, he nearly lost the battle and gave into the urge burying his face in the crook of his father’s neck and inhaling the scent he knew would have comforted him as a child. His whole life that very moment was what he had wanted. If just once Senior had put his arms around him and said Son, it will be ok. I love you and I believe in you and together we will fix this, then Tony would have been so loyal to him that he would have told the whole world to fuck off blood test or not.
“I don’t care that you used to be not a perfect person,” Tony continued, pulling back and looking over Patrick’s shoulders because he was too scared to look at him in the eye. “I don’t care that there are skeletons in your closet. You’re rich and powerful. You run one of the most successful companies on the planet. I am not naïve. I understand what that means. I care that you’re trying to be a good man and you love us. You’re a million times the man and father that Senior ever was. So, I just… I just want to say thank you for… for giving little kid me the thing he wanted more than anything else in the world.”
“Antony,” Patrick murmured cupping Tony’s face between his hands and forcing Tony to look at him. “You are my son, my blood, and even when I was not nearly the man my children deserved that meant everything to me. I may never be the man that I want to be, but I swear on my Emma that I will never be the man who you thought was your father is. Me, this family, this house, all of it are nothing less than everything you deserve from us, and everything I will ensure that you receive. I love you, my child. I treasure you the same as I do your brothers, and I pray that there is never a time in your life going forward where I give you a reason to doubt that.”
Nodding Tony leaned in for a hug one more time and thought that just maybe this would all work out the way it should.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
It was three days after Seeley killed Ziva that Gibbs moved into the guesthouse on the estate grounds to finish his recovery. Tony had been unsure about crowding him but was too excited to have the man there to stay away. So, there he was standing awkwardly in the doorway to Gibbs’ bedroom. Technically, Tony’s former boss was eligible to leave the hospital long before he did, but no one felt it safe to put him on the estate with Ziva on the loose. Everyone knew that getting to Tony for revenge or to Gibbs for help would be her primary goal and didn’t want to increase the risk to the man she hadn’t made her primary target.
“Is this lingering in the doorway thing gonna become a habit?” Gibbs grouched prompting Tony to enter the room. “If it is, then you’re gonna have to break yourself of it real damned quick.”
Tony snorted as he moved further into the room and move to sit down next to the bed. “The lack of caffeine is painfully apparent, Boss. I’m not sure we’ll both survive this experience. I’m just glad we’re not in the bullpen.”
Gibbs just rolled his eyes at him and Tony squirmed in his seat before blurting out the question weighing heavily on his mind. “Is this whole thing my fault, Boss?”
“Not your Boss anymore, Paddington,” Gibbs grouched again shooting Tony the evil eye. “And of course, it isn’t your fault. What kind of dumb assed question is that?”
Tony shrugged and played with the edge of the quilt on Gibbs’ bed as he tried to explain. “From the start, I had a bad feeling about her. I didn’t like her being on the team, and no matter what everyone thought it wasn’t just because of Kate. Besides the obvious factor Ziva played in Kate’s death, she wasn’t qualified to be there. She shouldn’t have been touching evidence. She shouldn’t have been driving our vehicles. She had no respect for our laws or policies. The fact that a defense attorney never figured out legally she shouldn’t have been doing half the things she did makes me question the qualifications of a shit load of lawyers in this country.
“I mean not only has she torpedoed her own life she’s taken Abby and McGee down with her. The team is done. NCIS has to replace the entire Major Case team. We’ve had two corrupt directors. One of which is dead and the other one’s career is done whatever the fuck his name really is. You’ve had a heart attack and I’m the lone man standing…. Only I’ve gotten as close as I can to leaving the agency as I can without actually leaving the agency.”
“Jesus Paddington,” Gibbs swore shifting on the bed to sit up straighter as he glared at Tony. “Even for you, that’s some outstanding ability to take bullshit that has nothing to do with you and find a way to blame yourself for it.”
“Gibbs,” Tony started only to be glared into silence.
“Shut it and listen. Because I don’t want to have this conversation again. Let’s start with Vance. As you obviously seem to know there is some question as to if he is really Leon Vance. That happened well before he even knew you. So, his career was corrupted before he knew any of us let alone you. His inability to see beyond his own bullshit is not on you. I have said it more than once and I will continue to say it. You were the best young agent I have ever worked with, and you have matured into the best agent at any US Federal Agency in my opinion.
“I will give you that maybe you had a hand in Abby’s downfall but it’s such a minuscule amount I don’t even know why I’m giving in to your self-blame crap. The bottom line is that she’s a grown assed woman who’s older than you are and acts like she’s about 12. I love her like a daughter, but I am not blind to her problems. She’s childish and immature. She has issues with admitting her own blame or fault. She’s so hung up on being abandoned that she can’t see how badly she stifles people or how controlling she is towards the people she claims to care about.
“Something went wrong with her after that incident in her lab when we were chasing Ari. You and I probably should have insisted she get some help, but that doesn’t make us responsible. Despite everything, she’s not actually my daughter and only she is responsible for her actions.
“The bottom line is that she made the decision to try and alter that tape. It’s only dumb luck that she got caught in the act, but I’ll take it. She then compounded her error by physically attacking a Federal Agent. Whatever happens to her from this point forward is on her. Not you, not me, but her and I will not sit by and let you blame yourself for what’s going to happen to her.”
Tony wanted to huff but resisted the urge. “She was my friend. I should have done something, noticed that she wasn’t right, and said something.”
“And you think she would have responded positively to that or even listened at all?” Gibbs argued right back. “Like I said I’m not saying you and I are without blame totally when it comes to Abby, but what I am saying is that at the end of the day she is an adult and her actions are on her, not us.”
“What about McGee?” Tony shot back not wanting to argue about Abby anymore.
“What about him?” Gibbs replied and reached out to take a drink from the tumbler next to the bed.
“McGee owes you for everything that he has achieved from the time he joined the team to now. When he joined this team, I didn’t expect him to last a month. He was a stuttering nervous mess and half the time I wasn’t sure he wouldn’t piss his pants when I gave him an order. Your training methods may be unconventional, but they worked. McGee’s problem is that he’s so stuck in this mindset of being the victim of being bullied that he hasn’t moved past it to see there’s a difference between then and now.
“Had they played a prank on you in the bullpen or anywhere other than in the field in the middle of a case, you and I both know you wouldn’t have had a problem. Hell, you would have probably been proud that he had the balls to prank you. However, there is nothing funny about leaving your partner without backup when you’re in the fucking field chasing terrorists. Not only is it not funny, but it also goes against everything that we believe in. Frankly, the fact that the son of a goddamned Navy Admiral doesn’t understand basic concepts like teamwork and the appropriate time and place for that shit astounds me.
“I’ve never been terribly impressed by Admiral McGee, but I can guaren-goddamned-tee you that he won’t be impressed by his son’s nonsense. In my opinion, this bullshit about being careful with McGee because of the Admiral is just that. It’s bullshit. His father will probably tear Tim a new one when he finds out what happened, and frankly, I don’t feel sorry for the kid at all. Tim has always made assumptions about you based on the crumbs of information that he got about you.
“Could you have shared more with him? I supposed so, but you didn’t, and frankly, him thinking you’re some kind of obnoxious jock asshole doesn’t excuse him from the bullshit that he went along with. Tim’s biggest problem is that he’s still trying to be one of the cool kids. He wants to be in the in-crowd and prove to the perceived jocks like you that he’s better than you.
“That mentality has no place in our environment, and honestly I have no intentions of going to bat for him. His bullshit excuse that he was afraid of Ziva is just that. If he’s so goddamned weak-minded that he couldn’t even try and stand up to her then he had no place being in that car or on our team. As often as we have heard Ziva threaten people, you will not convince me that she would have actually hurt him had he not turned off the sound. Done something later? Maybe. But right then, I have my doubts. That isn’t me excusing her actions either. It’s just not being willing to let him use everyone else for the reason why he did what he did.
“Just like Abby, he is a grown adult. He made the decision ultimately to turn off the sound on those coms and leave you without backup, violating the very core values of being in any kind of law enforcement or federal agent position. I saw how much you put into training that kid, Tony, but the fact that he crashed and burned, in the end, is ultimately on him, not you. If he had a problem with your teaching methods, then he had a dozen different ways of expressing that. In the end, what he did had nothing to do with anything other than he wanted to be in with the cool chick.”
Tony couldn’t stop himself from running a hand over the back of his neck as he stared at a point on the wall across the room not wanting to see Gibbs’ expression. “I just… I mean, of them all Tim was my probie. He was my responsibility and I feel like his failure is my failure. It feels like there was something major in him that I didn’t see or didn’t train right for him to think what he did was acceptable.”
When Gibbs replied, his feelings on the comment were painfully evident in his tone. An item Tony should have anticipated after all the years they’d worked together. It had been a long time since he’d needed verbal and visual clues to know what Gibbs was feeling or thinking most of the time.
“Had you been pranking him recently, Tony, I might buy that. The thing is that other than your McNicknames, you haven’t really pranked him in a while. You’d backed off because I am assuming that you saw what I did, which was that it wasn’t needed anymore. You’d moved to trying to have something resembling a friendship in the way you know how, which was learned in boarding schools, locker rooms, and in a frat house. As I said, if Tim had an issue about that, he should have manned up and just come to you instead of pulling his passive-aggressive bullshit and going along with Ziva’s orders. For all his ambitions and goals, he never had a chance to get there until he learned how to stand up to strong personalities.”
“And Ziva?” Tony asked quietly and then watched Gibbs run his hands over his face.
“Look, Ziva is complicated. There’s a lot of people responsible for Ziva, except for you. You tried to warn me when she first joined the team and I blew you off. I saw the reports you filed while I was gone and the questions you asked when you were the Team Leader, and I saw the non-responses. Jenny never should have put her on the team. I hate to think that Jenny put Ziva on the team with the general ok just to do as she pleased as long as she got the information she needed about her father, but looking back I don’t know what else to think. Especially knowing now what I know.
“Then the fact that they followed Jenny up with someone else so damned closely associated with Eli fucking David is mind-blowing. I certainly didn’t help matters by constantly undermining your responsibility. Tim actually went thru FLETC and knew half the shit she pulled was illegal and yet he just went along with it anyway. The Ziva situation is a mess, and as much as I hate to say it, to be honest, I’m not sure that her life could have ever ended any other way. The part that I hate is that Eli will never see it that way, and you and Booth will have targets on your back until someone eventually takes him out.”
“You think they’ll go after him?” Tony asked surprised looking up from the water bottle he didn’t even remember picking up. “He’s the Director of Mossad. That’s one hell of a hit.”
“Between you, me, and the wall, I don’t expect Eli to hold that position much longer. Even within his own government, there was some dissent about his leadership of Mossad, and Ziva getting killed trying to go after an American Federal Agent won’t go over well. Whatever few supporters he has left will most likely head underground and leave him holding the bag. I’d like to think that will be the end of him, but in my opinion is that will only make him all that more dangerous.”
“You think he’ll do his own Anakin Skywalker to Darth Vader story arc?”
“As much as it pains me to understand that reference, yes,” Gibbs drawled, and Tony grinned proudly puffing out his chest slightly.
“What about us, Boss? Are we really good?”
“I mean, I’m laying in a bed at your family’s estate, Paddington. It isn’t like I didn’t have other options. Ducky nearly pitched a fit that I wasn’t going to stay with him until he found out where I will be.”
“I need to find a way that he can visit,” Tony murmured making a mental note to talk to his father and Seeley, who had been put in primary charge of Tony’s protection. “Jimmy too for that matter. I don’t want them to get lost in the dust, and I want to at least get a chance to say goodbye. I don’t know how much I will see them after this even though I’ll be staying with NCIS. What do you think they’ll do to Abby and McGee?”
When Tony shifted his gaze to Gibbs’ face, he noticed the older man was starting to look tired, and almost said forget it when he started speaking. “My guess is Abby at least will be gone. Possibly McGee too depending on what happens when they fill in the Admiral on what happens. I think Owen is going into this expecting Admiral McGee to claim his son did nothing wrong when I think he’s going to do the exact opposite. The man may be an asshole of a father, but he’s damned good at what he does, and he’d never tolerate that bullshit within his command.
“My guess is that they’ll both have to sign a shit load of paperwork saying that they’ll keep their mouths shut about what happened and most likely they’ll both be very closely watched for the rest of their lives. Of the two of them, as much as I hate to say it, I think Abby is the most risk. She’s gonna be a loose cannon. I don’t think she’ll take losing Ziva well and between her and Tim I think she’s the most unstable.
“McGee I am guessing will move into the private sector doing something with computers or maybe writing full-time. I don’t really see him going to the dark side as you’d say. I think he’s still aware enough to at least know that nothing good will come from that, and there’s plenty of companies that don’t have government contracts who won’t give a shit about what he did. Abby though…”
“I’ll bring it up with Seeley and Dad,” Tony said quietly rubbing his face before standing. “In fact, I better go do that now. You look like you need a nap.”
“Naps,” Gibbs grouched making Tony smile. “Feel like I’m in kindergarten again.”
“No, just recovering from a damned heart attack,” Tony chided patting the man’s shoulder. “Be a good patient, Boss. I need you to take over watching my Papa’s six. Someone needs to make sure that he stays alive, and I can’t think of anyone I’d trust to do that more than you. So, listen to the doctors, ok? I still need you around.”
“Yeah ok, Paddington,” Gibbs said softly before closing his eyes, and by the time Tony shut the bedroom door, he could already hear his mentor’s regular breathing.
Leaving the guesthouse and heading to the main house, he waved at one of the security guards to make sure they knew Gibbs was alone. Tony’s mind was on the conversation he’d just had with his former Boss. Always Boss in Tony’s mind no matter how fucked up it was and how unsupported he’d felt at times. The fact was that Gibbs had been Tony’s family before Tony knew he had a family. That wasn’t something he was willing to just set aside now that he was learning what the word really meant.
If anything, the Sheppards were showing him just why he needed to do his best to keep Gibbs in his life. Family was everything no matter if it’s your blood family or the one you create for yourself. Tony knew he had a lot left to learn there, but somehow, he didn’t think leaving Gibbs behind would support the new path that he was trying to follow.
End Notes: I write fanfiction for fun. It’s a hobby and a stress relief. I refuse to angst over my writing. What you see is what you get. Errors, plot holes, and all. Thank you for reading my story!