Tony said nothing as he slammed the door to the government issued sedan shut, ignoring the spinning sensation that the sudden movement caused. He bit down on his tongue, hard, as Gibbs tried explaining the current situation between Stephanie and him away, oblivious to the pounding headache each word he spoke seemed to cause. Instead, Tony focused on walking straight, ignoring the growing black spot in his field of vision. It wasn't too hard to tune Gibbs out as his heart deafened everything, except for his heavy breathing.
"It happened real quick…" Gibbs continued unable to stop himself from making an even bigger fool of himself in front of his son.
"Damn it, I don't care!" Tony said whirling around stumbling a bit, causing Gibbs to stop dead in his track. "I don't care what you do with your life. You want to replace mom, then fine. It's your life. I want to figure out this case so we can all get back to the lives we were living; you with your lovely wife," Tony spat, "and me doing my thing. Is that a problem?"
Gibbs was taken aback as Tony huffed out in front of him. He glanced up to see Tony's dilated pupils, noticing for the first time the sweat that seemed to be pooling just under Tony's hairline. He made a grab for Tony's wrist, feeling the detective's pulse bounding through his button up shirt.
"Tony, are you feeling up for this?" Gibbs questioned as Tony swayed in front of him. "You're not looking too hot, kiddo…"
"I'm not a kid. And I'm fine. I've done worse," Tony said shaking off his father's hand. He turned and felt the world sway dangerously. He shut his eyes and counted to five because the last thing he needed was to have his father worry about him, or so he had convinced himself into thinking. As his head grew lighter, Tony haphazardly made his way to the tennis court bleachers, knowing that it had a perfect view of the front of the school.
"So, I guess it always goes back to drugs," Gibbs said changing the subject.
"My question is how big this is," Tony said nodding. "shit..." he muttered.
Gibbs had just enough time to move aside before Tony turned and hurled from the top bleacher. Gibbs barely had enough time to react, catching the young detective as his body just about gave way to join the puke that scattered the grass below.
"Shit, DiNozzo, you're no good to me if you're half dead on your feet!" Gibbs exclaimed as he subconsciously rubbed Tony's back soothingly.
"I'm fine," Tony said hoarsely. "It's fine, I feel better now. It's just something I ate…"
"Or that concussion I know you sure as hell have," Gibbs remarked. "Come on, we don't have to do this today."
Gibbs stood to leave, but Tony's weak grasp around his arm stopped him, pulling him back down next to the young detective.
"If I remember anything about how the school used to work, that crew right there coming out is who we're looking for," Tony said pointing to a group of teenagers.
Gibbs watched as the massive crowd of teens parted to make a path for the small group. The kids around them silenced and scattered as they passed and the security guards did nothing but stare as one of the teens, assumingly the head of the group, opened a small box and placed a cigarette in his mouth.
"They are going to come this way soon," Tony remarked.
True to Tony's prediction, the group came pass the other side of the tennis court, stopping just across from Gibbs and Tony. Gibbs noticed how Tony stiffened as they listened in on the not so quiet conversation.
"I got a call, Carlos won't be handling our money no more," the teen who lit the cigarette spoke out in Spanish.
Gibbs shook his head in frustration. Spanish was not a language he had taken time to fully learn and while he could follow some words, there was no way he would be able to follow an entire conversation in Spanish. He sighed and looked over at his son who was still listening, his facial expression molding into one of displeasure.
"Why not, Alex?" another teen asked, fishing for a cigarette of his own.
"Dead," Alex responded casually flicking the butt towards a passing vehicle. "My cousin said he had a plan, had some untaken business and Carlos was getting in the way…"
"Carlos is your brother…"
"Carlos was an idiot. He should have known!" Alex snapped out. "My cousin promised to take care of my mom. Carlos's death won't be for nothing. I just know we better sell what we have because whoever this next person is won't be as lenient as Carlos if we have left over products."
Gibbs waited until the group of five filed into two separate cars, started said cars, and turned onto the main road before turning to Tony. "You have any idea what they said?" Gibbs questioned.
"Yeah, and if I had anything left in my stomach I'd probably be sick again," Tony said darkly.
"You were right," Tony sighed. "We, I'm…this is because of me. That kid died because of me…"
"How you figure?" Gibbs followed Tony as Tony stumbled back towards the car.
Gibbs attempted to ignore the fact that he had to, more than once, reach out to steady the young detective. Tony's "fine" exterior was quickly deteriorating and by the time they made it to the car Tony was no longer attempting to keep his eyes open. The sweat beads had suddenly pooled together and was soaking Tony's shirt despite the undershirt beneath. Gibbs felt the alarm grow even more when Tony did nothing to swat away Gibbs' fingers as he loosened his son's tie.
"Tony, I think you need to go to the hospital," Gibbs said worriedly.
"No, signed out AMA earlier, I know what I'm doing," Tony said through gritted teeth. "Just need something to eat and then I'll be good as new. Need to check on those cases…"
Gibbs swore beneath his breath as Tony tried unbuckling his seat belt. He swatted the boy's fingers away taking note at how clammy they felt beneath his own. Gibbs reached for his phone as he fought the worry that was seemingly engulfing reasoning. Tony was quiet except for the moan that broke through his lips.
"Damn my head is pounding," Tony finally admitted.
"How hard did they hit you yesterday in exchange for that damn information?" Gibbs snapped out, the worry making his tone sharp.
"Doesn't matter. Nothing worse than I've had before," Tony sighed out.
"You keep saying that," Gibbs said with a shake of his head.
They were still an hour away from the station and traffic was bumper to bumper. NIS was closer, but there was nothing comfortable for Tony to sit on while Ducky performed an examination. Gibbs sighed as he slammed on the breaks once more. Tony lurched forward in protest, and Gibbs could not help the apology that slipped through his lips as he gently pushed Tony back into his seat.
Gibbs hit speed dial and listened impatiently as he was greeted with the standard NIS greeting. He jabbed in Ducky's extension as he maneuvered the car to make a u-turn at the median break.
"Hello, autopsy," Ducky greeted.
"Duck…you busy?" Gibbs asked getting off at the first exit he could.
"Why as a matter of fact, no Jethro. I was just packing up for the day! I got a call from Stephanie, I hear that she ran into you earlier?"
"Yeah, she accused me of cheating, hit on the back of the head with a bag, and threw down divorce paper as her brothers pulled her away. Great meeting," Gibbs quipped sarcastically.
Ducky chuckled, "Well, Jethro, can you say you blame her. She was forced to spend Christmas without her husband…"
"I saw it coming, but that's not why I was calling, Duck," Gibbs said turning onto a side street. "Remember that ridiculous detective?"
"But of course, Jethro!"
"Yeah, well, can you meet me at my house? The kid is not doing so hot," Gibbs turned and gently made his way through an alley.
"Well with rush hour…it may take a while," Ducky warned grabbing his things.
"That's fine. Stephanie is staying with one of her brothers so she won't be at the house. Just walk in," Gibbs said flipping the phone shut.
Gibbs looked over at Tony who had taken up an awkward half fetal position in the seat. He was sweating, but he was pale and cold to touch. Tony had been in and out earlier and even throughout the short conversation with Ducky his status had deteriorated even further. He gave the man's arm a reassuring squeeze as he opened his phone to dial another number.
"Fornell," Gibbs rolled his eyes at the man's abrupt greeting.
"I think you might want to come over," Gibbs stated finally turning onto his street.
"Why?" Fornell questioned, but immediately grabbed his keys and made his way back towards the car he had parked just ten minutes earlier.
"Tony, he came into work all beat up, and he just got progressively worse. I just called Ducky, he's making a house call, but I think he should have someone familiar with him…"
"What happened?" Fornell demanded. "If you hurt him Gibbs I'll kill you myself. Boy's been through enough."
"Wasn't me," Gibbs stated throwing the car in park. "Got some information though, have a feeling that this case we're working will become an FBI case sooner or later though. Does the name Hernandez ring a bell?"
"I'll be there in ten minutes."
Gibbs flipped the phone close once more before falling back heavily on the seat. He turned his head to glance at the detective once more. Once again, Gibbs found himself cursing himself for not realizing who Tony was earlier. Clearly everything about him screamed Tony…his Tony. Everything. Now, as the boy sat shivering in his car, brown hair matted on pale skin Gibbs questioned just how much of this could he have prevented.
He hadn't even known of Tony's identity for more than twenty four hours and already the boy was hurt. He had failed to protect him when he was a teenager, and Gibbs found himself fighting back a tear as he questioned his ability to protect him now. Could he do it even if he failed as a father before? He was already off to a bad start; Tony was already laying in his car, only semi aware of his surroundings.
"Tony," Gibbs called out gently.
"My dad used to call me that," Tony mumbled out clearly incoherent.
"Do you think you can help me get you into the house?" Gibbs questioned as he shifted to fully look at Tony.
"Yeah," Tony stated automatically, without thought.
Gibbs scoffed as Tony reached out blindly for the door handle, missing completely. Gibbs got out of the car and jogged to the other side. He glanced into the window, noticing that most of Tony's weight was resting against the door. Carefully bracing himself for Tony's prone form, he slowly opened the door, slipping an arm under the younger man's armpit. Gibbs' practically lifted the detective out of the car, carefully setting him on his good foot, all without Tony's full knowledge. The sun was setting and the night wind sent some snow blowing across both men's faces, but neither one was aware.
"Tony, you're going to have to help me now," Gibbs instructed.
"Got it, dad," Tony mumbled.
Gibbs beamed with pride at the title. Unconsciously, Gibbs held himself higher as he supported more of his son's weight. While the circumstances were less than ideal, Tony had called him dad. He hadn't been referred to as "dad" in years. His own children were believed dead, and now Tony had called him dad.
"There you go son," Gibbs said leading Tony through the front door and towards the living room. "I'll be right back."
Tony said nothing as Gibbs took the stairs two at a time to grab Tony a blanket and a damp towel as well as a dry one. Tony was quiet as Gibbs wiped his forehead and did not protest when Gibbs lifted his head slightly to put a pillow down. The worry in Gibbs was increasing by the second as wondered how Tony had deteriorated so quickly in the span of a day. His gut churned as he sat back and waited for his friends to come. He watched as Tony drifted in and out of consciousness, clearly unaware of his surroundings. He hadn't been able to get much out of Tony when they first got into the car and the reasoning as to why Tony thought it was his fault Carlos was dead was still unknown to Gibbs. He pieced enough of it together to know that this was about the case in which his family had died over many years ago. He wasn't able to provide appropriate justice to his family back then, but watching as Tony turned restlessly in the small couch he vowed that he would do Tony right this time around.
A/N: Hey guys this is late, but not for lack of trying. I've been at this chapter on and off for the last semester, and yes, I time my life by semesters. It's summer and I promised everyone that I wouldn't give up on this story; more importantly, I promised myself. It's not a great chapter by any means, I'm sorry. I'm just trying to get back into the swing of writing, and for the first time in months words seemed to flow out. Reviews for "When Family Call" really inspired me to write. I know I shouldn't care what people think and all that, but the encouragement you guys bring is next to none. I'm so thankful for all of your reviews. The ones that flow through even months after this has been updated was a continual reminder of this story and the vision I have for it.
As stated before, it's reviews that keep me going for better or for worse. They are appreciated.
Thanks once more,
nighttime_writer aka Liz