A/N: This is a longish one-shot (I guess? Is there a length limit on that?) of my favorite genre: Gibbs/Tony father/son, of course! Standard disclaimers apply - I own nothing, I'm no expert, yadda yadda. I hope you enjoy this story! -abby
For once, Tony was more than willing to get up when his alarm started blaring at 0515. Normally he had to hit the snooze button at least twice before he could fully awaken, but his sleep had been plagued by nightmares and morning hadn't come fast enough this time. Gotta go for a long run if I'm going to shake those dreams, Tony mused as he changed into sweats and tied his jogging shoes. He ran every morning through a nearby park, and as per his usual routine, Tony slipped his keys into his pocket but left his wallet and cell phone on the kitchen counter.
He warmed up for a few moments in his building's parking lot before starting off at a slow run. Gradually Tony picked up the pace and was nearing the park when he noticed a young woman running a half-block ahead. She was approaching an intersection and began jogging in place as she waited for the light to change. The walk signal lit and she began to cross the street as Tony came up behind her. Just then he happened to see a car speeding wildly toward the unaware woman. The vehicle gave no indication that it was slowing and DiNozzo acted on instinct.
"Look out!" Tony screamed as he tore into the crosswalk and shoved the surprised woman out of harm's way. She landed on the opposite sidewalk, shocked but unhurt.
Tony was not so lucky. All he had time to do was jump and tuck as the car plowed into the crosswalk and kept right on going. The young jogger Tony had rescued looked on in horror as he bounced off the car's windshield and landed in a heap a few feet away from where she sat.
She gasped, "Sir? Sir! Oh my god, are you okay?" She scrambled over to where Tony lay groaning and tried to rouse the dazed NCIS agent.
At first she could not get a response but then suddenly he said, "I'm fine," and struggled to his feet.
"Are you sure? That looked pretty bad. You saved my life!" she said sincerely.
Tony smiled weakly at the young woman before staggering off into the park. She tried to follow, but was waylaid by another woman who had witnessed the accident. By the time she managed to assure the frantic onlooker that she was indeed uninjured, her hero was long gone.
Gibbs was irritated, but truth be told, he was really beginning to worry. It was already 0915 hours. It had been a slow morning so far, and he had sent Tim and Ziva to Norfolk to check out a lead on a cold case. Since then, Gibbs had been watching the clock and waiting for DiNozzo to arrive. Sometimes his senior field agent was as late as 0830 but never beyond that. Repeated calls to Tony's cell phone had gone unanswered.
That's it, Gibbs thought. He was on his way down to Abby's lab to see if she could trace the location of DiNozzo's cell, but stopped when his own desk phone rang. Maybe that's him.
"Yeah, Gibbs," the lead agent said gruffly.
"Good morning, this is Henry down at security. I have a young woman here who is looking for Agent DiNozzo. At least I think that's who she's looking for, judging from her description. She's asking if he's okay," said the voice on the other end of the line.
Gibbs did not like the sound of that. He pressed his lips into a tight line before responding, "I'm on my way down."
When Gibbs reached the security desk, he was greeted by a worried-looking young woman. She introduced herself as Katie Johnson then began to explain, "I was jogging this morning along my usual route, near Cedar Creek Park."
Aw, crap. That's where Tony runs every morning, realized Gibbs.
Katie continued, "I was in the crosswalk and a car came out of nowhere, and before I even realized it a man pushed me out of the way from behind. The car didn't even slow down and he was hit! I was trying to check on him but he told me he was fine and disappeared into the park. I tried to follow but lost him."
"Why did you come here?" Gibbs asked abruptly.
"The man was wearing sweats that said NCIS across the front so I figured that meant he worked here...I wanted to thank him for saving my life! He's not here?" Katie asked with concern.
"If it was Special Agent DiNozzo, then no, he is not here," Gibbs no longer tried to hide the worry in his voice as he asked Katie for a description of the man.
She replied without hesitation. "He was tall, probably over six foot. Brown hair, green eyes, very handsome."
Gibbs closed his eyes momentarily before replying. "Do you have any idea if he was injured?"
Katie sighed. "I'm honestly not sure, sir, I'm really sorry. I don't see how he couldn't be, after being hit at that speed. The driver had to have been going at least 50 miles an hour. He wasn't bleeding that I could see, but he was limping. I wish that stupid woman hadn't kept me from going after him," the last part was spoken with obvious annoyance.
"Thank you for coming by," Gibbs said sincerely. "I'll find him."
"Please let me know when you do. I want to thank him," Katie said. She pressed a business card into Gibbs' hand before stepping out of the lobby doors.
After she left, Gibbs spun on his heel and headed for his car. He wasted no time in arriving at the park, making the usual 20-minute drive in less than ten. Gibbs brought the car to a screeching halt in the parking lot and jumped out. He carefully surveyed his surroundings as he followed the jogging trail into a lightly wooded area.
"DiNozzo?" Gibbs called as he searched. "Tony! Can you hear me?!"
After twenty minutes of fruitless searching along the winding path, the lead agent was getting frustrated. He has to be here somewhere. If he's injured he couldn't have gotten too far, but maybe I should go check his apartment. Gibbs was on his way back up the trail toward the parking lot when he heard quiet moaning. He followed the source of the muffled sound and finally spotted a familiar sweats-clad figure, curled up under the low-hanging branches of a nearby tree.
"Tony?" Gibbs carefully approached, kneeling beside the younger man. Tony was laying on his side in the fetal position and had his arms covering his head. He did not react to his name.
Gibbs tried again. "Tony," he said quietly as he placed a hand on DiNozzo's shoulder. The reaction was not at all what he expected.
"Don't touch me!" Tony hissed, flinching away from the gentle contact. "Leave me alone!"
Concerned, the lead agent pulled his hand away. "Okay, I won't touch you. Can you tell me where you hurt?"
Tony still had not moved his arms away from his face. "Just leave me alone," he repeated, but this time his muffled voice was filled with despair.
Unsure of how to proceed, Gibbs called Ducky. He had already put the medical examiner on standby, explaining the situation as he drove to the park. When Dr. Mallard answered, Gibbs didn't bother with pleasantries. "I found him, Duck. But he won't let me touch him. I'm not sure he recognizes me."
"Can you tell how badly he's injured?" The elderly ME asked.
Gibbs did a quick visual assessment and reported into the phone, "I can't see his face, but it looks like he banged up his leg pretty good. Beyond that, I can't tell without touching him."
Dr. Mallard sighed before responding with, "I would prefer to call for an ambulance, but given the way young Anthony feels about hospitals I'm afraid that in his confused state it may do him more harm than good. Try to get through to him, Jethro. See if you can get him to let you help. I will meet you at his apartment in a half-hour. Do you think you can get him there?"
"I will, Duck. Somehow I will," Gibbs promised before snapping the phone shut and returning his attention to DiNozzo.
"DiNozzo. Hey, Tony. It's Gibbs. Do you hear me?" Gibbs kept his voice gentle and reassuring. When Tony did not move, he kept trying. "It's Gibbs. You know me. Remember?"
Slowly, DiNozzo pulled his arms away from his head and cautiously made eye contact with the older man. His green eyes searched the ice blue ones for a long moment before he finally responded. "Boss?" he said, but sounded unsure.
Gibbs nodded. "Yeah, Tony. It's me. Can you get up? I want to take you home."
Tony seemed confused. "Home?"
"Your apartment. Ducky's meeting us there. Is that okay?"
Gibbs was glad to see the younger man relax slightly as he quietly responded, "Yeah. That's okay." Tony reluctantly allowed his boss to help him out from under the branches. Gibbs gently maneuvered his agent into a sitting position against the tree trunk.
"Where do you hurt? Is it bad?" Tony didn't answer right away, so the older man checked him over. Besides the shredded leg of his sweatpants and the swollen and bruised skin beneath, there was no visible damage. "Is it just your leg?"
"I think so," came the soft reply.
Gibbs arranged himself under the other man's shoulder, wrapping his own arm around Tony's waist for support. "Are you ready?" Tony nodded, and together the two men slowly rose to their feet. Tony quickly and painfully discovered that he could put very little weight on his right leg, and he leaned heavily into his boss as they made their way back to the car.
It took a while, but when they made it Gibbs made sure Tony was secured in the passenger seat before driving the four blocks to DiNozzo's building. Tony was silent for the short duration of the trip, and once parked the lead agent helped him out of the car. He virtually had to carry the younger man up the two flights of stairs to the apartment. Gibbs fumbled with the lock as Tony sagged against him, barely staying upright. Finally Gibbs managed to unlock the heavy door.
"Here we go, Tony. Let's get you settled. Ducky will be here soon," Gibbs said breathlessly, exhausted under the weight of the taller man. They shuffled to the large leather sofa and Gibbs gently eased Tony down. He helped DiNozzo swing his legs onto the couch and remove his running shoes. The senior field agent had just leaned back against a couple of pillows and closed his eyes when Ducky let himself into the apartment.
"How's he doing, Jethro?" Dr. Mallard spoke quietly.
Gibbs ran his hands through disheveled silver hair. "Not sure, Duck. I think he's a little confused, but seems to know who I am at least." Ducky nodded understandingly.
Tony had already drifted off, and startled awake at Dr. Mallard's approach. "What are you doing?" the younger man demanded. Suspicion and fear were evident in his eyes.
Ducky and Gibbs exchanged a worried glance, and the lead agent spoke up. "Ducky's going to take a look at your leg. You said it was okay," Gibbs gently reminded him.
Suddenly Tony looked sheepish as recognition dawned. "Yeah, of course. Sorry, Ducky."
"It's quite all right, my boy," came the response. Dr. Mallard swiftly set about examining Tony's right leg, first removing his sock and pushing aside the tattered remains of the pant leg. He sighed at the numerous deep scrapes and large bruises that were visible from mid-thigh all the way down to Tony's scraped and swollen ankle. The doctor gently probed Tony's knee with his fingers, apologizing at the subsequent gasp of pain from his patient. Tony tried to relax back into the comfortable pillows while Ducky checked him over. The medical examiner looked in Tony's eyes with a small penlight, and thoroughly examined him for any other evidence of injury, lifting the senior field agent's sweatshirt to check his ribs and back and carefully inspecting his head for any bumps or other swelling.
Satisfied, Ducky stood up and addressed the two agents. "I do not believe anything is broken, although the knee is severely sprained. I am going to go and get a brace to keep it immobilized." He held up his hand to forestall the inevitable argument from DiNozzo. "Your ankle is in bad shape too. You will have to stay off that leg for the next few weeks at least." Tony huffed in irritation and flopped back against the couch as Dr. Mallard continued, "I'll get you some pain meds too, but until I get back you can take something over the counter." The ME pulled Gibbs into the kitchen to speak privately.
"It does not appear he hit his head, so I'm not certain what could have caused the confusion and his initial bizarre reactions to our presence. It could be that this event has resurrected some long-forgotten trauma. I'll be gone for about an hour or so, filling his prescriptions and getting the supplies. Try and get him talking, Jethro." Gibbs opened his mouth to protest, but was stopped short with a knowing look from his old friend. "Yes, you most certainly can, Jethro. He needs to talk about it." With the firm instruction, Ducky left the small apartment.
Gibbs grabbed a bottle of water out of the fridge and a couple of aspirin out of the cabinet and headed back into the living room. He found Tony staring stonily at the wall. "Hey, you want some aspirin?" He offered the water and the pills to the younger man.
Tony grudgingly accepted both and drained half the bottle as he swallowed the pills. "Thanks," he said quietly.
"Sure." Gibbs paused. "You did good today. I'm proud of you. And the woman you saved is very appreciative." He dug in his pocket and found the business card. "Cute, too. You should call her." Gibbs smiled as he handed the card to his senior field agent.
Tony smiled in return, but it didn't reach his eyes. He looked at the card in his hand. "Katie Johnson, huh? Maybe I will call her. I'm glad she's okay."
I'm really horrible at this, Gibbs thought. May as well go for broke. The lead agent took a deep breath and asked, "You wanna talk about it?"
"I'm tired. I want to go to sleep," was the noncommittal reply.
Gibbs sighed, but knew he should not force the issue. "No problem. Go to sleep, Tony. I'll be right here." He sat down in a nearby armchair.
Tony nodded, and within moments was snoring softly. Gibbs watched him sleep for a while, wondering what could have possibly happened in the younger man's life to make him so skittish after an accident. He couldn't possibly be blaming himself. Normally he tries to shoulder the blame for everything, but I don't think even he could make something like this his fault. The lead agent knew that whatever was going on, it very likely had to do with Tony's father. The elder DiNozzo had damaged his son in ways that Gibbs could not even begin to understand. He sighed and rubbed his temples. I'd love to teach that bastard a lesson, Gibbs thought angrily.
Gibbs' musings were interrupted when Tony began to stir and cry out in his sleep. "No! Please! I'm sorry!" Tony cried frantically as he thrashed on the couch. "I didn't mean to! Please, it hurts!"
Gibbs stood and rushed to his agent's side, although given what had happened before he was hesitant to touch the younger man. "Tony. Tony, wake up." His words had no effect. Tony continued to whimper and thrash wildly.
"Don't! It hurts! I'm sorry!" The senior field agent's cries were becoming more and more distressed, and Gibbs was growing concerned that he would hurt himself. He made a decision. Kneeling by Tony's side, Gibbs carefully grabbed him by the shoulders and gently drew the younger man into his chest. It was the same way he used to calm Kelly whenever she had a nightmare, and the action seemed only natural.
"Shhh, it's okay," Gibbs soothed quietly. "You're safe, no one is going to hurt you. I promise. I've got your six." To his great surprise, Tony began to sob and clutched Gibbs' shirt with both hands as if his life depended on it. The older man gently embraced Tony, rubbing his back and rocking back and forth until the tears abated.
Without warning Tony awakened and when he realized what was going on, he pushed away from Gibbs' chest, horrified. "Boss! Oh god, I'm so sorry! I, um...oh god." Mortified and desperate to escape, Tony abruptly extricated himself and stood up before Gibbs could stop him. The senior field agent managed to take exactly one step forward before his battered leg gave out. He yelled in pain.
Gibbs had also gotten to his feet and easily caught Tony by the upper arms before he fell too far. He supported his agent in front of him, so that they were face to face. "Dammit, DiNozzo, what the hell do you think you're doing?!"
Tony averted his eyes and stammered, "I-I don't know, I'm really sorry, I was crying all over you and you think I'm a total loser now, and rightfully so. I'm so weak and-" he was cut off as Gibbs suddenly drew him into a firm embrace.
After a few seconds, Gibbs pulled back slightly so he could look the surprised younger man square in the eyes. "You listen to me, Anthony DiNozzo. You are not a loser. Nor are you weak. If you were either of those things, I would not have you on my team. Also, stop apologizing."
"Sign of weakness, right." Tony agreed meekly. Further proof, right there, he thought.
Gibbs sighed. "No, stop apologizing because you have nothing to be sorry for! What have you done wrong today?"
Tony appeared to be thinking it over.
Gibbs rolled his eyes in frustration. "Nothing, Tony. You have done nothing wrong." Noticing the taut lines of pain around Tony's mouth, he gently eased his agent back down to the couch, taking a seat himself on the coffee table across from the younger man. "Listen to me. You were having a nightmare, and I want you to tell me what that was all about." Gibbs realized too late that he had phrased it as an order, and hoped that he wasn't pushing too hard. He needed Tony to talk because he wanted to, not because his boss ordered him to.
Either way, the senior field agent took a deep breath before quietly explaining. "I was eleven. I had a friend over after school, a kid from down the street. We were riding our bikes up and down the driveway. We had one of those really huge circular drives, you know?" Gibbs nodded. He knew how wealthy the DiNozzo family was. "Anyway, Daniel rode his bike up too close to the garage, and our chauffeur, Harris, was backing one of the limos out. I saw what was about to happen and pushed him out of the way just in time. Daniel was okay, but Harris couldn't see us and he ran over my leg. It was broken in two places."
Tony's voice dropped to a whisper. "My father was so furious at me. He called our family doctor to come to the house and set my leg. But as punishment for getting in Harris' way, he wouldn't let the doctor give me any painkillers first. He said that the pain could serve as a reminder to be less of an idiot next time."
Gibbs tried to mask his fury, but failed miserably. He sputtered angrily, "Your father did what? What could he have possibly been mad at you for?"
"I wasn't supposed to have a friend over. I should have been doing my homework," Tony shrugged. He hesitated slightly before continuing. "I haven't thought about that accident in years. But when I got hit by that car today..." He trailed off and leaned back against the couch cushions.
Of course, Gibbs thought, as everything clicked into place. That makes perfect sense. A similar situation - he pushed someone out of the way of a car and got hit. His leg was hurting just like the last time. He must have gotten trapped in that horrifying memory. No wonder he was trying to hide and was so suspicious of me and Ducky. He thought we were going to hurt him instead of help. The lead agent sighed heavily. It broke his heart to think that Tony had grown up in such a hostile environment.
"Tony," Gibbs began, "you know you didn't do anything wrong, right? Back then or today. Both times you did a very good thing. You saved Daniel, and today you saved Katie."
The senior field agent winced as he tried to lift his injured leg back onto the couch. Gibbs reached over to help him prop it up. Once Tony was settled back against the pillows he said softly, "Yeah, I know. Intellectually I know that. But I just kept hearing my father yelling at me and I guess I was having a hard time distinguishing the memories from reality." He looked at Gibbs sheepishly. "Thanks for not actually leaving me alone."
"DiNozzo, I will never leave you alone. You can count on that much for sure." Gibbs smiled and gently cuffed his agent across the back of the head.
Tony grinned sincerely in response, just as his front door opened and Ducky entered the apartment. The ME was laden with crutches and a large bag from the nearby pharmacy. DiNozzo groaned loudly. "Aw, Ducky, are you really gonna make me use those things? I hate being on crutches. Do I have to?"
Dr. Mallard raised an eyebrow at the younger man's shift in attitude, and correctly assumed that Gibbs had successfully gotten through to him. He smiled. "Yes, Anthony, you will have to use them." After insisting that his reluctant patient take the prescription painkillers, the ME knelt by the couch and tended to Tony's injured knee. He carefully cleaned and bandaged the numerous scrapes before strapping on a brace. Tony sat quietly throughout the process, and Gibbs noticed how the younger man's eyelids were becoming heavy again. Once Ducky finished his ministrations, he stood and addressed Gibbs.
"Jethro, I think we should get young Anthony into his bed where he'll be more comfortable." Gibbs agreed, and together the two men pulled a very drowsy senior field agent to his feet. They supported the majority of Tony's weight, carefully assisting him into the bedroom. Tony was asleep before they even managed to lay him down all the way. Dr. Mallard arranged the injured man's head on the pillow as Gibbs gently lifted his legs onto the bed and covered him with a blanket.
The two old friends stepped quietly out of the room after turning out the light. "How is he, Jethro?" Ducky asked with concern. "He seemed more like himself."
Gibbs sighed and shook his head. "You would not believe the things that bastard of a father put him through, Duck. People like that shouldn't be allowed to have kids."
Dr. Mallard nodded emphatically. "I agree completely. I think that our dear Anthony has turned out remarkably well considering his unfortunate childhood. And a large part of that is due to your influence. He looks up to you as a father figure, Jethro. I daresay that you are the most important person in his world."
"I know. And honestly, that scares me sometimes," Gibbs replied with another heavy sigh. "I try to do right by him."
The medical examiner smiled. "Jethro, I think that today is an excellent indicator that you are doing far more than that. Call me if you need anything." Dr. Mallard gathered his medical bag and took his leave, quietly closing the front door behind him.
Gibbs stood in the hallway for a moment, contemplating the ME's sincere words. He peeked back into Tony's bedroom, and upon hearing the reassuring sound of even, relaxed breathing, decided that all was well for the time being. He sat down on the living room couch and noticed Katie Johnson's business card lying face up on the coffee table. Gibbs smiled faintly as he dialed the number.
"Hello, Ms. Johnson? Yes, this is Special Agent Gibbs, NCIS. I wanted to let you know that I found Special Agent DiNozzo. He is going to be just fine."