Chapter Two: Late Night Conversations & Peril
Late that evening when he should be sleeping but was unable to, Tony had taken up his inspection of his father’s townhouse by perusing the library lined with floor-to-ceiling shelves of books and knickknacks. Every so often he’d pause to pull a book off a shelf or lift a picture frame or some item sitting on one of the shelves up in his hands to study it closer. He was at one of those moments where he was studying a book titled The Reaper in the Vale by Rocco Chang when he heard Patrick enter the library and felt the older man stop behind him.
“What did you find?”
Tony showed the spine before slipping the book back onto the shelf. Fantasy had never been his thing. He hadn’t pictured Patrick as a Fantasy fan and said as much only to get a chuckle from his father. “I’m not. That would be your brother John. I added some books from his wish list for when he is in town for meetings.”
“I thought John was in the Air Force on some secret assignment,” Tony questioned turning and arching an eyebrow at his father who just offered a smirk and a shrug.
“He is, but he leads the… assignment. So, at times he needs to come back to town to meet with those above him in his command.”
Tony this time tilted his head as he processed the words that didn’t make a whole ton of sense to him given what he knew about the military. Either things were handled a lot differently in the Air Force than in the Navy or Marines, John was much higher up the chain of command than Tony was aware of, or there was something about John’s assignment Tony wasn’t aware of.
“Huh,” Tony offered as he looked briefly toward the bookcase before moving back to his inspection of the library. He noticed Patrick sitting down with a tumbler of brown liquid that Tony guessed to be scotch, but he didn’t immediately comment.
“Thank you for today,” Tony finally said quietly with his back to his father, but turned, trying to keep an open expression on his face. “I appreciated your support. Given how I’ve treated you, you didn’t have to do all of that. It means a lot to me though that you did.”
“I thought we already settled this,” Patrick murmured with a sigh. “There is nothing for you to apologize for. Of course, I’m going to support you. You’re my son, and while I may not have been and probably am not always the best father, I’d like to think that I would be there for any of you when one of you comes to me directly for assistance. I hate that you think me supporting you in a time of need is anything other than what an even semi-competent parent should be expected to offer his child.”
“I just,” Tony started then stopped as he made his way over to sit in one of the chairs near Patrick. “I feel like I’m messing this all up. You deserve better than I have given you in this father-son thing. I know earlier that you said that you understood and all that. It’s just, I’m not used to my parent being so understanding, I suppose. It feels like I’m missing out on an opportunity, and I don’t know how to get from where I am to where I want to be.”
“Well, I doubt that it will happen overnight, Antony,” Patrick offered after taking a sip of his drink before setting it on the end table next to him. “It isn’t like we are on some timetable, though. We have plenty of time to learn about each other and for you to learn about your brothers.”
Tony gave another frustrated huff at the mention of brothers. That was something else that Tony had wanted but thus far hadn’t been able to trust he really had. It felt somewhat overwhelming, and Tony honestly wasn’t sure where to start at. One day he was an only child with a crappy, hateful father, and by the time he went to sleep that night he had a father who very much wanted to be a part of his life, and three brothers who were eager to get to know him. It was all a little too Twilight Zone for him.
“Tell me about them,” Tony asked as he got up and paced around the room again for a few minutes before grabbing a bottle of water from the mini-fridge and then heading back to his seat.
“Well, your brother David is the oldest and the first of my sons with my first wife Emma. David is 14 years older than you, born on December 19th at not quite 1:30 in the afternoon. He works for Sheppard Industries and will take over for me someday when I retire. I’m afraid I put a lot of expectations on both his and John’s shoulders when they were children. David though seemed to thrive on them and every time I set an expectation or goal, he took it as a challenge to not just meet but beat.
“I think you know that he is married with twins. His wife Charlene, who everyone calls Charlie, is the head of our Research and Development Department. They actually met at SI and hid their relationship for quite a long time because of our fraternization rules. It wasn’t until he realized that he wanted to marry her that he came clean about their relationship. Since then, we’ve tweaked some of our dating rules to try and be more accommodating.”
Tony nodded thinking about what he knew about his oldest brother. “The twins were named after you and Emma right?”
Patrick nodded offering a soft smile as he, Tony guessed, thought about his grandchildren. “Yes, Thomas Patrick and Emma Katheryn. Charlie’s parents’ names are Thomas and Katheryn. They both wanted to name the children after their parents. With David’s mother and Charlie’s father both having died when they were young, they found this to be a fair agreement. They are both five and I am not ashamed to admit their grandmother and I spoil them much more than either David or Charlie are happy with. Like myself though, Kathryn is determined to do as she pleases without outright going against their wishes.”
“Hmm,” Tony offered with a frown. “I met Nonno and Nonna DiNozzo once and used to see Zio Vincenzo on occasion as a kid before mom died. I think they were nicer to me than Senior ever was. I always wondered how such wonderful people could have a son or brother like Senior who is so morally corrupt that he can’t get out of his own way. I guess though that they aren’t really Nonno and Nonna or Zio really since Senior wasn’t my father.”
“He was married to your mother,” Patrick pointed out sympathetically. “Senior is essentially your step-father, thus still making them your family. Are any of them still alive?”
Tony quickly shook his head and answered as he played with the paper label on the water bottle. “No, Nonno and Nonna DiNozzo died not long after mom did. Sometimes I wonder if things would have been different if they’d still been alive. I don’t know as he was afraid of Nonno DiNozzo, but it seems like, looking back, that Senior at least listened to what his father said, usually. Zio Vincenzo died when I was in college. An armed robber came in during the day and shot him when he didn’t have as much cash as the junkie thought he would.
“I used to think about him a lot when I was a cop and working patrols. His death definitely influenced me when my knee got busted up and I was trying to find a new path. I hope they aren’t upset that Senior isn’t my father. I mean, I’m not a religious guy, but I’d like to think there’s something out there for good people after they died. Like, Nonno and Nonna are in a big garden, with Nonno Camille planting his flowers and Nonna Robin sipping her tea or painting. Zio Vincenzo occasionally brings them sandwiches from his butcher and deli shop.”
“I hope the same, my son. I’d like to think my Emma has found them and maybe she brings my parents with her when they go to visit them. Emma would love to help your Nonno Camille with his flowers. She loved her gardens. Was always planting things. The family estate even has several greenhouses so that she could work on her own plants and saplings in the winter to plant when Springtime came.
“I was very glad to find out that Charlie likes flowers too, and little Thomas seems to be taking after her. He already likes going out with her and helping. Although, Little Emma hates getting dirty and would rather be in the kitchen or drawing. You draw, don’t you?”
Tony nodded shyly then answered after swallowing the last of the water from his bottle. “Yes, although I don’t do it as much for pleasure as I used to. I may start doing it again now that I won’t be working so many crime scenes, or I hope I won’t be. Somehow drawing dead bodies and places that held dead bodies takes the fun out of drawing for pleasure. What about John? You’ve hinted that you two don’t get along very well? Did I interpret that correctly?”
Patrick nodded before draining his tumbler and setting it aside in what seemed to Tony a deliberate action. “I am afraid I made a lot of mistakes with John. In some ways, I wasn’t much better with John than Senior was with you after Emma died. Like you, John was closest to his mother, and I should have seen his trauma despite my own heartbreak.
“Unlike David, John always seemed to want the opposite of what I planned for him and chafed at my expectations. I should have wised up sooner, learned quicker, but I didn’t. Instead, I just kept placing more expectations on him. Hell, I am quite sure that I am the only reason he married his ex-wife.
“I’ve seen him with his Partner Rodney and looking back he was never once that relaxed or happy with Nancy as he is when he looks at McKay. I am ashamed of the hateful words I threw at him that drove us apart for so long. I think that if it wasn’t for Aiden, John and I never would have reconciled.”
“Rodney is a scientist, right? I think I remember that being mentioned at one time.” Tony questioned then got up to get two bottles of water. Handing one to his father, receiving a quiet thanks, before sitting back down.
“Dr. Meredith Rodney McKay has doctorates in Astrophysics and Mechanical Engineering along with a degree in physics also. He will tell you that he’s the smartest man on the planet, but then he disregards most sciences that he considers soft.” Patrick joked with an obvious affectionate smile on his face.
“He works for the same program that your brother John works for, which we need to get you read into by the way. I’ve been meaning to discuss it with you again, I know you weren’t ready at the time we first talked about it. I hope that you are now. I don’t like secrets like this within the family.”
“I understand secrets and classified projects,” Tony protested, but Patrick just waved a hand. “Rodney may be smart, but I don’t know about smartest. There’s a profiler at the BAU that I guarantee could give him a run for his money. Dr. Spencer Reid is certainly the smartest man I’ve ever met. I play basketball sometimes at the Y with his best friend Derek Morgan and another FBI agent Seeley Booth. Reid is scary smart and has spread his degrees around pretty well covering a lot of diverse subjects.”
“I don’t like you not knowing when all of the rest of the family is involved. Even Aiden has been read in. I’ve already talked to the man who heads up the project and I believe the background work has already been done to read you in. It was just a matter of you being ready for it. I’ll see about having that meeting soon. That way you have time to adjust while you are deciding where to go next.”
“You’ve mentioned Aiden a couple of times,” Tony pointed out shifting to settle more comfortably in his chair. “What’s he like? He’s in the Navy, right? I confess I did look him up since I had access to his records. He seems to be on a fast track to something.”
“That would be to becoming a SEAL,” Patrick quipped as he too shifted positions as if mirroring Tony. “I would like to think that you and Aiden will benefit from the things that I learned with David and John. Well, along with my grandchildren that is. Yes, Aiden is in the Navy and his mother is very much alive. She is a very sought-after lawyer. While I cared for Jordan a great deal, looking back I can see that our relationship was one of more convenience and loneliness than anything.
“I was tired of being alone in my bed every night and Jordan was beautiful, charming, and familiar. Her family and mine have been friends for generations. Things were fine until she got pregnant, and we couldn’t ignore how incompatible we were in all the wrong areas. Do not get me wrong. Jordan loves Aiden, she just had no interest in being a full-time mother to a newborn, even one that could afford a nanny.
“It wasn’t like I expected her to give up her job to raise Aiden, but she resented even the little time she’d lose from her career to have him. Fortunately, there was no question that she would go through with the pregnancy. I honestly don’t know what I would have done if she had wanted to abort the pregnancy.”
Patrick sighed and Tony thought that he heard some regret in the sound. “Once we realized that we differed in such a fundamental area as raising the child we’d created, things just mostly stopped. The good thing was that we had known each other most of our lives and were able to still be friends. We just were not made to be a couple and looking back I can see where I saw things in our relationship that wasn’t there. I don’t regret Aiden though. I love him as I do all you boys.”
“What’s he like?” Tony asked curiously and unconsciously leaned forward. “There’s quite a big age difference between him and John, right? Is he close with his other brothers? Is he the normal spoiled youngest child or is he a loner because there wasn’t anyone else his age in the house?”
“Aiden is a conundrum,” Patrick joked, and his affection for his son was obvious on his face. “John has called him Little Alpha since Aiden was just a small child, and yet despite he is not related to her in any way, Aiden has Emma’s sensitivity. He’s always had this switch he flips in his head. One second, he’s crying because a butterfly got killed and the next second he was going after some older boy or person because they upset one of his friends.
“I honestly think that if it hadn’t been for Aiden’s birth, I would have lost John altogether. Fortunately, John was fascinated by Aiden. I think it’s the only reason he ended up going to Harvard instead of Stanford where he was all set to attend.”
“It’s because of John that when Aiden came to me and said he didn’t even want to go to college, he just wanted to join the Navy after graduating that I was able to be supportive instead of destroying another relationship. I also think that Aiden is the only reason John told us about his current assignment when he got it. I am pretty sure that without Aiden we’d never have known what John was doing.”
“What’s Aiden’s relationship with his mother like?” Tony asked curiously he settled back in his chair, realizing he’d leaned forward far enough that his elbows were resting on his knees.
“It’s,” Patrick started then stopped, Tony guessed searching for the right words, then started again. “Their relationship is unique to them. I have always tried to stay out of his as much as I needed to, and only making sure Aiden wasn’t hurt. Jordan would get wrapped up in cases and would forget Aiden but since she wasn’t raising him it worked out. Frankly, she still does, but now Aiden is old enough it isn’t a big deal. I assume not having her around on a daily basis helped with that habit when Aiden was small.
“Despite not being Emma’s son, he’s always wanted to know about her and was as curious about her as he was his own mother. John says that Aiden and Jordan are more like Aunt and Nephew, while David says their relationship is what they each need, and mostly tells me to stay out of it. Aiden does have his mother’s drive, though.
“That may be why he understands her absences so well. He’s always seemed to know who he was and where he wanted to go, and he’s never been willing to let someone stand in his way. Aiden has always adored AJ, and I think it’s because of him that my son is so determined to be a SEAL.”
“AJ? SEAL?” Tony parroted cocking his head to one side, and Patrick shook his head. “That sounds awfully familiar.”
“Yes, have I not told you? Of course, I haven’t, or you would know. AJ Chegwidden, your lawyer, is my ex-brother-in-law. I am sorry Antony. I don’t know how I have neglected to tell you. I suppose I am just used to people knowing. Aiden’s mother is AJ Chegwidden’s younger sister. Our families have known each other for more generations than I can recall. David would know for sure. He is quite taken with genealogy and has traced the Sheppard family tree back as far as he is currently able.”
“That’s a little weird,” Tony murmured scrunching up his nose.
“Too weird?” Patrick asked looking concerned, and Tony gave a laugh and shook his head.
“When you’ve spent time in a frat house, nothing is too weird, Patrick,” Tony offered stumbling over his father’s name for a moment before correcting himself. “Dad. I need to work on calling you dad, not Patrick.”
“Whatever you are comfortable with, Antony,” Patrick assured his voice suddenly husky as if he were holding back a great burst of emotion.
“No, if we are going to be what I want us to be, it’s dad,” Tony argued leaning forward again. This time though he rested his elbows on the ends of the chair arms.
“I want us to be close. I want that relationship that I’ve always dreamed about. Not just with you but with David, John, and Aiden, too. I know John will be harder because he’s so far away, but I want it. I’ve never been afraid to work hard to get something. You don’t become a high-level two-sport college athlete at a big-name college, or the youngest detective in Philly PD history if you’re afraid of hard work.”
“So, if you don’t mind it’s dad,” Tony insisted with a soft sigh. “I think I will miss being able to use the Italian terms for things since apparently, I am not Italian. I may miss that more than being related to Nonno and Nonna and Zio Vincenzo.”
“Would it help you to know that two of your grandmothers were Italian?” Patrick quipped and laughed outright at the excitement that Tony knew must be on his face. “My mother and her mother were both born in Italy. In fact, they were born in the same small town. So, you most definitely have Italian roots in your genetics, my son.”
“Then would you mind Papà?” Tony questioned eagerly. “I always liked that. Vincenzo’s daughters used to call him that, and I always thought it sounded cool, but Senior hated it. Said it was common and beneath them.” Tony wrinkled his nose and let out a disgusted huff at the mention of the man who had claimed to be his father for all of those years.
“I wouldn’t mind Papà at all,” Patrick assured with a smile. “My mother used to call her father Papà and I always liked it myself. I always wished one of the boys took more of an interest in their Italian side, but all three of them were more interested in other things. As to us being close, I would love that, Antony. I meant it when I said that I was happy to have whatever type of relationship you want.”
Sitting back happily Tony drained his bottle and set the second one next to the empty first bottle. “Then Papà it is, and I look forward to the journey we will undertake to that relationship.” Leaning back, Tony let out a deep breath and wondered if it was only his imagination that somehow the load on his shoulders felt lighter than he was used to.
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Gibbs was sitting at the bench in his basement holding a block of wood in his hands, but not actually working on it. His mind was turning over all the things going on at work as he tried to figure out where the disconnect was between what he knew about Tony and the things the Director and the rest of his team were claiming.
When he’d found out that Tony would be off sick, he was immediately concerned, because Tony had never taken as much sick leave as he needed to. Even after the damned plague, he came back quicker than he should have. Yet, with what everyone else claimed was just a simple sore throat, he was taking an undetermined amount of sick time?
When he’d gone to check with Director Vance about the call from Dr. Pitt informing him that he’d put Tony on mandatory sick leave, Leon was outright dismissive of the effect it would have on the team. For some reason, every time Tony was gone the man acted like it was no big deal, and then acted confused and usually irritated when things didn’t get done either as quickly or as efficiently as when Tony was around.
It was like the man had some damned mental block that was preventing him from recognizing Tony’s worth and importance to the team. If he thought more about the Director himself, Gibbs might spend more time trying to change the man’s opinion of the best agent he’d ever worked with. The thing was though that he didn’t care about Vance’s opinion on anything, and thus just let the pompous ass stew in his own ignorance.
Abby, Tim, and Ziva though were the puzzling part of the whole thing, with Abby being the one that confused him the most. Tony had never really warmed up to Ziva, and more than once over the years she’d been on the team, Gibbs wondered if he should have listened to his SFA’s protests when she joined the MCRT.
McGee was a lost cause of a hopeless follower. For someone who had his sights set on the big chair, the man did little to cure himself of his habit of being led around by his nose by whatever pretty woman or strong personality was near. People always accused Tony of being a lapdog, but if there was anyone who resembled that or a yes man it was McGee. There were times where Gibbs was tempted to demand x-rays be taken and make sure the man had a spine at all.
Again, like Ziva, it wasn’t the first time over the years that Gibbs had wondered if bringing McGee onto the team had been the best idea. Along with that, he wondered how good of an idea it had been to assign Tony to mentor the younger man. Looking back Gibbs could see that Tony’s teaching style didn’t mesh well with McGee’s personality and insecurities. And Abby…
Abby seemed to have had a sudden complete change of mind where Tony was concerned. Gibbs expected her to be more worried and thought he’d see more handwringing when he informed her that he’d be out sick. Instead, she’d been dismissive and almost cruel in her claim that he was just playing things up for attention and was being a big baby about the whole thing.
As if that weren’t odd enough, she’d then gone on to hint that Tony was all of a sudden completely incompetent and claimed that if it hadn’t been for Ziva the case never would have been closed. Now, while Gibbs was willing to admit that Ziva had helped wrap things up, he hadn’t forgotten that the reason Tony had to take time off. He was forced to go around that whole neighborhood getting voiceprints, while McGee and Ziva sat on their asses in the car. Something that Gibbs still didn’t understand.
He’d expected that the three of them would split things up and take turns getting voiceprints. Instead, Ziva and McGee claimed Tony was “selfish” and hogged the limelight for himself leaving them to sit in the car bored all day. The whole thing was hinky as Gibbs was used to Abby saying and couldn’t figure out why the word wasn’t coming out of her mouth now.
Gibbs was drawn from his thoughts at the sound of his front door opening, followed by what sounded like two people entering before it was closed with a bang. Curious as to who his visitors were, Gibbs set the block of wood aside and turned toward the stairs just in time to see first Tom Morrow and then Harmon Rabb come down his basement steps. An odder couple might have never visited him there before.
“Tom, Harm,” Gibbs greeted cocked an eyebrow at the glower he was getting from the young JAG leader. “Something I can help you two with?”
“You are a complete jackass,” Harm seethed making Gibbs’ eyebrow arch further. “And if that woman jeopardizes any of my cases, I’m holding you personally responsible.”
“Harmon,” Morrow chided with a sigh as Gibbs turned his attention from the JAG to his former Director. “Gibbs, we’re here to see if you’re part of the problem or if you’re just blind to what is going on around you.”
Gibbs was quickly convinced that hinky was a perfect word for whatever was going on. He wasn’t sure if he hoped that this odd visit had something to do with the weirdness at NCIS or not. He wasn’t sure that he could handle two odd things happening at once, but at the same time, Harm’s words were extremely concerning and seemed to hint that Abby was involved in whatever was going on. Although he supposed he could mean Ziva, also. Somehow the thought that it was her and not Abby didn’t make him feel any better.
“I assume this means that something has happened?” Gibbs finally asked, directing his question to Morrow instead of Rabb who still looked to be trying to glare holes through Gibbs’ skull.
“After you and Vance made that idiotic trip to Israel allowing Tony to be questioned by Mossad, you told me that Ziva forced you into choosing between herself and Tony,” Morrow started, and Harm let out a sound that was half huff and half growl that only added to Gibbs’ confusion.
“I need to know if that has changed. Are you still on Tony’s side? If it came down to it, and you were forced to choose between Tony and Ziva who would you pick?”
“Picked Tony once,” Gibbs pointed out confused, “nothing has changed since then, Tom.”
“I don’t see any reason why I wouldn’t choose him the second time. Wouldn’t say I’d like it, but I’ll always pick Tony.”
“What about Abby?” Tom questioned, and Gibbs stilled at the words his concern over what was going on forming a cold ball of anxiety in his stomach. “If you had to choose between Abby and Tony, who are you choosing?”
“Something happen that I don’t know about?” Gibbs shot back in lieu of answering. “This got something to do with why everyone was weird today, and Abby acted like Tony was NCIS’s suspect #1?”
“Just answer the question, Gibbs,” Tom insisted firmly reminding Gibbs that things at NCIS had run much smoother and the atmosphere had been much calmer under his reign. If you have to choose between Tony and Abby, who are you choosing?”
“Depends on the situation most likely,” Gibbs said honestly trying to buy himself some time as his mind worked its way through the possibilities. The fact was that while Vance had always disliked Tony, and underestimated his value, Tom Morrow had always highly valued Tony’s worth to NCIS. There seemed to be an edge to Morrow’s words today that Gibbs couldn’t put a word to the feeling he got. He just knew it hadn’t been good.
Abby was the real clue here though that things weren’t what Vance and his team wanted him to believe about Tony. Along with her insistence that Tony was suddenly incompetent and dragging the team down, she had also been rather concerned with reminding Gibbs, and that he understood, she was not just his favorite, but that NCIS needed her. Not just needed her but going so far as to claim that the agency couldn’t get by without her.
Turning his attention away from his visitors, Gibbs studied his workbench top as he thought back to a visit that he’d gotten from Patrick Sheppard not long after they’d discovered he was Tony’s real father. The man had been rather scathing in his opinion of Gibbs’ leadership abilities along with his review of the people placed around Tony. While at the time he’d written the visit off as the words of some out-of-touch billionaire control freak, Gibbs couldn’t help but think of some of the accusations the man-made.
At the time Gibbs had wondered where the man was getting his information. Tony claimed, and Gibbs had believed him, that he’d basically been holding his new family at an arm’s length, not comfortable with trusting them yet. Now he wondered if two, or at least one, of those people providing Sheppard with information, wasn’t standing in his basement. If Morrow had given Patrick Sheppard such a scathing review of Gibbs’ team, the former Marine couldn’t help but consider his words now.
As much as it had pissed him off at the time, Gibbs couldn’t help but admit that there had been times over the past year that the words had come back to him. Especially when he noticed what appeared to be two or even at times all three of a combination of Ziva, McGee, and Abby ganging up on Tony. Every time though it had seemed like Tony had been rather unphased by it, brushing the whole thing off as a joke, or throwing something back some zinger of his own.
“They did somethin’ didn’t they?” Gibbs asked turning his attention back to Morrow who seemed to have just stood and quietly watched him think. “Abby, Ziver, and McGee I mean. The three of them did somethin’ on the last case.”
“They did,” Morrow confirmed, and when Harm started to speak, Tom just put a hand on the younger man’s arm making Gibbs wonder if somethin’ wasn’t going on there.
“To answer your question from earlier, I’d pick Tony,” Gibbs insisted with a frown and unconsciously rubbed his chest at the pain the thought of turning his back on Abby brought. “Wouldn’t like it. Everyone knows Abby’s like a daughter to me. Haven’t exactly hidden it. Thing is though that Tony’s strongest quality is his ethics. He may sometimes skirt right up to that line, but he’s steadfast in his determination not to cross it. The others….”
“Yes?” Harm asked seeming calmer and Gibbs noticed Tom still had a hand on his arm. “What about the others?”
“McGee’s a follower. He’ll let Abby and Ziva lead him around by the nose until a stronger person, more likely than not another woman, comes along who expresses interest in him. Abby, I used to think was the same way, but somethin’ happened a while back that she handled in a way I didn’t expect. Ziva’s, well, she’s exactly what I’d expect Eli’s little girl to be.
“As much as I want to believe that she wouldn’t betray me, I’m not blind to the fact that she’s daddy’s little girl. Plus, I’m fairly certain that Abby and Ziva have somethin’ goin’ on that violates Rule #12. Didn’t expect them to be the two that hooked up, but I’m not blind to the signs. So, what did they do?”
Gibbs watched Tom and didn’t fail to notice how Harm was also watching the current Homeland Assistant Director with something more than just expectation in his gaze. Briefly, he wondered if Tom was going to finally get his man and then shoved the thought away to examine later.
“Ziva and McGee turned off the coms on Tony while he was getting voiceprints. When Abby found out she laughed at him and told him he was being a baby. When he went to Vance, he was told that maybe he shouldn’t dish things out if he couldn’t take it.”
Gibbs rubbed his chest again, this time the pain came from the thought that Tony distrusted him so much he hadn’t even tried to come to him. Feeling suddenly exhausted, Gibbs picked up a nearby rag and wiped off his forehead.
“I pick Tony, Tom. I’ll always pick Tony. I fucked up, didn’t I?”
“While I’m pretty sure your prior actions led to Tony not being willing to come to you, I wouldn’t say this was your fault,” Tom advised with a frown as the older man looked his way. Gibbs rubbed his chest wishing it would make the ache there go away, but it only seemed to be increasing.
“Gibbs? You feeling ok? Chest hurt? I can see you’re sweating, and it sounds like you aren’t breathing right. You have any heartburn? Feel dizzy?” Rabb asked as he came forward looking concerned.
Gibbs just blinked at the younger man as his head swirled with thoughts about how badly it seemed that he’d let down his former partner and one-time friend. His therapist had been hinting that he needed to make changes in both how he handled Tony as well as how he ran the team. It had been a goading comment from Patrick Sheppard that led him to go to see the shrink. He’d been meaning to reach out to the younger man, but the more he was faced with the bullshit he’d either let happen or turned a blind eye to over the last five-plus years, the harder it was to seek him out for that talk.
Blinking he looked up at Rabb who seemed to be passing Morrow his cellphone. The two men’s words seemed muffled and miles away even though they were now both right in front of him. He heard enough though to get there was something else wrong.
“Tom… call 911… Heart attack.”
~*~ ~*~ ~*~
Sitting in the ER wasn’t what Tony had planned for his evening. He and Patrick had been sitting in the library talking college sports of all things when they’d gotten the call. Hearing that Gibbs was the reason they were contacted, and for something as perfectly common as a heart attack, wasn’t even close to being on the list of things he expected to hear. It was certainly messing with his head and making him question things he’d been perfectly certain of.
He was sure that his relationship with Gibb was mostly over and that fact was carved in concrete. The concrete might have been drying, but Tony was as certain as he felt he could be in his current situation. Suddenly though the thought that his friendship with his boss and sometimes mentor was going down in flames with the rest of the blaze consuming NCIS made him sadder than he expected it to.
While logically he knew that Gibbs wasn’t invincible, hearing he’d had a heart attack was a reminder that the man was, in fact, human. It was a reminder that Tony was wondering if he hadn’t maybe needed. The second confusing moment had come when he found out that somehow, he was Gibbs’ Legal Next of Kin and Medical Power of Attorney. The last Tony heard, Ducky was Gibbs’ selection for both, but apparently at some point, Tony had signed paperwork for both and not realized it.
Knowing that Gibbs trusted him enough to put his life in Tony’s hands was infuriating and simultaneously humbling. “I don’t know what to do, Papà,” Tony admitted quietly to his father seated by his side.
“Don’t worry, Antony. I’ll call the family physician and see about getting a recommendation for a cardiologist, the best if necessary.” Patrick promised patting his hand, but Tony just shook his head.
“That isn’t what I meant,” Tony confessed as Rabb came back into the room with coffees, handing everyone their choices. “I don’t know what box to put Gibbs in now. I mean, Jesus, Papà. He trusts me enough to literally put his life in my hands, and I didn’t trust him enough to even tell him what McGee and Ziva did. Apparently, I’m not only a crappy son, but I’m a shitty friend, too.”
Patrick gave him the stink eye, which Tony ignored promising himself that he’d work on the crappy son thing. Even if it was only stopping saying it out loud so it stopped aggravating his father.
“Just because Gibbs was smart enough to trust you with his life does not mean that you should have done the same,” Morrow commented calmly sipping his coffee from where he stood nearby.
“While I don’t claim to be able to read Gibbs’ mind, I’d say something has changed. It’s been a couple of years since I have had a face-to-face conversation with the man, but he was much calmer about the whole discussion than I’d expected.”
“Yeah, it was odd I have to say,” Rabb admitted from where he’d set next to Tony. “I mean I kept waiting for him to start bellowing or break out the scotch, but instead he was quiet and almost introspective. I mean, at one point he actually waited to speak, and I am guessing he was considering Tom’s question before replying instead of just giving a knee-jerk answer.”
“Huh,” Patrick commented, and Tony’s head whipped toward his father as his eyes narrowed.
“Something you want to confess?”
“Well, I will admit to going to talking to the man not long after I found out about you. As you are aware, I did a check on your team, and I found out some things I wasn’t pleased with. So, I went to see Gibbs and we had… words.” Patrick admitted not looking in the least bit sorry about it.
“I may have made a goading comment about him needing his head examined but not thinking he was man enough to do it. I didn’t actually think he would do it though.”
“You see a shrink?” Rabb asked sounding surprised, and Tony almost snorted coffee out his nose at the way Patrick’s arched eyebrow relayed just now unimpressed his father was with the question.
“I lost a wife, and then almost lost a son because I was a dumbass. It was either see a shrink or lose my family. I will have you know I may be stubborn, but I am not stupid. So, yes. I saw a shrink and if Gibbs was willing to see one so that he could be a better friend to my son then I am willing to do whatever I can to support him.”
“Noted,” Rabb said quickly, and Tony just smirked in amusement as he looked at Morrow who was smiling fondly in Harm’s direction.
“So, what did you find out tonight?” Patrick pressed leaning back and stretching out his legs. “Did you learn anything before the heart attack?”
“Not as much as I’d like, but enough to believe that Gibbs will be on our side,” Tom explained. “As the only person here, who knows Gibbs as well as Tony does, I can honestly say I was surprised by the reaction we got tonight. I also believe that something happened recently, possibly even today that had Gibbs already thinking things with this over. I am confident that we can put our trust in him.
“I also wonder if he’ll stick around if Tony leaves the team. I’ve never looked at Gibbs and thought he looked old, but there was something about him today that just made him seem confused, maybe a little defeated.”
“The man was on the brink of a heart attack, Tom,” Harmon pointed out, and it was only Tony’s undercover skills that kept him from arching his eyebrow at the use of Morrow’s first name in a tone that was… more familiar than he’d expect.
“I know it was hard to see if you don’t know Gibbs well, but I am telling you something had him shaken today, or at the very least contemplative. Something happened today that already had him thinking. Gibbs isn’t one for sitting around and waiting for answers to come to him. So, I don’t think he’d been contemplating what happened for very long. I don’t know what happened, but I think we need to work Gibbs into our plans both current and future.”
Before anyone else could comment, Brad wandered in with his hands shoved in his jeans. The first call Tony had made after hearing that Gibbs had a heart attack was to his friend to see if he would be able to help get any information, despite it not being Walter Reid Hospital.
“Brad, how is he?” Tony asked standing immediately.
“It’s gonna be ok, Buckeye,” Brad assured, and it was only Patrick’s arm wrapping around his waist that kept Tony standing. “I mean, he’s gonna have some work to do, lifestyle and eating habits will need to change, but he’s gonna be fine. It wasn’t as serious as it could have been had JAG Rabb and Asst. Dir. Morrow not been present. Honestly, I don’t know if he’ll make it back into the field. He’s had quite a few medical issues now, but he’ll be alive.”
“Whatever he needs,” Patrick promised, and Tony saw his father look first at him before looking toward Brad. “I have no doubt that we can find him a place somewhere in Sheppard Industries. If nothing else, David has been complaining I need some kind of personal security for years. I can hire him to make sure people don’t shoot me.”
Tony narrowed his eyes at the sound of people being angry enough with Patrick that David thought he needed some personal security but pushed that thought off to discuss later. “Dad’s right, Brad. Whatever Gibbs needs. Maybe it’s time Gibbs lived his life for himself and not NCIS.”
“Hear, hear,” Morrow agreed toasting Tony with his coffee and sitting back in his seat letting his head hang. The SFA, for the moment anyway, let himself come to grips with the fact that he was getting a second chance at a friendship he thought gone forever.
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!