By the time Kate brought the car around DiNozzo was standing on the sidewalk, dressed in an ill fitting suit, talking to Abby on an unfamiliar cell phone, with Ducky hovering at his elbow.
"Do I want to know how you got those?"
"Not unless, you want to be charged as an accessory."
He climbed, carefully, into the car, schooling his expression as the movement jarred his ribs. Kate frowned, although he had been cleared for the concussion his ribs wouldn't heal properly if he insisted on pushing himself too fast too soon. And it had only been a matter of days since he had taken a bullet to the shoulder.
"Tony, maybe this isn't such a good idea."
He ignored her in favour of listening to whatever Abby was telling him. The light tap on her shoulder surprised her and she twisted to see Ducky leaning forward from the back seat, his gaze steady.
"I fear that this little excursion, arduous as it may be, is essential to ensuring his full recovery," He murmured softly. "Think of it as therapy."
"I don't know Ducky," Kate whispered back. "Wouldn't he be better off just seeing a physical therapist?"
"Not physical therapy, my dear."
"Alright, Abs. Got it. Thanks. Yeah, I will. Bye," DiNozzo clicked the phone shut. "If you two are finished talking about me behind my back. We need to head north east."
The journey didn't take as long as Kate expected. And the modest villa didn't look like the sort of place that the millionaire Anthony DiNozzo Snr would be seen dead in. She winced at the unintended thought.
"You don't think that Gibbs ..?"
"You're right," Tony said shortly as he exited the car. "I don't think. Stay here."
Kate stopped short, more in surprise at the manner in which the words were delivered than in obedience to the actual order. As a former secret service agent she had made no secret of the fact that she thought she was just as good, if not better, than the ex cop. In her heart she had been slightly resentful of the fact that DiNozzo was the Senior Field Agent, assuming that the promotion had been earned by longevity. He'd never struck her as a natural leader.
Still, he wasn't the boss of her.
Well, all right, with Gibbs out of action, technically he was. But she couldn't just sit here and let him throw away his career. Decision made, she went to get out of the car.
"Perhaps we should do as he asks, my dear." Ducky's grip on her arm was surprisingly firm.
"He might need back up."
Ducky looked at her, a keen eyed gaze that always reminded her of the forcible intellect behind that slightly eccentric exterior. "I'm sure that Jethro will have taken all necessary precautions. And as for young Anthony, he's not going to do anything foolish."
"You can't know that."
"Actually, I am quite sure. Anthony, isn't here to exact revenge on his father. He's here to ensure justice for Gibbs."
"Oh," Kate realised. "And for Gibbs to be released .."
"Anthony will need to persuade his father to confess his role in recent events. And as we both know, young Anthony can be very persuasive."
Holding his weapon at the ready Tony eased the next door silently open. The pungent smell that assaulted his nostrils was his first indication that this room was occupied. The ragged breathes and muttered curses were his second clue. As was the unsteady thump, thud, as the occupant, tied to the chair in the centre of the room, futilely struggled against his bounds. Keeping his gun in his hand he straightened up.
"Having trouble with the knots?"
The stark fear in his father's voice afforded Tony a certain grim satisfaction. He knew that Gibbs hadn't been about to do anything illegal. Not here and now in the full glare of the media, FBI and local law enforcement. A few monthstime on a dark night in an anonymous town was another matter. Gibbs was a man trained to serve his country, who saw nothing wrong in using deadly forve to achieve that goal.
And so was he.
"Not exactly," Tony circled around the chair noting the look of surprise on his father's face as he levelled his weapon. "Hello, Dad."
The word was laced with sarcasm, deliberately designed to trigger memories of their last meeting, when he had stood frozen with shock and betrayal, looking down the barrel of his father's gun.
"You .. you're alive."
Tony blinked; it hadn't occurred to him that his father would think that he had actually killed him. But then DiNozzo Snr had been high on the adrenalin of putting two bullets in his chest rather than paying close attention to his surroundings. And he wasn't a NCIS officer. Or even a CSI. Hell, he didn't even watch that much television.
"There was no blood," Tony pointed out shortly. "I was wearing a vest."
"You knew?" His father's eyes narrowed at the very idea that his son had suspected a plot. "You couldn't possibly.."
"You want me to read you my resume? I'm a Federal Agent, Senior Field Agent on the team with the best closure rate in the whole NCIS. I take down scumbags like you for a living and I'm good at my job. You want to know what I know?" Tony challenged. "You better make yourself comfortable because it's going to be a dammed long list."
Two hours later Tony watched with an unreadable expression as his father signed a full confession, up to and including the attempted murder of his son.
He couldn't bring himself to thank him.
Taking the list he went to fold it and put it in his pocket.
"It will never stand up in court," His father's voicesneered. "It was extracted under duress."
"Oh, this one?" Tony shrugged easily. "This one's just for me. At your age it's better not to take any chances. You know what they say. The memory is the first to go. This way I'll know if you forget anything or anyone you destroyed when you talk to the FBI."
"And if I choose to say nothing?"
"Then Gibbs will go to prison and I will kill you."
His father laughed, a hollow mocking sound, that had haunted Tony throughout his childhood, every time he failed to live up his father's expectations, which was pretty much all of the time. "You already tried that. You don't have the guts to stand up to me. All you ever do is run from your problems."
With an icy calm Tony stepped forward and grasped his father by the hair, forcing his head back, as he used his other hand to push the muzzle of his gun into his throat.
"Now you listen to me, and you listen good. I don't much care what deal you and your fancy lawyers cut. A man like you won't last two minutes in a Federal prison. But I'll be dammed if I'll let you ruin a good man like Jethro Gibbs, so you talk or you die. And I'll be watching you. There isn't a place on this earth you can hide from me. If you ever do anything to hurt Gibbs or anyone else ever again I will personally see to it that you are a dead man and you will never even see it coming. Do you understand?"
"Y - Yes."
"Good," Tony patted his face, his teeth drawn back in a feral smile as he straightened up.
"W Wait." His father protested. "You can't just leave me here."
"Just watch me."
With an immense feeling of satisfaction, he drew back his fist and let fly, hearing the satisfying crack of bone and cartilage as the man's large nose broke, flattened, and spread across his face.
"That's for Gibbs."
Turning on his heel he ignored the primeval cry of pain as he made his way out into the sunshine. Raising his eyes to meet Kate's he consciously blinked away his weariness. With Gibbs out of the picture he was in charge. Had to look the part.
"Call the FBI, tell them we have a package for them. Give them the co-ordinates."
"We're not staying?"
"No," Tony was already walking towards the car. "Let the FBI take out the trash for once."
"I'm coming to you live from the Las Vegas Field Office of the FBI here on East Charleston Boulevard where our sources say millionaire Anthony DiNozzo has pleaded guilty to numerous charges of fraud and embezzlement .."
Kate scowled and turned her back on the reporter as she continued to do her piece to camera. Picking her way through the small crowd of media she finally spotted Tony sitting on the edge of the sidewalk.
"Here, I thought you could use this," She offered him one of the coffees in her hand. "Three sugars, right?"
"Thanks." He flashed her a weak smile and accepted the cup. But he didn't drink from it.
"Look, Tony, I .." She faltered. Despite her best efforts, he had been silent all the way back from the Villa and frankly she was worried. She'd never seen him like this. She would happily endure a little teasing about caring about him, if it would get him to open up a little But she had no idea where to start.
"That for me?" The owner of the voice snagged the other coffee out of her hand and she looked up to see Gibbs taking a long swallow before she even had a chance to protest. Smacking his lips in satisfaction he sighed. "Too dammed long. FBI almost made me break my own record."
"The FBI rationed your coffee?" Kate teased. "Isn't there something in the Geneva Convention, about that?"
"If there isn't there should be." Gibbs took another satisfied gulp.
"So, does this mean you're a free man? Or did you just sneak out for a caffeine hit?"
"FBI never had a leg to stand on once DiNozzio Snr started singing,"
"You just walked right up to them and asked them to arrest you didn't you?"
"Pretty much," Gibbs didn't try to hide the fact. "I sure as hell wasn't about to let DiNozzo be the victim in any of this."
"So, you set yourself up as the fall guy, knowing that Tony would go to the bat to get your ass out of the fire."
"You profiling me, Agent Todd?"
"No, I'm just saying, that you knew that if you rode in to the resuce and scared Tony's father off yourself he might never have got over any of this. But if he took down his father to save a friend, at least he would be able to live with himself."
Gibbs' eyes went unerringly to where Tony sat. "So, how's he doing?"
"Not good," Kate admitted. "He hasn't touched his coffee."
"Shame to let it go to waste," Gibbs crumpled his now empty cup and dropped it in a nearby trash can, before striding over to DiNozzo and simply plucking the second cup out of his hand. Tony didn't even look up. With a sigh, Gibbs settled himself down beside him.
That got him a reaction at least
"Morrow is probably writing the reprimand for my file as we speak."
"Field Agents are supposed to improvise," Gibbs dismissed that. "And since you closed the case for them, I think the FBI has to roll over on this one."
"We done here, Boss?" Tony's voice didn't hold out much hope.
"You know the drill, DiNozzo."
Tony sighed. SOP stated that he would have to be cleared by the attendant psychologist before he returned to duty. Gibbs' law said he could bullshit the shrink as much as he liked but his Agents had dammed well better tell him the truth.
"I aimed to kill," Tony admitted softly. "I'm not proud of that. But I'm not sorry either."
"He was an armed suspect," Gibbs strove for dispassionate. "Its what you're trained to do."
"I guess, I'm lucky that he's such a lousy shot," Tony shrugged. "He had a clear target. If he had hit my shoulder again, I would have been out of commission for at least a month."
"If he had shot you in the head you would have been out of commission permanently." Gibbs said shortly.
"There is that."
Tony's expression darkened and Gibbs' mentally kicked himself for the none too subtle reminder that his own father had deliberately tried to kill him. As if his role in bring him into this life gave him the right to end it when he didn't live up to his expectations. He was supposed to be cheering him up.
"This is why we keep Abby around." He remarked, ruefully.
The corners of DiNozzo's lips quirked as he heard the apology Gibbs hadn't given, just as his Boss had intended. Gibbs took advantage of the slight thaw and decided to press a little further.
"You could have told him, you already knew about Shannon and Kelly."
Tony shook his head decisively. "I told you no-one would ever know what I knew and I keep my promises, Boss. Its not like I found out by fair means. If I had known .." He trailed off, offering Gibbs an apologetic look.
"You did nothing wrong," Gibbs' tone was firm. Truth be told he had been as impressed as hell when he had discovered that his new Agent had had him checked out and done such athorough job. "You do background checks on all your prospective bosses?"
Tony looked sideways at him, arching one eyebrow curiously. Gibbs pretended not to see the lines of strain around his eyes and the hollow, sunken cheeks.
"You never asked before."
"No, I didn't," Gibbs agreed evenly "And you didn't answer my question."
"You met Bartholomew." Tony offered, as if that was an answer.
And in a way it was. Tony's Captain in Homicide at Baltimore had been a straight talking former beat cop. What you saw was basically what you got. Gibbs on the other hand, had been something of an enigma. They had butted heads over the investigation but after two weeks Tony had suspected he would follow this man to hell and back. That had been both reassuring and terrifying.
He'd wanted to be sure.
"I'm assuming I passed," Gibbs wasn't looking at him. "Although, I'm dammed if I know what you were looking for."
Tony could do this now. Sitting in the gutter in an off the peg suit that was two sizes too big and smelled strongly of stale body odour next to the man who had stood firmly at his back throughout this whole dammed mess.
"Yeah," He said softly. Not looking at Gibbs either. "You do."
A hand, warm and strong, reached out and cupped the back of his neck, squeezing gently.
"Yeah," Gibbs' voice agreed. "I guess I do."
That's all folks, thank you all so much for joining me on my first journey into NCIS world. New story "Trial and Tribulations" coming soon!