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You're to Blame
You are to blame for anything that is good in my heart. You are to blame for this change that has taken me by storm. - Mercy Me
Chapter One – June 1988
Saturday June 11, 1988
Anthony D. DiNozzo knew that he was in over his head. He was 16. He had no money. No food. No Job. No clothes. No where to stay. And no idea how he was getting back to New York at the end of the summer.
His best friend, now ex-best friend, eighteen-year-old Jeremy Parkinson, had left him in Washington D.C. after calling his ex-girlfriend and finding out that she was pregnant. The teens never unpacked the car. Jeremy left with everything Anthony brought with him. That included $5,000.
And Jeremy knew that he had the money.
He had spent the last of his money on a cheap hot dog that afternoon. During the past week it was the only thing that he could afford. And now that the money was gone he had to rely on more drastic means to survive. He didn't want to steal. It was wrong. But stealing just enough so that he could live another day had to be different. There had to be a line between right an wrong.
He climbed a tree to get some semblance of sleep. He learned the first night that cops patrolled parks at night as didn't allow anyone to sleep on the benches. They didn't check the trees. And that made the trees safer.
Monday June 12, 1988
Anthony wasn't a stranger to nightmares. But nightmares and trees weren't meant to be mixed. The result was Anthony falling out of said tree and breaking his arm.
He has no time to worry about his arm. He couldn't afford a doctor. He couldn't rely on his father to send him money. Actually, he couldn't rely on his father for anything other than spite, negligence, and disappointment. It's been that way for longer than he could remember.
Now he had to find a target to pickpocket. His classmates had made a game out of pickpocketing each other. Anthony would watch the game but he never participated. He was also the youngest of the group; the one that everyone felt they needed to protect for no other reason than the fact that he was two years younger than the rest of them not that they were friends with him... Jeremy was the only one who tried to be a friend. Because of Jeremy the other boys wouldn't pickpocket Anthony. He figured that it couldn't be that hard.
He saw a dark haired man in his thirties getting something to drink from a vendor. He didn't put his wallet back in his pocket properly and it was poking out. Anthony followed him before reaching for the wallet. The next thing he knew he was on the ground lying on his broken arm. The man was hovering over him holding his good arm behind his back.
"You really think that's a good idea, boy." It wasn't a question and Anthony knew it. He shook his head his head 'no' anyway. "I want a real answer." He added a little pressure to his arm.
"Then way did you try?"
Anthony couldn't help but to be honest. "I'm hungry."
The man pulled Anthony to his feet. "Come on." He didn't have a choice since the man had his arm in a vice grip. He was practically being dragged.
"I'm sorry, sir. Don't take me to the cops. Please! I won't do it again."
"Damn straight you won't do it again," the man muttered. "I'm not taking you to the police."
"You're letting me go, sir?" he asked hopefully.
"Where—" A slap to the back of his head shut him up.
They approached a redheaded woman and a little girl with big blue eyes. The man shoved Anthony on a picnic bench and placed a container of food in front of him. The woman merely shook her head in amusement. Apparently this wasn't the first time her husband had done something like this.
"I'm Shannon Gibbs." She smiled. "The man that dragged you over here is – Jethro, did you break that boy's arm," Shannon scolded.
Anthony answered before Jethro could. "No, ma'am. I broke my arm on my own."
"Why don't you have a cast on that? We're taking you to a hospital." It didn't look like she would take no for an answer. Anthony had to try anyways.
"That's alright ma'am. My father would rather I had our personal physician look after me."
"You come from money? Why did you try to steal my wallet?" By the way he looked Jethro would have guessed it.
"It's alright ma'am."
"Please call me Shannon."
"Right, Shannon." He was uncomfortable saying her first name. It wasn't considered proper where he came from to call adults by name. It was always sir or ma'am. "I was on a road trip with a friend. He kinda left me here by accident."
"Where do you live?" asked Jethro. He knew from his slight accent that he wasn't from the surrounding area. He couldn't place it though he had heard it before.
"You're a long way from home... What is your name?" Shannon was embarrassed for not asking sooner.
"Anthony DiNozzo Jr." He nearly sighed in relief when the couple didn't recognize his last name. His father was a very powerful man with many contacts.
"Eat. I not taking 'no' for an answer. The same goes for going to the hospital. An untreated broken arm can have some serious complications."
He hesitated for a moment. "Can you open it for me, please?
Jethro drove them to the hospital. He saw that the kid was pale and breathing heavily. Both were signs that he was terrified. That was something Jethro found curious. His little Kelly was braver than this kid and she was only four-years-old.
Shannon went to get the paperwork they knew they needed. He held Kelly as his wife filled out the form with Anthony's... actually he refused to call the kid that; it was too much of a mouthful... Tony's information. They were surprised that he only 16. He had told them on the way to the hospital that the trip was a graduation celebration. He had the feeling there was more to it than that. The boy had to be hiding something.
They had to skip the insurance section. Tony admitted that since he had a personal physician his father just paid him cash. He wasn't sure if he believed that. It made more sense for the wealthy to have the best health insurance that money could buy. He didn't press the matter it wasn't his business.
The rest of the form was easy to fill out. Allergies and past medical history were normal questions. Though Tony did seem reluctant to admit that he had broken his arm before. He hastily claimed it was a football accident. Jethro didn't believe that either... the part that it was an accident not the part that he played football.
When the nurse called his name Tony paled even more and he started to shake.
"You want me to come with you?" offered Shannon. He looked as though he was about to say no but changed his mind and nodded his head.
The doctor took him to get an x-ray and Tony nearly had a panic attack. Dr. Meyer asked how it happened. He quickly mentioned falling out of a tree but didn't say why he was in the tree.
"It's a clean break and should heal nicely. Don't recommend driving since you are so young and don't have the experience needed to drive left-handed. Travel of any kind could get uncomfortable. Staying close to home would be best for at least a few weeks."
"Home? I live in New York. I have to travel. I can't pay if my Father doesn't know about it and he won't believe me unless he see it for himself."
"It's only a recommendation. If you have to travel far it should be aisle seat on a plane." He smiled to reassure him.
Shannon went back to the waiting room to talk to Jethro while Tony had his arm plastered. Kelly was playing in a corner. She was glad that they could be alone. Somethings she wanted to say weren't meant for ears of a four-year-old.
"Jethro, there's something odd about that boy."
"You other than the fact that he broke his arm 300 miles from home. Or the that he's 300 miles from home without any adult supervision. Then there's the fact that he's 300 miles from home. Yes, there is something odd about that boy and we are not getting involved."
"I asked the doctor to give him a full physical."
"There's something about him Jethro. He needs us."
"You don't know that."
She gave him a long stare. "You taught me a long time ago to trust my instincts. And my instincts are telling me to help him."
"We don't know anything about Tony."
"Tony huh? I thought his name was Anthony." She smiled at Jethro. "Admit it. You like him."
"It doesn't matter whether I like him or not. Anthony just doesn't suite him. He's a Tony. He just doesn't know it yet."
Shannon knew what he meant. Anthony was too formal for a kid.
"Can we keep him?" Her crystal eyes bore into his steely blue ones.
"He's not a lost puppy. We have to find him a way back to New York. I just don't know how. I don't think our car can make a trip like that and plane tickets aren't in our budget right now. He has his own family that's probably wondering were he is."
"I don't think that's true. If you remember, he refused to put down his address and phone number on the form.
"I have to get back to his room. I'll take Kelly with me so you can get yourself a cup of coffee. It must have been hours since your last dose of that vile stuff you drink."
"Don't you start going after my coffee," he growled at her playfully.
She only smiled and kissed him on the cheek before collecting her daughter.
Tony watched Shannon watch him. He couldn't help but wonder why she was helping him like this. No one paid this kind of attention to him. It was very confusing for him. It was almost as if she cared. But that wasn't possible. He was nothing to her. He wasn't sure what to make of her and her husband. He had never met anyone like them before.
The doctor was telling him that he needed to take better care of himself. He was underweight for a sixteen-year-old. It didn't make sense because when he left school he was at a healthy weight. Though living on hotdogs and water wasn't the best idea. He had to put on ten pounds to be considered to be in shape.
The doctor gave him a prescription for painkillers that Tony insisted that he didn't need. His arm didn't hurt that much. But Shannon said that Jethro was very good at getting people to take their medicine and it would be better not to fight.
"Hon, you're coming home with us tonight and then we can figure out what we are going to do with you in the morning. You could do with a home cooked meal. I think you should call your parents. They would want to know what happened to you."
Shannon saw that Tony's olive complexion turned pasty white again but she didn't say anything about it. She figured he was just uncomfortable with staying at an unfamiliar house.
"We live on the Marine Base. It's probably the safest place to live in Washington."
Tony watched Shannon as she made dinner. The smile on her face fascinated him. His mother never smiled like that. Her smiles were fake and even those were never directed at him. Shannon's smiles were real. She smiled for no reason. Tony have never known anyone to smile just for the sake of smiling.
Jethro was in the backyard with Kelly. They were playing. Tony felt a twinge of jealousy. His father never spent more time with him than what he deemed necessary. He accepted that a long time ago. It didn't mean that it hurt any less. He just wasn't important enough. Money and social status were more important.
Kelly was important. Tony could see that in the way her parents interacted with her. She was the little princess and she knew it. She was daddy's little girl and proud of it.
Shannon forced him from his thoughts.
"You look bored. I could use some help making dessert." Tony stared at her with wide eyes. "If you can graduate high school at 16 you can make a cake. Don't worry it's a simple recipe and you it shouldn't hinder you too much using only your left arm."
All she did was glare at him until he took the bowl from her. As soon as he did she was smiling again.
Dinner at the DiNozzo mansion was always a silent affair unless his father was entertaining a client. Even then Tony was expected to remain quiet until he was excused. Then he was sent to his room for the rest of the evening.
The Gibbs family was the complete opposite. Well, Shannon and Kelly loved to talk about everything and nothing. Jethro would add a comment or two whenever he could. Mostly it seemed he enjoyed listening to his girls babble on.
Tony just sat quietly like he was trained to. So it startled him when Shannon spoke to him.
"So, what's your story?"
"I don't really have one." He avoided the question.
"Nonsense. Everyone has a story, even the young."
He thought it over. He did owe them the truth after everything that they did for him even though they didn't have. "OK, I'll tell you what you want to know. You probably saved my life. Just, I don't want to talk about it in front of the kid."
"Alright, how about basic questions? Where did you go to school?" Shannon was curious about him and he found that to be odd.
"Rhode Island Military Academy. I was the top of my class and the star athlete for both football and basketball."
"Which did you like better?" Sports seemed to be a safe subject even though she wasn't fond of them.
"Definitely football, ma'am. I wanted to go pro but my father wanted me to go to Harvard business school." He shut his mouth firmly when he realized what he said. Jethro noticed this and prompted him to tell them about some of his games. They were surprised to find that he was a gifted story teller.
Shannon brought out Tony's cake while he was telling them how he had managed saved to game with a touchdown when there was only ten seconds left on the clock.
"Mommy, that cake looks funny." she wrinkled her little nose.
"Just eat it, Kelly. It won't hurt you to try."
She was right. Even though it was severely lopsided, the cake tasted good.
Tony was sent to the living room while Shannon and Jethro put Kelly to bed. He remembered having nannies that made sure he was in his room with the light off at the appointed time and then locking him in. It didn't matter to any of them that he was terrified of his room. He would have bet anything that Kelly wasn't afraid to sleep in her own bed and if she was her parents would comfort her and tell her that everything was alright... just like those TV families that he sometimes watched.
He heard Jethro telling her a story. He recognized it as Charlotte's Web. He remembered reading it in third grade, before he was forced to skip a grade for the first time. Jethro's soft voice nearly put him to sleep as he read through the first chapter.
Kelly must have fallen asleep because he soon heard footsteps coming toward him. He wasn't ready to tell them the truth. He pretended to be sleeping.
"We know you're awake, Tony." He gave Jethro a confused look at the shortened version of his name. "Get used to being called 'Tony'. No way in hell am I going keep calling you Anthony."
"We have a lot questions Tony. The first is whether you took those painkillers that you were given. You will feel a lot better if you did."
"I'm not a fan of painkillers. They make me act funny." He was in pain but he wasn't going to take those pills before a serious conversation. He might reveal something that he would rather keep secret.
"Take them. I won't let Jethro make you do anything that's too embarrassing." Tony wasn't sure if she was teasing him or Jethro. Shannon went to the kitchen and to a glass of water to go with the medicine. He took one of the tiny pills with a deep sigh. This was going to be a long night.
"Now, can you tell us your story? I know you have one." She smiled kindly at him.
"I don't know where to begin."
"Rule 15: always start at the beginning and work yourself down."
"You got a rule for everything?" asked Tony.
"Working on it! Everyone needs a code they can live by."
Jethro chuckled at the familiar words. He asked the same question twelve years ago when he first meet Shannon in Stillwater. "Start when you're ready."
"Do you know how high society families work?" Neither responded knowing that it was a rhetorical question. "I'm sure not all of the families are like this, but in my father's circle, the first born son always takes over the family business and the daughters are just there so more sons can be born. I didn't want that life. I did everything I could think of to rebel.
"One day I went too far and I was sent to Rhode Island."
"What did you do?" asked Shannon.
"I proved beyond a reasonable doubt that I am smarter than my father and his entire staff." The adults just waited for an explanation. "My father uses computers for data storage. I managed to hack my way into his personal computer. Really, who uses 'zucchini' as their password. He should have used 'tomato' for all the good it did." Tony giggled a little before sobering.
"Impressive." Jethro didn't know anything about computers but it seemed appropriate to say that.
"What's impressive is the fact that I slipped past my father's security without anyone noticing. My father sent me away for that. He didn't like that I embarrassed him. He had the maid tell me that he was sending me the military school. I needed discipline if I were to be the head of a major corporation.
"He sent me a letter telling me that I was going to Harvard. I didn't even apply. All I wanted was to play pro-ball. I wrote beck and told him that I was going to Ohio State. He refused to pay. It's impossible for me to get a scholarship or a loan because of who my father is. He told me that I'm not allowed to come home until I agree to go to Harvard. I got $5,000 and a suitcase of clothes when I said no."
"What about your mother?" Shannon had a feeling that she already knew the answer and she really hoped that she was wrong.
"She died over six years ago, ma'am. She couldn't deny my father anything if she were alive."
Wednesday June 15, 1988
Tony wrote to Jeremy so he could have his stuff back. Surprisingly, he sent almost everything back to him, including most of his money. He used some of it to overnight his belongings. Tony was angry that most of what he spent was used on his girlfriend. Jeremy wasn't nearly as wealthy as the DiNozzo family but he wasn't exactly poor either. Then again not that many of the students' families were as wealthy as the DiNozzo's. That was one of the reasons that he was sent to Rhode Island and not some other prep school. DiNozzo Senor wanted to show off his status even when he was denying Tony everything that he grew up with. But that was all part of being wealth though.
He wrote that he was sorry for leaving; it couldn't have been helped. Trisha needed him. He could take care of himself if he really needed. He was trained to survive in most situations. Tony snorted at that. Nothing could have prepared him to survive on the streets of Washington D.C. He far too used to having a roof over his head, thank you very much.
At the bottom of the note that was included Jeremy wrote that his father was getting married again and he was expected to be there. The wedding was to be held on July 8th, Tony's seventeenth birthday. Jethro told him to write back and claim that he had a previous engagement planned that couldn't be canceled. Whether or not that was true didn't matter.
Friday June 17, 1988
Jethro found himself growing more and more curious of Tony DiNozzo's past every day. The kid was awkward around people, especially Kelly. He knew Tony never experienced a normal childhood so it wasn't that unusual that he didn't know how to interact with children but Tony didn't seem to know how to have fun. Jethro watched as Tony tried to figure out how Kelly's toys worked. Most of the toys were for little girls but many of games had been around for years and Tony should have been at least familiar with them.
Kelly only saw Tony as a new playmate and would beg him to play. She would only giggle when Tony made a mistake and tell how to do something the right way. She knew instinctively not to ask him to play pretend games with her. Shannon and Jethro ask why she didn't play those games with him.
Shannon was up to something that no one other than possibly Kelly knew about. She left soon after breakfast saying that she would bring back dinner. She said nothing about where she was going.
There was no reason for them to stay inside all day. Jethro had Kelly change into her swimsuit so that she could run through the sprinklers. Tony couldn't get his cast wet so he brought out a few books. Shannon had taken him to the library. He picked out mostly mystery novels but he also got a few of the classics when Shannon insisted that he read them. He agreed as long as he didn't have to read George Orwell.
By lunch Kelly was ready to come inside. She had goose bumps on her arms even though it was warm outside. She ran past Tony into the house.
"Kelly, no running in the house!" scolded Jethro.
Tony was curious how Jethro would deal with Kelly breaking the rules. His own father would have spanked him hard enough that he couldn't sit... but that may have been because he was making noise and not because he was running in the mansion. Right now it seemed he was going to let her change first.
"We're having grilled cheese for lunch," Jethro told Tony as he butter some bread.
"What's grilled cheese?"
"You never had grilled cheese sandwiches before?" That did surprise Jethro as much as it would have a few days ago. Most to Shannon's cooking was met with curious trepidation.
"Daddy makes the best grilled cheese."
"Thanks Kel, but you're still in trouble. You're getting water with your sandwich instead of chocolate milk."
"You ran in the house, Squirt. It could be worse. He could give you plain bread to go with that water," Tony teased.
"I did tell you not to run in the house."
"You know, you never told me that I can't run in the house. Does that mean that I'm allowed to?" Tony got a smack to back of his head for that. "I'll take that as a no."
Saturday June 18, 1988
Babysitting was the last thing that came to Tony's mind when he woke up that morning. In fact, it didn't cross his mind at all. But Shannon announced that Kelly hadn't been punished to her standards and would have to stay home while she and Jethro went to the grocery store. Apparently this was a huge punishment for little Kelly since she loved going to the store with her parents.
That left Kelly with Tony.
He had hoped that meant that they would be watching cartoons while she sat quietly. He had no such luck. Kelly wanted to do arts and crafts... more specifically she was making a Fathers' Day card. She asked if he wanted to make one as well but he quickly made the excuse that he couldn't write with his left hand.
Fathers' Day wasn't something that was celebrated at the DiNozzo mansion. He learned early on that any crafts he made soon made its home in the garbage. Quite unlike Kelly's projects that seemed to cover not just the refrigerator but nearly every flat surface that was available.
When Kelly was done with the card. She wanted to paint. Only problem with that was the fact the was on the top self of her closet. She knew that the rule was that she was only allowed to paint when one of her parents was around so that she didn't make a mess. But with Tony around that shouldn't be a problem....
"No way Squirt. I'm not letting you paint until your mom and dad get ho... back."
"But―" She stuck out her lip in a fashion that always got her daddy to do her bidding.
"I'm not falling for your pout. Only your dad falls for that."
"Is that so?" said a voice from behind him.
Jethro expected Tony to cringe but he got a smile instead. "Yup. Sorry to say but you have a condition known as wrapped-around-baby's-finger syndrome."
Sunday June 19, 1988 – Fathers' Day
Tony was woken early by an excitable four-year-old. By the way Kelly was behaving you would have thought that it was Christmas, not Fathers' Day. He ignored her and rolled onto his left side. Kelly started to jump on the bed. He sat up to glare at her but one glance at her in her princess pajamas made his entire resolve crumble. He was putty.
The day before he had agreed to help Kelly make breakfast. He didn't know that involved getting up before even the sun thought it was an appropriate hour to be awake. He never willingly got out of bed this early if he didn't have to.
He got out of bed with the word 'putty' running through his mind.
Kelly wasn't much of a help. More often than not she was a hindrance. Mostly he allowed her to stir and there really wasn't that much that needed to be stirred.
He would never admit that he was having fun. Kelly had turned on the radio to a station that was playing '60's rock. Tony sang along while Kelly danced around to the Beatles. He had never behaved so childishly before.... not even when he was a child. Neither of them noticed that they were being watched.
Shannon and Jethro were having a hard time trying not to laugh. They didn't want to scare Tony into thinking that he was misbehaving. That would have more counterproductive than anything that they could do.
They were glad that Kelly had taken a liking to Tony. She never became attached to anyone as quickly as she became attached to Tony. And Tony was slowly becoming attached to Kelly as well. It would cause too much heartbreak to separate them now.
Later that afternoon Jethro took Kelly and Tony to the batting cages. He promised Kelly that they would go long before they met Tony. With his broken arm all he really could do was watch. It didn't bother him. He preferred sports that had more action and less waiting. He didn't have the patience for baseball. Jethro said that they could go again once Tony's arm was healed.
Kelly couldn't even hold her bat the right way no matter how many times she was corrected. It was funny to watch how frustrated she got when she missed each ball.
Kelly was in bed when Jethro and Shannon had Tony sit in the living room. Shannon was the first to speak up.
"Tony, I met with a friend of mine yesterday about your situation. She's a lawyer. We can't keep you."
"When do I have to leave?"
"I didn't say you didn't have options. You can either petition or sue your father for abandoning you and get thrown into the foster care system. The first option would legally make you an adult."
"But you would have to prove that you can provide for yourself. And since up until last week you were living on the streets that isn't likely going to happen. You will likely be disowned no matter what you do."
"If you sue you'll at least have a chance," said Jethro. "Your father will likely go to jail and pay for what he did to you for the rest of his life."
"I don't care about the money."
"You may not care about it but it rightfully yours. You deserve something from him. You will be left with nothing if you don't fight for it... Your family may even consider you to be a traitor."
"I don't care. I'll do it."
"Good because we have court on the eleventh."