"You have a visitor." (McGee)
"You'll see." (McGee)
Fragments: Fathers and Sons
Flesh and Blood Episode Summary: You know, I'm not sure a summary will do this episode justice! I think you'll just have beg, borrow or steal a copy of it so that you can watch it for yourselves. Suffice it to say, it's become one of my top five – do you agree?
A/N: Ah – the long awaited appearance of Tony's father! And, may I just say, I think the writers did a fabulous job with this episode – allowing us to see on screen moments that are usually reserved for fanfic alone. I was a bit nervous that they'd ignore all the delicious little tidbits they'd dropped over the years regarding Tony's upbringing, but that was not the case. Such growth we got to see in Tony: facing his father honestly and telling him he'd needed more from him as a child; overcoming his tendency to hide behind the face of clown and sharing (again, honestly) with Gibbs the revelations about his father in MTAC; the realization that maybe he was a bit old for spring break – but there was also growth in Gibbs, as the man who once hid his daughter's very existence from those closest to him owned up and shared his own heart-rending loss to a virtual stranger – all for the sake of helping Tony get what he needed. And I'm pretty sure any NCIS fan out there will be wearing out the rewind button for that last scene between Gibbs and Tony over steak and beer!
In a lot of ways, this amazing episode didn't really leave that much for fanfic writers to work with. Which is why I'm looking at this one from a slightly different perspective. I hope you enjoy. And as always, feedback is craved.
After six years as an NCIS field agent, serving on the finest Major Crimes Response Team based in D.C., reporting directly to none other than the legendary Leroy Jethro Gibbs, Timothy McGee prided himself on a fair amount of things.
His computer skills were nearly unrivaled. If the information was available in any form on the Internet, had ever been entered into a database, or was even hardwired directly onto a motherboard, McGee would be able to track it down and access it. His fingers flew over the keyboard at an alarming rate, and he was the local go-to guy for anything technically related, including being Gibbs' personal cell phone support and replacement technician. He'd even headed up the Cyber-Crimes Unit for several months, and still had the geeks down in the basement looking up to him as if he were a god.
His skills as a writer had also been proven. Sure, maybe it looked like he 'borrowed' a few things from his real-life counterparts – though he still insisted any similarities L. J. Tibbs had to his own boss were purely coincidental – but none of them could contest the success of his second career as the well-renowned Thom E. Gemcity.
He was also turning out to be a rather fine investigator, even if he did say so himself. It wasn't like he'd ever have the famous Gibbs' gut to rely on, but he had picked up quite a lot in the past few years. Enough to leave him with a slightly squishy feeling when something seemed off. And right now, his gut was telling him something was definitely hinky.
He slid back a touch from his desk, his fingers leaving the keyboard where he was typing up his report as he peered surreptitiously around the side of his monitor. He and Ziva had returned from talking with Prince Sayif at the airport at Gibb's request. They'd gotten the information that it was the prince's brother that had been behind the botched assassination attempt; not that it did any good. Diplomatic Immunity was something even Gibbs had no control over, and their perpetrator, Prince Abdula, was at this moment leaving the country in the company of his father. McGee thought Gibbs would be furious at the obfuscation of justice, but if that were true, there was no outward sign of it on his team leader's face. Instead, Gibbs' focus seemed to be more on the younger of the two DiNozzos.
McGee had seen the glances Gibbs kept shooting in Tony's direction, and he could only figure that it somehow tied in with Tony's father. To say he'd been surprised at finding out the senior DiNozzo had ended up in the interrogation room had been an understatement. In fact, there had been plenty of surprises in the last few days, starting with the unexpected appearance of Anthony DiNozzo Senior. Tim cringed a bit inwardly as he recalled the smug expression he'd worn when he'd told Tony that he had a visitor.
With only a few vague comments from Tony over the years regarding his upbringing and his family, Tim had naturally been curious. To see the elder DiNozzo up close and personal seemed like a dream come true, and the fact that Tony was obviously uncomfortable about it was just the icing on the cake. Having spent more than enough time in Tony's shadow, listening to the constant put-downs the older agent bestowed upon him, Tim couldn't wait to get ammunition to use against him. Having Tony's father around would surely provide McGee with plenty of fodder for their playful battles, and he was all ready to start taking notes.
Somewhere along the way, though, that squishy feeling in his middle had shown up. And for no apparent reason, it had intensified today until it could no longer be ignored.
Tim had seen the family resemblance right off – it was weird seeing Tony's eyes looking at him from an older face. And there was no denying the elder DiNozzo was still a great-looking guy. Tim had tried to stifle the jealousy that thought raised. It was bad enough knowing Tony was one of the best-looking guys in the agency, but to know that he'd keep looking that good years from now just didn't seem fair.
His looks weren't the only thing Tony had inherited from his father. The charm that was so much a part of Tony, that flirtatious nature that seemed to drive all the women wild were very much in evidence in the older man as well. Tim had felt slightly nauseous watching DiNozzo Senior manage to turn their trained Mossad assassin into little more than a blushing, giggling schoolgirl. Even Abby had fallen under the man's spell.
Still, though, there was something about the whole relationship that just didn't seem right to him, even before Tony had called upon him to help access his father's records. McGee had more than enough investigative skills to pick up on the subtle tension between Tony and his dad, despite how Tony tried to hide it. And if Gibbs was in the same room with Senior, the tension escalated to the point where McGee had exit routes picked out in case of melt-down.
He watched covertly as Tony powered down his computer and gathered his things. It was still fairly early, and McGee couldn't help pointing that out. "You on banker's hours now, Tony?" he asked, the question coming out sharper than intended, and he winced inwardly, wishing once again he had Tony's gift for banter that didn't cross invisible boundaries.
"Not that it's any of your business, McNosy," Tony said without any of his usual heat, "but I need to drive my dad to the station." He picked up his bag and headed off to the elevators with a weariness that seemed unnatural for the normally energetic agent.
McGee felt Gibbs' glare settle on him briefly before the team leader stood, moving quickly and quietly around his desk to follow Tony. Tim watched as Gibbs grabbed Tony by the elbow and pulled him over to the window for what was obviously a private conversation. He tried not to watch, really, but it was impossible as he felt his gaze drawn back to the two men, taking in Tony's almost defeated posture and the intense look on Gibbs' face. It was impossible to know what they were talking about, but there were no head slaps and it didn't look as if Gibbs was chewing Tony out. In fact, if McGee had to put a name on what he saw on his boss's face, he'd have said it was concern, but that couldn't be right. This was Gibbs, after all. And Tony. Gibbs was never easy on Tony, at least not about the personal stuff.
Tim's jaw nearly dropped as he watched Gibbs reach a hand under Tony's chin in a gesture that could only be interpreted as 'keep your head up'. The move got a small smile and a nod from Tony, and Gibbs patted him on the shoulder once before stepping aside and allowing DiNozzo to continue his journey to the elevator. McGee watched Gibbs watching Tony walk away, and he suddenly knew he shouldn't be here when Gibbs returned to his desk. Discretion being the better part of valor, he stood quickly and beat a hasty retreat, taking the back way down to Abby's lab.
He found her bent over the remnants of the bomb still laying out on the table as she disseminated the pieces and placed them into evidence bags for storage. She looked up at his approach. "Hey Tim!" she called, her voice bouncing in time with her pigtails. "What's up?"
McGee shoved his hands into his pockets and rocked back on his heels. "Nothing. Just thought I'd see what you were up to."
She narrowed her gaze at him before raising an eyebrow. "Nice try, McGee. Who're you hiding from?"
McGee looked affronted. "Who says I'm hiding?"
"You've got that deer in the headlights look. Must be Gibbs."
McGee thought about arguing, but realized there wasn't much point. He shrugged, moving to the table and taking a closer look at what she was working on.
"Where is everybody?" Abby asked.
Tim gave her the rundown. "Gibbs is still up in the bullpen, Ziva was getting a statement from Prince Sayif, and Tony's taking his dad to the station."
Abby looked up at that. "His dad is leaving?"
"Yeah. Why? You upset you didn't get to say goodbye?"
She snorted. "Hardly. That guy gave me the creeps. It's almost impossible to believe he and Tony are even related. They're nothing alike."
"How do you figure? They look exactly alike!"
"Well, sure, they look alike, but looks aren't everything. They totally don't act anything like each other though."
McGee shook his head. "Again, how do you figure? Seems to me like they're both kind of egocentric, charming, flirty types who like the finer pleasures in life."
"Hey!" She whacked him on the shoulder. "Don't you talk about Tony like that! If you knew anything, McGee, you'd know that Tony is nothing like his father. I mean, yeah, Tony's a flirt, and he's certainly charming, but for him, it's natural. It's like breathing for him. He flirts with you or turns on that charm, and you feel like you're the most beautiful woman in the world. When his father acts that way, it just kind of makes you want to take a shower." She shuddered involuntarily. "The guy's a sleeze, Timmy. Ewww."
McGee looked down his nose at her. "Sure didn't seem like you felt that way earlier when you were hanging all over his arm and showing him around NCIS."
"Jealous, McGee?" Abby smirked. "Besides, that was only because I had to. Gibbs and Tony asked me to keep an eye on him and keep him out of trouble so they could get some work done. It was kind of like an undercover assignment. Cool, huh?"
McGee looked at her in surprise. "Really? You mean you didn't think that much of him? Huh." He thought for a minute. "What about Ziva? Did she fall for his charm, or was she just putting on a show too?"
"No, Ziva totally fell for it. She may never wear her hair up again, which I imagine could get a bit awkward when she's working a crime scene. I'd better not be finding long black hairs caught up with my evidence from now on." She looked distracted momentarily, before her face cleared. "I'm pretty sure Duck-man was on to him though. He never said directly, but I got the feeling that he didn't trust him. And obviously Gibbs was holding back, or Tony's dad might not have made it out of here alive."
McGee refrained from telling her what he'd just witnessed between Gibbs and Tony, not sure he had it sorted out in his own mind just yet. The way Gibbs had been with DiNozzo was a manner in which Tim had only seen him behave with an upset witness or a small child. Gibbs didn't expend his limited supply of niceness on his team. At least, not as far as Tim had ever observed. But Tony had more history with Gibbs than he did, and Tim knew that despite the frequent head slaps, Gibbs tended to cut Tony more slack than most people realized.
Abby reached for another bag and began to label it. "Anyway, why do you ask? Please tell me you at least had a little clue. You didn't buy his act, did you?" She looked up at him intently, searching his face.
He thought for a moment before answering, and even as he said the words, he knew they were true. "No. I didn't. Something just didn't seem right between the two of them, you know? I can't put my finger on it though." He looked at her to see if she had the answers.
"Yeah. I know what you mean. Tony's never talked much about it, not even with me, but I do know enough to bet that this guy won't be winning any father of the year awards. I mean, if he couldn't even show up when his only son almost died . . ." she allowed the unfinished statement to prove her point.
"Yeah. That definitely seems – hinky."
"You got that right," Abby agreed. "I'm pretty sure they don't talk for a reason. I figure Tony's better off without him, you know?" She closed another bag and added it to the box. "Now, if you don't mind, I want to get this stuff down to the evidence garage so I can actually get out of here on time. Bowling night tonight. I'll see you later, okay?"
Tim nodded absently as she walked out, leaving him alone in the lab with his mind racing. Hearing Abby's opinion of Tony's dad just confirmed his own. It was easy to be jealous of Tony. The guy certainly seemed to have it all - looks, charm, personality – he was good at sports, good at his job, and he'd always be one step ahead of McGee career-wise. In fact, he was exactly the type of guy a computer geek like Tim had hated growing up. But after the events of the past few days, he realized he could never hate Tony, and that maybe in all the time he'd spent feeling jealous of Tony, he hadn't taken into account that Tony could have been envying him as well. Tim may have grown up on Navy bases, always getting moved around a lot, but at least his family was close, and Tim knew he could always count on them. Tony may have looked like he had it all, but Tim knew enough now to know he was missing out on the biggest part.
McGee felt a little annoyed with himself once again for taking so much pleasure in Tony's obvious discomfort over seeing his dad show up here, and he knew he wanted to make it up to the man. He'd give it an hour or two, wait until Tony was home, and swing by his apartment. Maybe they could head out to that restaurant they'd frequented during the summer when Ziva was gone, and just spend some time relaxing together.
With his plan firmly in mind, he made his way back up to the bullpen, hoping Gibbs was too busy to have noticed his absence.
Tim knocked on the apartment door for the third time, but the lack of light coming from underneath it led him to believe that Tony wasn't home. He thought about calling his cell, but was more than a little afraid that Tony might have decided to bury the tension of the past few days in a little female comfort, and there was no way McGee wanted to be interrupting that. He turned away and decided maybe he'd just bring in coffee for the team tomorrow, making sure to get Tony's with extra caramel, just the way he liked it. Maybe he'd grab one of those breakfast sandwiches Tony liked as well. Satisfied with his new plan, he drove to his own apartment, kicking off his shoes and throwing his keys on the counter. He changed into his sweats and made his way over towards his computer, his gaze falling on the framed picture that sat nearby. Smiling, he reached for his cell phone and hit number six on his speed dial, waiting as it rung.
"Hello?" The voice on the other end was warm and deep, just as he remembered.
"Hey, Dad. It's me." He listened for a moment, then he let out a little laugh. "No, everything's fine, I promise. I just wanted . . . well, I just wanted to say hi." He walked into the bedroom and flopped down onto the bed, settling in for a nice long conversation.
He had a lot of catching up to do.
Tony leaned back into the couch, taking his second bottle of beer with him and closing his eyes. The steak had hit the spot, the conversation with his boss had been just what he needed, and he could feel the tension from the last few days slowly draining out of him. He knew the smart thing to do would be to call it a night now and get himself back to his apartment before he completely crashed, but he was having a hard time motivating himself to move from his current position.
Gibbs had relaxed as well, still nursing his own beer, the remote in the other hand as he lazily flipped channels. Settling on a game, he kept the volume low and they sat in companionable silence for several minutes before he felt the need to speak again.
"Sorry about the way things worked out with your dad," he said, his quiet offering still loud enough to be heard over the noise of the television.
Tony opened one eye and lifted his head slightly to stare at the older man. "Did you just say you're sorry? You? Leroy Jethro 'Never-Apologize-It's-a-Sign-of-Weakness' Gibbs?"
Gibbs took a swallow of his beer. "Not apologizing, DiNozzo," he growled. "It's not my fault your father's a jerk. I'm expressing . . . empathy. There's a difference."
Tony relaxed against the couch again. "Yeah, I know," he sighed. "Just giving you a hard time, Boss." He let the comment linger, feeling the comfortable silence between them as he worked to gather his thoughts. "He is kind of a jerk, but it's not totally his fault."
Gibbs gave him a look of disbelief. "You going to defend the guy now?"
"No," Tony shook his head. "No, I'm not going to defend him. To defend him, I'd have to understand him, or at least understand his motives, and I don't have a clue what makes my father tick. I suppose that comes from not talking to him a whole hell of a lot since . . . well, since forever, I guess."
Gibbs gave that some thought. "I spent a lot of years not talking to my father too. Even though we're doing better now, it's still hard. Not sure what to say anymore." He gazed off into the fire, reminded of the incident when his dad had been up for Christmas and almost burnt the place down. He shrugged philosophically, appearing to physically stop his train of thought. "And I guess it's true that you can't choose your family, but it still seems like you got stuck with the bottom of the barrel."
Tony sighed again, neither agreeing nor disagreeing. That would have required more coherent thought than he was capable of at the moment. He sat there, feeling the comfort of the couch beneath him starting to pull him away, and he knew if he didn't leave right this minute, he wasn't going to. With considerable effort, he sat up and dragged a tired hand through his hair, reaching for the jacket he'd discarded earlier.
Gibbs looked over at him. "Where do you think you're going?"
"I'm beat, Boss. Going home."
"Not been an hour yet," Gibbs countered, pointing towards the empty beer bottles on the table.
"If I wait an hour, I'll never make it home. Trust me, I'm better off leaving now before I'm too tired to drive."
"Forget it. You're not driving. I'll get you some sheets and a blanket, and you can take the couch. Pillow's over there," Gibbs said, indicating the one Tony had tossed aside earlier. He clicked off the television and pulled himself to his feet, twisting to relieve tightened back muscles before ambling off down the hallway to grab the linens.
Gibbs was back in less than a minute, almost as if the linens had been set out within easy reach, and he tossed them at a bemused DiNozzo. Tony thought about making a token protest, but truth was he'd really rather just stay here tonight. And he figured Gibbs probably knew that too.
Within ten minutes DiNozzo was burrowed comfortably under the blanket, watching the muted light from the streetlamps softly illuminate the darkened room. He thought back over the conversation with his father in the lobby of the hotel. He been shocked, to say the least, that Senior had used the 'L' word. Tony hadn't even known it was part of the older man's vocabulary, at least not unless it involved curvaceous beauties under the age of thirty. Certainly not where his son was concerned.
Tony hadn't been able to return the sentiment, and he made no apologies for that. That would take a lot more time and effort than he had in him at the moment. He gave his dad credit for trying, but he wasn't going to give him more than that. Even if he was his father. There was too much history there to just ignore, and he wasn't sure he wanted that same approval and affection from his father that he had always craved in the past. Not anymore. Seemed he was getting too old for a lot of things.
He heard the sound of running water upstairs as Gibbs finished his own nightly routine, and Tony smiled and rolled over, facing the couch. Then again, maybe these days, he was just looking for it from a different direction.
He never thought he'd live to see the day, but Gibbs had been wrong.
Because you could choose your family after all.