Summary: On a snowy night in New York City, Gibbs meets a teenaged Tony DiNozzo and decides he wants to help the boy.
Feedback: Any way you want to send it :)
Author Note: Thanks to Anna for the beta. written for the NavyNCISFF holiday challenge.
If there is sufficient interest, I may continue this into a G/D father/son relationship AU, so please tell me if you'd like to see more.
For this story, I have put Tony's birth year as 1974 rather than 1972, which seems cannon. Kelly was born in '82 for the purposes of this story.
Prompts are "Snow", "Fire", "Holidays"
December 20, 1988
He wanted to be anywhere but here, but it was what Shannon and Kelly wanted. They'd had to work with his schedule but he'd managed to get some leave for a few days before the holiday. As a Marine sniper he was on deployments more than ever. The last thing he wanted to do before leaving for places unmentioned was to spend time in New York, but Shannon wanted to give Kelly this weekend and he couldn't say no to his girls. Anyway, Shannon's folks were bankrolling this weekend.
While Shannon's grandparents came from Stillwater, PA, her mother had left many years ago, making her way to Manhattan for college. A romance with one of the Tri-State area's top dentists led to Shannon's silver spoon life as the only child of Sarah and Nathaniel Powers.
He'd wondered how they felt when she came home after a summer in Stillwater to explain that she'd found a Marine, an enlisted man, no less, but they had welcomed him with open arms and when Kelly was born, they were over the moon. Jethro and Shannon had been spending the last six years in DC so that Kelly could have her Christmas at home. Jethro supposed they were owed a visit.
He just hated this stuff….
Nate had been planning to join them for the Radio City Christmas Spectacular, but he'd been called away for some dental emergency for Mayor Koch. So he was stuck here backstage watching Kelly flitting around with the Rockettes and Santa. He was bored and he was hungry but he would not pull Kelly away from what was a red letter day. She took his deployments so hard that he owed her this.
He glanced around the room, wondering if there was anyone else who was as miserable as he was. Ah. There was someone who looked just as bored. He crossed the room, slumping against the wall next to the sullen teen. Kid couldn't have been more than fifteen or sixteen and he must have just hit a growth spurt because the suit was expensive but didn't fit him well at all.
"Hey, what're you doing here?" Gibbs asked. "Doesn't seem much like our scene, does it? Though the legs on those girls…"
The kid looked up and Gibbs was taken by a pair of brilliant green eyes that seemed almost too intense for the young man's features. "Not really, but my dad is a benefactor and my stepmother knows some of the Rockettes."
Gibbs nodded briefly. "Let me guess. They're the power couple over there."
"Yup. I'm Tony, who're you?"
He should have given his name, but instead used the nickname his in-laws had bestowed upon him. "Jay."
"Hey, Jay." Tony extended a hand and Gibbs took it, shaking it firmly. Gibbs took in the short hair and the kid's bearing, concluding he was in military or prep school. The kid fit in much better than he did in this sort of environment. His suit must have cost three times as much as Gibbs' did. A backwoods kid from Stillwater was so out of his element here with all these society types. Even this teen had a hell of a lot more poise.
Gibbs watched the boy checking out the girls, every so often giving a blonde a dreamy smile. "Go over and talk to her."
"No way!" Tony blushed darkly. "What're you doing here?"
"Brought the wife and kid," he said, gesturing to Shannon and Kelly.
Tony nodded. "Nice family," he said and his expression turned wistful. The older couple hadn't once looked at Tony in the time they'd been back here. Gibbs knew the kid was ignored, he'd seen the type before.
Without conscious thought, he squeezed the younger man's shoulder. "Think they'll care if you disappear for a while?" Tony's eyes lit up and Gibbs smiled, knowing he'd found a purpose for a couple of hours.
"What do you have in mind?" Tony tried to act casual but Gibbs saw the hunger and eagerness in his eyes. Did anybody pay attention to him?
"It's snowing out," Gibbs explained. "I want a monster hot chocolate and some company. I'm buying. There's that café down the block that has huge hot chocolates. Your folks and my family could meet us there. You want to go ask them?"
Tony bit his lip and shook his head. "They won't care. They just wanted me to make nice here and then they'll see me at the hotel. It's kind of stupid that we're staying in New York City when we live like an hour away, but like my dad says, I get an opinion when I pay the bills."
Gibbs winced. That was harsh but it explained a little of the sadness in the teen's eyes. He crossed the room, kissing Shannon and his mother-in-law on the cheek and tickling Kelly and telling them to take their time, that he'd be at the café. Shannon gave him a curious look but he imagined she was just relieved that he wasn't complaining.
"Come on then, Son." Gibbs' heart clenched when the boy's expression lit up again. Guy like him would love to have another kid—a boy this time—and those people had no idea what they had. Pissed him off.
They walked out into a moderate snowfall, which bathed the city in a golden light even though it wasn't past four yet. The café Gibbs mentioned was world-famous, the thirty-two ounce hot chocolates blending over a dozen powders or something. It was a place for the rich, or at least the well off. And he'd been dying to go ever since Shannon had told him about it.
As they sat at a table right by the roaring fireplace, Gibbs found Tony fidgeting. The coat was clearly too small and constricting. "Deep six the jacket, Tony. Get comfortable." Gibbs unbuttoned his own and then quickly removed it, the heat of the fire chasing away the damp chill of the day.
"So what do you do beside rescuing bored kids?" Tony asked, glancing at the menu and jiggling his leg.
"You know exactly what you're having," Gibbs replied good-naturedly, waving a waitress over. "Two hot chocolates please, the huge ones." He turned back to Tony, giving him a gentle smile. "I'm a US Marine."
"Oh. Hoo Rah and all that. What do you do there?"
He could hardly tell the kid he was a sniper. "I'm a Gunnery Sergeant. I—"
"Oh! Like Clint Eastwood in Heartbreak Ridge, or Emil Foley from An Officer and a Gentleman, or…or, the guys in Full Metal Jacket."
Gibbs gave the teen a smile. "You know your stuff." When their hot chocolates arrived, he took a long sip, groaning as the rich flavors burst over his tongue.
Tony rolled his eyes, taking a long sip of his own. "Rhode Island Military Academy, but I'm not a military kinda guy."
Gibbs leaned in closer, studying the boy's eyes. "Why not, Tony? You're intelligent, independent, I bet. You must be a good student, athlete?" Gibbs noticed that the boy was blushing and he squeezed his shoulder gently. He could imagine that the kid didn't get much attention and he found himself wanting to bolster him up.
"I don't take orders real well if I don't respect the person giving them. Gets me into trouble." Tony shrugged, clearly uncomfortable, and played with his oversized mug.
Gibbs understood. It had taken his time at Parris Island for him to fully embrace the military mindset and he was a couple of years older when he signed up. "I know," Gibbs said simply. "A lot of trust to put in someone else. But I think you'd make a good soldier."
Tony beamed at that and Gibbs found himself gesturing to the waitress and getting a sheet of paper and pen from her. He wrote down his number and address as well as his in-laws details and the phone number of the school where Shannon worked.
"What's this?" Tony asked quietly.
"You need me, you contact me, okay? That is a direct order from a commanding officer." He hoped this tactic would work and was pleased when Tony sat up taller.
Gibbs was sure this was just a chance encounter, that he and the boy would never see each other again, but he couldn't explain the fierce sense of protectiveness that welled up inside him. He wanted to help this boy find his potential.
"Daddy!" Kelly ran across the café and launched herself into his arms. Gibbs didn't miss the sad look that crossed Tony's face, or the hint of jealousy the boy tried to mask. When the two older women approached, Tony sprang to his feet, pulling their chairs out. Kid had good manners. "Shannon, Mom, Kelly, this is Tony. Tony, my little girl, Kelly, my wife, Shannon, and my mother-in-law, Sarah."
Tony's eyes kept darting to the door as the women made themselves comfortable and Gibbs knew he was losing the boy. "Excuse us," he said softly, standing, scooping up Tony's coat, and leading Tony outside into the gloom of the snowy late afternoon. "I know that look and you do what you have to do. But I'm not going to forget you and I hope you won't forget me. You need anything; you come to me, okay? Hell, if you just want to talk. Call collect, I'll be there."
"But you have…" Tony gestured to the table.
"Yeah, but I have room for you, too," Gibbs insisted. "Something about you, Tony, that makes me want to help you.
It was completely unexpected when Tony grabbed him in a bear hug. "Thank you, Da—
Jay. Merry Christmas."
"Merry Christmas to you too, Son," he replied, the words tumbling easily off his tongue. When Tony let out a small sob, Gibbs hugged the kid tighter. "Can't make 'em care, Tony. But they don't define you. You define yourself. And I am here for you."
"Why? If they don't care…why you?" Tony asked.
"'Cause I'm a guy who needs someone else to care about and you're a guy who needs to be wanted. Nothing more complicated than that."
"And if I need you, I can call?" The kid sounded so fragile, the hope in his voice so tentative.
Gibbs ruffled his hair. "Sure can. That's a promise and I don't hand 'em out like candy. Take care of yourself, Tony. I'm just a phone call or a train trip away."
Tony nodded, hugging him one last time before trudging away into the snow. Gibbs swore he heard a "Merry Christmas, Dad." when the boy turned. He stayed out there until he started shivering, trying in vain to see Tony's outline in the growing gloom.
"Jethro! Come back inside!" Shannon had come out at some point and was brushing the snow off his shoulders and clasping his arm. "Are you okay?"
He turned to his wife, kissing her cheek. "Yeah…yeah."
"What was that about?" Shannon asked, curious.
"Not quite sure. Kid needed a helping hand and I was here to give it to him."
She gave him a warning look. "Are you taking on a new project, Jethro?"
"No," he insisted, shaking his head. "I'm sure we'll never see him again. He just seemed so alone, Shannon."
She ran a hand over his hair. "And he needed a hero. Jethro, you can't save them all."
"Maybe not, but I'm saving this one."