Gibbs entered Tony's apartment with the keys he swiped from his agent. In there laid the surprise. Tony's father had never left. The old man shook himself out of his daze and instantly stood up from where he was lying on the couch.
"Where is Tony?" he asked.
"I have a doctor looking at him," Gibbs stated coming closer.
"Yes," he said shifting his position, "what happened to my son was very…unfortunate," he said.
"Unfortunate?" Gibbs asked annoyed.
"I am an honest man, Mr. Gibbs. I will admit my part of this."
"Funny, I don't remember telling you my name."
"I keep tabs on my son's life. I know who his boss is."
"Do me a favor, lose his address."
Gibbs was toe to toe with the elder DiNozzo. Jethro's steel blue eyes bore into the man's brown ones.
"I do apologize for the conduct with my son. I should have never stopped at that bar before coming to check on him. I would like you to give this to Tony along with my apologies."
The old man handed Gibbs a piece of paper. It was a check made out to Tony. Gibbs had half a mind to rip the check up in front of him. He had common sense enough to let Tony deal with it in his own way.
"Did Tony know you were drunk when he opened the door?" Gibbs asked.
"I don't think so," he shook his head.
Gibbs stepped closer to the man. The man didn't think that could be possible. The old man could smell a mixture of coffee and mints on Gibbs' breath.
"I know this isn't an isolated incident because Tony is so good at lying about it. I also know Tony still holds out hope for a relationship with you because he opened the door. If I ever find out you came to visit my agent inebriated again, you will answer to me. Leave here now and come back when you're ready to be a father."
With that said, Tony's father left.
Gibbs shook his head and went into Tony's room, so he could pick out some clothes for his agent. He picked out the most comfortable clothes that he could for a couple night stay. Gibbs then went to collect the agent who owned the clothes.
When he got back to the NCIS building, Gibbs had to wait a minute to collect himself and take his white knuckles off the steering wheel. Finally he grabbed his newly acquired coffee and went in to the building.
"I sent the others home," Ducky said as Gibbs walked in.
Gibbs looked around the mostly dark autopsy room. Ducky was laying vigil over Tony. The boss walked to his agent and shook the sleeping man's shoulder.
"Tony?" he called.
"He is sedated, Jethro," The doctor told him. "I will help you with him though."
Gibbs took a deep breath before answering. He looked at his agent's bandaged head. Ducky had placed an icepack on his left ankle.
"Thanks Duck," he said.
"Come on young Anthony," The doctor said as he and Jethro pulled him into a sitting position. Each man draped one of Tony's arms around their shoulder.
Tony murmured unintelligibly in a half conscious stupor. He was just conscious enough to coordinate his legs to go over the autopsy table and did his best to walk for the two men who were supporting most of his weight. His thoughts kept drifting back to the night before.
Tony could hear the door knock at almost 22:00. He wasn't expecting anybody to be there that day, so he looked through the peephole. His father stood there. To anyone else the old man's inebriated state would have been obvious, but the side of Tony that still wanted a real relationship with his dad chose to ignore it, so he opened the door. Tony's father instantly put his arm around his son's shoulders in an awkward side hug.
"How are you son?" he asked all too jollily.
Tony could smell the bourbon on his breath; that brought back memories he had chosen to ignore.
"Hello Father, I didn't realize you were in town," Tony said.
"I had a meeting. It wasn't hard to find you. You're listed, you know?"
"That's right, I am," Tony said showing his dad to the couch.
They spoke for half an hour. Tony was uncomfortable the whole time, since his dad's jokes were racist, or so sexist it even made Tony blush.
"I need to get to bed, dad," he finally said when he heard enough.
"Why?" his dad asked as if he were insulted.
"I've got work tomorrow," Tony said with a hint of tiredness in his voice.
"Oh right, you're a cop," he said 'cop' the same way Tony would say 'murderer.'
"I'm a federal agent now," he explained.
"Even worse," grumbled the old man.
"Dad, please. I need to get some sleep."
"Are you kicking me out," his father jumped up and shouted.
Tony also jumped up.
"Of course not, you're welcome to stay the night if you want," he amended pleadingly.
Once he saw the fire in his father's eyes, Tony knew that it was unstoppable at this point. All he could do was defend his body from his father's attack.
"I examined him more thoroughly while he was asleep" the doctor said as he helped Gibbs ease Tony into the passenger seat of Gibbs' car. "There's some more bruising on his upper arms and ribs, nothing indicative of internal bleeding, though. He has some bruising on his back. His father did a number on him, I'm afraid. Jethro, you might want to run him by the emergency room," Ducky finished as Gibbs carefully buckled his agent in.
Gibbs did a visual assessment of Tony's bandaging on his head. Then he checked his agents pulse.
"No," Jethro said in response to a trip to the emergency room.
"I'm a federal agent now," Tony murmured softly.
Gibbs looked at his agent then shut the car door.
"I will stop by your place tomorrow," Ducky said to his friend, "I'll bring him some medication and clean bandages. He is not going to like this, but it would be better if you kept him from work tomorrow."
"I think I will give everybody a three day weekend," Gibbs said. "Thanks for your help Ducky." Gibbs gave his friend a short hug.
"See you tomorrow," Ducky said and left for his car.
Gibbs stole a few glances at Tony's sleeping form. He wondered what his agent was thinking.
The first swing came at him fast, but he was able to block it. The second, third then fourth, came at him faster and harder. Tony had his arms crossed in front of his face. The blows were coming so hard he had to back up, but in doing so he tripped and twisted his ankle. The fact that he was on the floor didn't stop his father. He continued to kick at his son. Tony made no move to protect himself, only his face. Sadly, all he could think was that if he got a bruise on his face he wouldn't be able to explain it at work.
After his dad kicked him in the back, Tony summoned his strength to stand up. His father quit his attack.
"Get out," Tony shouted and opened the door.
"Fine" his dad said; holding his hands up in surrender.
Tony knelt down to pick up some magazines that had been knocked down after his scuffle. He didn't notice as his father passed the door and went to the kitchen where he had an empty beer bottle. The elder DiNozzo picked it up and hit his son across the head with it. Tony blacked out for a few seconds. When he came back to, he was kneeling on the floor with his head on the ground. He took in deep breaths and he could hear his dad do the same.
"I'm sorry, I'm sorry," his father repeated, "I'll clean this up," he spoke over his son's panting.
Tony tried to calm his breathing while he gave himself a pep talk, so he wouldn't cry in front of his father.
Gibbs looked over at DiNozzo as a strangled sob left his agent's throat. The young agent started panting, and tears were streaming down his eyes. Gibbs brought his eyes back to the road just in time to see the red light ahead of him. The senior agent pushed the brake and jutted his arm out to stop his agent from being thrown hard. He groaned to himself. He hadn't done that since Kelly was old enough to ride in the front seat. Shannon used to laugh at him. She said if they ever got in a car accident all that would do was break his arm. Jethro had never done that since his family died. Leave it to DiNozzo to bring out his paternal instincts.
The sudden stop woke Tony up. He was groggily aware that he was in Gibbs' car. In his half-conscious state, his mind told him that it wasn't his car and he needed to get out. He tiredly fumbled for the door handle just as Gibbs was starting to drive off.
Gibbs looked over at his agent and saw him going for the door handle. He kept the door locked with the automatic lock until he was able to pull off the road.
"Tony, Tony?" he called as he restrained his agent's hand.
"Gibbs, it's not my car. I need to get to my car," Tony was disoriented.
"I'm taking you to my house, DiNozzo," Gibbs stated matter-of-factly.
"Oh," Tony stopped his feeble struggle. "Boss my chest hurts," he sighed.
Gibbs heard him, but didn't say anything. He reached over Tony and leaned the passenger seat back. For extra insurance, he re-buckled his agent's seatbelt over the young man's arms. Tony fell back asleep. The rest of the ride home went smoothly.
Gibbs opened the passenger door of his car, and unbuckled his agent.
Gibbs patted Tony on the face until Tony managed some excuse for consciousness.
"Where are we?" the young agent asked and groaned as he was heaved to his feet.
"My house," Gibbs reminded him.
"Huh, how come?"
"Because you have a head injury, DiNozzo. Is it affecting your memory too?"
"Memory," Tony murmured.
Gibbs was beginning to wonder how much sedative Ducky gave the man. The boss stood in his living room for a second deciding whether to lay Tony on the couch adjacent to his leg, or lug the agent up the stairs into his bedroom. The decision wasn't a hard one; his bed was much more comfortable. Gibbs supported most of Tony's weight as he got him up the stairs.
Gibbs carefully sat Tony down on the bed. He took off the agent's shirt and saw the bruising Ducky was talking about. It was bad, but not serious. He gently laid Tony down, as to not aggravate to younger man's wounds any more. Gibbs finished stripping his agent of everything but his boxers. Before he put the covers over Tony, he noticed the agent's fists were balled up tightly.
Tony watched mesmerized as the water slowly filled his bath tub. He snapped himself out of his daze long enough to put some ice in the water. It was a trick he learned when he was seventeen. The cold bath would keep all the swelling down. No swelling, no questions, was Tony's logic. His teeth chattered as he put himself in the freezing water. He thought he was going to be hypothermic when he put his head bleeding head under. Tony watched as the water turned to a light pink. He brought his head back up enough to where he could breathe. He patiently waited for the bleeding to stop, and wondered if he would pass out from blood loss first. Then he wondered how he could keep this from the ones he loved.
"I'll be okay, they'll never know," he affirmed to himself after the bleeding stopped.
Tony stepped out of the bathtub and got into some pajamas. He went into the living room and saw his father passed out on the couch. Tony walked the rest of the way to his bed then fell asleep.
When he woke up the next day, his father was still asleep. The living room was clean, and no trace of the incident existed. Tony had even cleaned the bathtub. Before leaving he checked his head, and decided that his hair covered the wound real good. Tony took one more deep breath. He pushed the last night's events as far to the back of his mind as he could, while pushing anything that would bring back his smile to the forefront. With his mask firmly in place, or so he thought, he went to work.
His head hurt when he woke up. The light shining in his eyes did not help any. He scrunched his face in a wince and sucked in his breath.
"Almost done, Anthony," came the elderly doctor's voice.
He could feel Ducky's hand on his forehead as he lifted one more eyelid and shone that light again.
"My whole head is throbbing," he confessed.
He put his ego aside in hopes for relief. Ducky finished with his eyes and helped the young man put some pills in his mouth. A straw touched his lips, and he was able to drink some water to swallow the pills down.
"You're going to be drowsy most of the day, Anthony," Ducky said gently.
"I have to go to work," Tony said with a touch of pain still present in his voice.
"Everybody's got the day off," his boss' voice assured him.
Tony opened his eyes for the first time and looked at his boss in the doorway.
"Why am I in your bedroom," he asked.
Gibbs let out a frustrated laugh.
"You were disorientated last night. That's all you kept asking," Gibbs explained the laugh.
"I don't remember too much, after being sedated" Tony confessed.
That meant Tony remembered that Gibbs told him not to smile any more. Everybody realized that, but nobody said anything.
"I'm going to change your bandage now," the doctor said.
Gibbs watched the whole time. Tony would wince or jerk slightly when Ducky got a sensitive spot, but he didn't smile or try to lighten the situation.
"All right, young man, you should be okay for the rest of the day. Why don't you get dressed now?"
Ducky escorted Gibbs out of the room and down into the living room.
"Why didn't you tell Tony it was okay to smile?"
"Not right now Ducky. I'm tired of him covering so much of himself."
"Jethro, I believe it was Oscar Wilde who said, 'Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth.' Think about it, okay?"
"Sure thing Duck," Gibbs said sincerely.
"Good. Do you want me to stay?" he asked.
"No," came the simple answer.
"That is quite all right. Try to get him to eat something. Drink plenty of fluids you know the drill."
"Thanks for your help," Gibbs said escorting the elder man outside.
"I'll come by later tonight to make sure everything is fine," he said on his way out.
"Sounds good," he said and waved goodbye.
Gibbs turned around to see Tony carefully make his way down the stairs. Gibbs put Tony's arm around his shoulder, and preempted any protest by a stern look.
"You know you can smile if you want to DiNozzo," Gibbs told him.
DiNozzo instantly smiled.
"I knew you were joking. I wasn't going to tempt fate, but I knew it."
Tony laughed lightly.
Gibbs managed to get some toast and orange juice down Tony. Food was only serving to make him nauseous that day.
The rest of the day was filled with Tony's animated conversations. Gibbs listened and even entertained some of them. Ducky came back and made sure Tony's condition wasn't getting worse and was quite pleased to see Tony joking with him. He left him with some more medication and well wishes.
The breakthrough that Gibbs was secretly hoping for didn't come until late afternoon.
Gibbs was in the basement working on his boat, and Tony was watching TV. Suddenly he laughed. Gibbs stopped his work and looked at him.
"Man is least himself when he talks in his own person…" Ducky's previous words were echoing through his mind.
Gibbs stood in front of Tony.
"What's so funny?"
Tony looked at him smiling.
"I knew he was drunk when I looked to see who it was." Tony laughed harder "I opened the door anyway. I guess I decided my job wasn't dangerous enough and I should take chances with my father." He laughed again with no humor "The beer bottle was mine. Did you know that? I left it on my counter from the previous night." Another laugh. "Who knew trash could be dangerous?" Tony laughed some more, but it quickly turned into a sob. "I shouldn't have told him to go home boss, I should have…"
"No, Tony this is not your fault," he grabbed Tony's arms.
Tony pushed Gibbs away. He stood up and faced him.
"You don't know that," he shouted pushing him again. "You don't know anything."
Tony went to push him again, but Gibbs pulled him into a hug. Tony struggled against his strong grasp, but Gibbs held tight. Tony's knees suddenly buckled from under him and he stopped struggling as Gibbs eased his descent.
"What did I do wrong boss. Why doesn't he care about me?"
Gibbs felt Tony's hot tears soaking through his arm where Tony's head was resting.
"Tony, you didn't do anything wrong; you're life right now is a good example. Your dad has problems he needs to work through."
"How could you know that?" Tony challenged gently this time.
"I won't pretend to know everything, but I met him, DiNozzo," there was no sense in lying.
Tony got up and out of his boss' grasp. He sat back down on the bench.
"Do you think he has my hair? Every body says he has my hair," Tony smirked.
"…Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth." The rest of Ducky's advice went through Jethro's head.
"No. I don't think he is a bit like you."
Tony realized he wasn't talking about appearances.
"He wanted me to give you this," Gibbs gave him the check.
"You know I cash them?" Tony said soberly "I always give the money to the inner-city basketball program. I can't have any reminders that he tries to buy my forgiveness."
"I am absolutely not condoning what he did, Tony, but he's trying. It's the only way he knows how. You're a good man, DiNozzo, we all care about you. Your father shouldn't have to reinforce that. One day, your father will get it together and you'll have the relationship with him you always wanted. Right now, you need to trust me and your team to take care of you. Can you do that for me Tony."
Tony nodded in agreement.
Gibbs wanted to rub the back of his agent's head, but Tony's father ruined that option. Instead, he squeezed the back of his agent's neck. They sat in silence for a few minutes until Tony broke it.
"You think we can change the channel?"
Gibbs gave Tony the remote control.
"Thanks," he said and turned the television to McHale's Navy. Tony watched without much emotion.
"You know you're allowed to smile," Gibbs said watching the show with him.
"I know," Tony said relaxed, "but I don't really feel like it right now."
Gibbs was never more proud of his agent.
A/N: That's the end… for real. I hope you liked it!!