As Tony's father slammed the front door shut, Tony visibly slumped. He was exhausted and confused. Questions and memories swirled in his head. How could he hate his father and at the same time wish the man would change so they could have a real relationship?
Silently, he wished to never see his father again. That man knew how to harass him better than anyone in the world. Every time he saw or heard from his father was a mixed bag of emotions. At the moment he wasn't sure if he should be glad to see the man go or if he still wanted that father/son relationship he always saw in the movies. With everything spinning around in his head, he realized he had a horrible headache.
Gibbs, however, had a clear mind. Tony needed the evidence on his side, if this ever did go to court. He wished he could let Tony rest, but now was not the time. Gibbs knew Tony could hold out for just a little longer. He clamped his hands on either side of Tony shoulders, giving him a squeeze of reassurance then pushed Tony towards the door.
"Outside, in front of the security cameras, go wave goodbye and invite him back." Gibbs instructed.
Tony understood, and pushed himself forward. If he came out in front of the cameras, cheerily interacting with his Dad then their story about a non-violent conversation would hold up better in court. His happy mask was on by the time he hit the door.
His acting was phenomenal. He even had a slight bounce to his step, in spite of being exhausted. He caught up with his Dad and the group of lawyers in the lobby, exactly where Gibbs had told him to make a scene.
"It was great seeing you Dad! Sorry, I could help. Call me. Love you." He nearly choked over the last words. However, only his closest friends would have been able to read the hesitation. Because the cameras were watching, he smiled and waved. He had to keep up the ploy.
He dad didn't even turn around. He just continued to stomp towards his vehicle. The lawyers cast questioning glances over their shoulders at Tony, unsure of what had just happened. Their boss had told them nothing when he'd left the apartment.
Tony unintentionally frowned at the lack of response. He wasn't sure how he wanted his Dad to reply to the cheery good bye, but the silent treatment wounded him. He turned and headed quickly to his apartment, knowing he had to get out of the spotlight before he collapsed.
Gibbs was there when he opened door, and didn't even wince when Tony turned and slammed it shut. Tony looked like he was about to blow up or blow over, and Gibbs wasn't sure what was going to happen first. He also looked slightly nauseous. Gibbs' instinct to protect almost overwhelmed him. He wanted to punish the man who had hurt DiNozzo, but he knew Tony wouldn't approve. Wisely, he decided it was more important to look after Tony at the moment.
"Go take a shower." Gibbs ordered, knowing the water would sooth Tony's muscles and nerves.
"What?" Tony asked puzzled. He was still a bit dazed from everything that had just happened. Why would Gibbs want him to take a shower?
"It will help, trust me." Gibbs reassured.
Tony heaved a heavy sigh and headed in the direction of the bathroom.
As soon as he got to the bathroom he closed the door. He felt the sudden need to vomit. Dropping to his knees in front of the toilet, he lost his dinner.
Gibbs listened with sympathy. Poor kid. He'd probably been dreaming of revenge for years, but sadly he had learned from experience that revenge takes almost as much out of you as it does the other person. He wished he could do something more, but he was unsure as to what.
He was a man of action, who knew how to get the bad guys, to solve the crimes. Comforting the victim was not his strong point. Oh, he had done it in the past, when he needed to. With children and women it came easier, a simple hug and the tears flowed, releasing all the pent up fear and anger. With men it was different. Most men, wanted revenge, not a shoulder to cry on.
And Tony had gotten his revenge, but he could tell it had not been what the younger man was expecting. At the time, Tony had enjoyed it. His dream come true, in contrast to the nightmare he'd lived through as a child. But after the door shut, Gibbs could see how much it had taken out of him. Tony was a good man, and getting revenge had caused him both pleasure and pain. The conflicting emotions were probably the reason he had vomited.
Gibbs went to the kitchen grabbing a glass of water and headed back to the bathroom. Stopping at the door, he heard no sound. The shower wasn't running and the toilet wasn't flushing. "Tony" he said knocking gently. "I'm coming in."
He opened the door to a dazed senior field agent, sitting in front of the toilet. Sweat rolled off of his skin. He looked disheveled, which was quite abnormal for Anthony DiNozzo.
"I'm okay" Tony responded automatically, his voice slightly slurred.
"I can see that." Gibbs observed with a slight grin. The response was very Tony-like; to be on the floor in the bathroom after just vomiting and try and tell someone you were fine.
Placing the glass of water on the sink, he held out his hand offering to help Tony up.
Looking up at his boss from his position on the floor, Tony randomly thought about what it would be like to be shorter than Gibbs. He was an inch taller than his boss and in most circumstances found it quite entertaining when people had to look up at him. However, sitting on the floor staring up at Gibbs he felt quite small, a calming but confusing notion.
The passing thought was apparently distracting enough that Tony didn't bother reaching for his boss's hand. The lack of response worried Gibbs slightly, but he figured Tony deserved a little leeway.
Bending down, he placed his arm under Tony's and manhandled him off the bathroom floor.
"I got it, boss." Verbally Tony rejected the help, but physically he leaned into Gibbs as he was lifted off the floor. Gibbs could feel the heat rolling of the man at his side. He could also tell how tight Tony's muscles were with nervous tension.
He held Tony up long enough to be sure he wouldn't fall, then offered him the glass of water he'd brought in. "Rinse?"
Silently Tony washed out his mouth and flushed the remains of his dinner down the toilet. Gibbs could see the effort Tony was exerting in the simple action. He needed to get in the shower now; before he was so locked up he couldn't move. Gibbs tilted his head towards the shower indicating Tony's next action.
The look annoyed Tony.
"I'm going. Damn, you're a little impatient today aren't you?" Tony answered unhappily. He knew he was biting his boss's head off over nothing, but he wasn't sure why.
Gibbs, however knew exactly why. And despite the disrespectful attitude, he held his tongue. He turned and walked out of the room without a word, closing the door behind him. He needed to leave before Tony said more than he meant to.
Tony's hand reached out to stop the motion, but it was too late. The door was shut and he'd pissed off his boss again. Leaning his forehead against the back of the door, he sighed. Why did he always hurt everyone he loved? He hated to admit it, but he thought he might have learned from his father. It almost made him consider that his Dad didn't mean to do the things he did. But then he remembered the joy his pain seem to give his Dad. He decided it wasn't the same. Yes, he hurt people, but he never meant to.
Undressing, he climbed in the shower, turning the hot water on full blast. On some level, he knew he should cool it off, but the pain almost felt good in comparison to what he had just been through. As the water poured over him began to relax. It felt cleansing, almost as if he could wash away what had just happened.
He heard the door open and Gibbs quietly move in and out the bathroom. He didn't talk, afraid of what might come out of his mouth. Since his Dad had walked in the door, he seemed to be saying a lot of things that he shouldn't to Gibbs.
Eventually, the hot water began to run out and he turned the shower off. He was surprised hear the sound of the television coming from his living room. He was also surprised to find his sweat pants and a t-shirt on the counter. As he dressed he realized he recognized the muffled sounds coming through the door. His boss was watching Magnum.
Intrigued, he forgot his discomfort and headed for the living room. He found his boss on the couch, in the middle of one of his favorite episodes.
"Television?" He asked.
"You don't have a boat." Gibbs gruffly replied.
"Yeah, I think the landlady might object." Tony laughed imagining a boat in the middle of his cramped apartment. His smile quickly disappeared as he realized Gibbs was doing it again. His boss had picked up his favorite pizza and beer on the way over. Tony had enjoyed it, but felt like he didn't deserve it after almost injuring Gibbs earlier. However, he hadn't said anything.
Now, after pushing Gibbs again, Gibbs had put in Tony's favorite DVD. Why was Gibbs being so nice, when all he had done today was screw up? Avoiding the issue again, he head for the kitchen in search of liquor.
As Tony walked past him into the other room, Gibbs grimaced. He'd put on Tony's favorite show in an attempt to help. He was doing everything he could to try and make the situation easier for Tony, but every time he did caught the slight frown on Tony's face. It made him wonder if anyone had ever done anything nice for the man. Tony had said before, that when Gibbs was nice he only got suspicious, and it seemed to be true tonight. Gibbs wondered what his father had done to cause that reaction in his son. Interrupting his thoughts, Tony walked back into the room.
"I don't have any bourbon, but I think sake does the trick just as well. You want some?" He asked placing two shot glasses and a bottle of sake on the coffee table in front of them.
As Gibbs nodded in agreement, Tony sat opposite his boss on the couch and poured both of them a shot. Before Gibbs had even reached for his shot, Tony had drunk his first and was pouring a second.
Gibbs downed his shot, slightly surprised watching Tony pour himself another so quickly.
When Tony reached to pour his forth, Gibbs beat him to the bottle, moving it out of his reach. Tony got the signal, but was not happy to be interrupted.
"You can leave now, you know. My Dad's gone and he's not coming back tonight."
Gibbs raised his empty shot glass indicating that he had been drinking. "I can't drive."
Tony knew it was only one shot and Gibbs could drive so he considered arguing, but decided against it. He'd just lose anyway and besides he kind of liked having Gibbs here.
They watched the next episode of Magnum in silence until Tony began unconsciously rubbing his arm, which was sore from his struggle with Gibbs earlier in the day.
Gibbs noticed the action, saddened by the fact that Tony had hurt himself in the struggle. He didn't regret holding Tony to the ground. If he hadn't, the day may have gone much differently. If Tony had hurt him in the fight, he knew they would not have been sitting here now. But, he wasn't exactly happy he'd had to manhandle him either.
As Tony continued to rub his arm he also remembered the events of the day. He felt horrible for attacking his boss. Gibbs had been a lifeline for Tony in his worst moments, and today he had gone out of his way again to try and preserve Tony's job. He owed Gibbs so much he knew he would never be able to repay him. However, instead of respecting the greatest mentor he'd ever had, he'd taken a swing at the man.
Gibbs observed the discomfort present on Tony's face as he rubbed his arm and mistook it for sadness. It hurt him to know Tony had been injured while in his care, even if it was Tony's own fault for pressing against the hold. Once again putting Tony's needs above his own, he pushed himself beyond what he was comfortable with.
"I didn't like hurting you, Tony." He commented quietly.
The statement was meant to soothe; a sort of Gibbs apology. However, Tony missed the meaning because it reminded him of another thought he'd had earlier in the day. How could his father enjoy hurting him? Was it genetic? Did he hurt the people he loved on purpose? How could he have attacked Gibbs in the first place? Did he like hurting people? Confused by the paths his brain was taking he decided to ask Gibbs' opinion.
"Do you ever like hurting anyone?" He questioned his mentor.
Undaunted by the change in topic Gibbs responded firmly. "When they deserve it."
Tony paused in response. He wasn't sure what that meant. Certainly, he deserved to hurt because of what he had tried to do to Gibbs, but Gibbs had just said he hadn't meant to hurt him. He was astonished at idea that Gibbs didn't want to hurt him, even when he did deserve it. He suddenly realized he hadn't wanted to hurt Gibbs either. Although he hurt his loved ones unintentionally, he never really wanted to.
On the other hand, he agreed with Gibbs. It was somewhat satisfying to hurt someone who deserved it. He remembered a few criminals over the years that had gotten exactly what they deserve and he'd been very pleased to see it.
Nevertheless, when he'd had his father pinned earlier, he'd thought he was going to enjoy it and he hadn't. He suddenly considered that his father might not have deserved the pain he'd had just inflicted on him. Maybe his father had been right all along.
It made him question; maybe he had deserved what had happened to him as a child. His dad had enjoyed it and maybe that was because he'd earned it. He was always in trouble. Always breaking the rules and pushing the limits. Maybe he deserved the punishment, because he'd been such a horrible child.
As Gibbs watched Tony through the corner of his eye he followed the faulty self-conversation that was going on in his senior agent's head. He studied the emotions that flashed across his face; first confusion, then pain, finally guilt. He could see with DiNozzo was doing. He was convincing himself that the abuse was his fault and Gibbs felt the need to intervene.
"You didn't deserve what he did to you back then. It's not your fault" Gibbs said.
"Yeah, I know." Tony responded with more self-confidence that he really had. His acting was superb but Gibbs knew him better than he thought.
"No," Gibbs strongly replied "you don't."
Suddenly, Tony felt the strong urge to deflect. He couldn't go down this path right now. He didn't have the vigor. Maybe another day he could handle it, but not tonight. He fell back on his strength, re-direction. "Did you know that line was in a movie? "Good Will Hunting" Great movie, it was directed by Gus VanSant and stars Robin Williams and Ma-"
"I know DiNozzo, I saw it."Gibbs interrupted.
"You did?"Tony looked at his boss surprised. He turned his head back towards the TV. "So you going to try and make me cry now?" he said in reference to the movie.
"You want me to?" Gibbs smirked, knowing Tony's response.
"No" Tony said emphatically.
Truthfully, Gibbs thought Tony did need to talk it out, but he knew he wasn't the best choice for the conversation. He knew that Tony would be very uncomfortable with Gibbs knowing all his secrets. Secondly, it would only make Gibbs want to kill Tony's father even more. Thirdly, if he knew, he might try to protect Tony even more, and Tony would not appreciate the action. The Italian machismo prevented coddling.
Gibbs wasn't surprised when Tony got up at the end of the episode.
"Ahh, I think I'll head to bed now. You staying?" Tony asked.
Gibbs nodded yes in response. He pulled the blanket off the back off the couch, stretching his legs out, making himself comfortable. There was no way he was leaving tonight. Tony's father might just come back, he reasoned with himself. He didn't want to admit that he felt the need to watch over Tony tonight.
They said goodnight as Tony headed down the hall towards his bedroom. Tony fell heavily into his bed, glad that he already had his sweatpants on. Quickly pulling off the sweat shirt, he tossed it towards the hamper. He'd sweat to death if he tried to sleep in it.
Pushing the top blanket off, he rolled around attempting to get comfortable. It didn't work. Forty-five minutes later, he stared at the ceiling unable to sleep. His mind wouldn't let him rest.
In the other room Gibbs could hear Tony's bed repeatedly creak at his movement. He momentarily wondered why someone who had so many female overnight guests would have a creaky bed. It seemed like a bad idea, but knowing Tony there was probably a reason behind it.
He contemplated intervening. He'd wanted to help Tony to handle what had happened today, but he'd known better than push the envelope. Tony was unstable at the moment; grumpy one minute and happy the next. It seems like he couldn't decide what to feel and Gibbs had decided not to press, otherwise he might end up in the line of fire.
He didn't blame Tony for the rough reaction. The kid had a lot on his plate right now. In one day, he'd seen his Dad for the first time in years, and he'd ended any chance of a relationship with the man. Gibbs had some experienced with abused children and he knew they never gave up on their abusive parents. No matter what the parent had done, a child always loves their parents. It was confusing to everyone involved, including the child, who tended to defend their parents.
Obviously, Tony knew mentally what his father had done was wrong, but emotionally he would probably never be able let himself believe it. It went against human nature.
As Tony rolled over for the umpteenth time, Gibbs decided he had to intervene, or neither of them would be able to see straight tomorrow. They both needed their sleep so they could quickly solve their current case. Gibbs stood and walked down the hall. When he reached the bedroom door it stood wide open and he could see Tony, eyes shut lying on his back. Gibbs leaned against the door frame and waited.
He waited for a few minutes, watching Tony pretend to sleep. Obviously he didn't want to talk. But fortunately, Gibbs cared more about what was good for Tony than about what he wanted. Tired of waiting, he decided to speak first. "I know you're awake." leaning on the door frame.
Tony kept his eyes shut and didn't move a muscle when he responded. "That's good because it would be really creepy if my boss was watching me while I was sleeping."
Gibbs smirked but didn't reply. Now that he got the ball rolling, all Tony needed was a bit of silence and he would feel the need to fill it. Silence, without distraction was not something Tony was comfortable with. "You know, there's this movie where-"
"DiNozzo" his boss interrupted, annoyed at Tony again avoiding the topic at hand.
"Right, no movie references before bed." Tony cracked.
Slowly, Gibbs approached the bed, not wanting to spook Tony. Tony's eyes popped open as Gibbs drew near. He wasn't sure what Gibbs was doing.
Gibbs however had a plan. He decided, he'd done a pretty good job of calming Tony earlier, and it might just work again. "Roll over," he instructed.
"What?" Tony questioned. "Ah, boss I-"
"On your stomach." Gibbs clarified "Roll over, on your stomach."
Tony silently acquiesced, rolling towards the center of the bed. Gibbs sat on the edge and for the second time in the day began rubbing Tony's back.
Unlike at the office, this time Tony's head was turned away from Gibbs. He wasn't frightened, but he still had trouble handling the comforting motion. He wanted to dissolve away. So much had happened in one day, he'd fought, he'd be comforted and he'd hurt his father. He felt like he'd been on an emotional rollercoaster and someone had forgotten to strap him in.
He felt the consistent motion and mentally wanted to shy away. However, his emotional needs overwhelmed his thoughts and he shifted closer to his boss. He had no idea why this felt so good. He closed his eyes and relaxed into the gentle motion. "Maybe you should have been a masseuse boss." He jested, slightly lifting his head.
Gibbs playfully grunted, tapping Tony's head in response and then continued the soothing motion up and down his back.
Tony closed his eyes, and breathed deeply. He could feel his boss's callused hand caressing his shirtless back. The touch seemed so intimate. He imagined for a moment that today had never happened; that his childhood had never happened.
Imaginations were great. Like movies anything could happen, including the impossible. He imagined that Gibbs was his father, and with the motion of his hand on Tony's back it almost seemed real. The story came to life in his head and he smiled.
Gibbs noticed the slight grin tugging at Tony's mouth. He wasn't sure what it was about, but he was glad something had made Tony smile on this horrid day. Maybe his dreams would be nightmare free if he ended the day on a happy note.
Gibbs could tell Tony was close to losing consciousness. Before today, he'd no idea that rubbing Tony's back was going to so effective; the kid seamed to soak it up. It wasn't surprising really. Tony had always responded positively to physical attention. Whether it was head slaps to keep him in line, or pats on the back to tell him he had done a good job, Tony always listened when Gibbs touched him. Gibb decided he'd stumbled on a very effective way of manipulating DiNozzo. He'd use it in the future to help guide the younger man.
Almost there. Gibbsnoted, studying Tony's posture and position. He stopped the motion for a second, testing for a response.
"Unh" Tony objected nonsensically.
Gibbs began rubbing again, and decided if Tony was that close he just needed a little more attention to put him to sleep. Gently he slid his hand to the back of Tony's head. Neat slow strokes caressed his hair and caused Tony to sleepily lean in to the hand, sighing in pleasure.
Gibbs slowed the motion even more, eventually letting his hand rest on the nape of Tony's neck. As he stilled this time, Tony no longer responded. Out like a rock, just like Kelly. Whenever his daughter had had trouble sleeping he'd used this technique to put her down. It had worked amazingly back then and tonight, he learned he hadn't lost his touch. He almost felt like a father again.
He didn't move, deciding instead to rest quietly, his hand on Tony's neck. He knew Tony was sleeping; the soft snoring gave him away. Tony wouldn't remember this, but he somehow felt he could heal a part of Tony's soul by bestowing a gentle touch. Words had never been his strong suit, but touch was one thing Gibbs was a master at.
Someday he would teach Tony about being a real father, and what that was like. And someday, Tony would learn to rub his own child's back; a comforting and soothing motion, rubbing in safety, protection and love.