Having safely passed his Dad off to Abby, Tony made his way back up to the bullpen, only to find that McGee had taken DiNozzo Snr's place at his desk. He swallowed hard as he realised he was about to find out what his father had been up to. During his career he had faced all manner of difficult situations, but he wasn't at all sure that he was ready to face this. Just like any other case, DiNozzo, he encouraged himself. Taking a deep breath he forced his tone to sound brisk and businesslike.
"McGee, what have you got for me?"
"Nothing," McGee's brow wrinkled, wishing he had better news. Now he had had a little time to actually watch Tony interacting with his father he realised how misplaced his earlier glee had been. McGee had to admit been looking forward to seeing the usually cocky senior field Agent be a little embarrassed by having his father around. He hadn't expected things to be so strained between them. Thinking of his own easy relationship with his Dad he had felt bad and now was only too willing to be of help.
"Well try harder," DiNozzo instructed. "I need answers."
"No, I mean I've got nothing," McGee explained. "Nothing in his domestic bank accounts, nothing in his off shore accounts, he's sold all his shares, his property is foreclosed, his credit cards are frozen and his overdraft facilities are tapped out. As far as I can see your Dad is living on air."
"That can't be," Tony frowned, speaking almost to himself. "He's always had money."
"See for yourself," McGee turned the monitor around for him, showing several open windows. "Maybe he had money once, but now there's nothing left.
DiNozzo stared at him, shock writ large all over his features. Then he blinked, and McGee was reminded why this man was such an outstanding undercover Agent as every trace of surprise was wiped away in an instance, to be replaced by a burning determination to discover the truth. His next words might have been referring to any of their cases over the years, rather than his own flesh and blood.
"That would explain why he disinherited me, perhaps, there wasn't anything left for me to inherit," Tony decided. "Move over, let me take a closer look."
DiNozzo was still glued to the monitor his initial disbelief gradually giving way to the cold hard realisation that his father had been living high on the low for quite some time, when his father passed by with Abby and Gibbs dragged him up to MTAC. The investigator in him was pleased to have solved the mystery of why his father had suddenly arrived in town. But the son part couldn't help but feel disappointed that yet again it had taken some other reason (like a call from his headmaster or a important conference coming to town) to bring his father to visit. Could the man never come for no other reason than to see him?
Settling himself into the chair across the aisle from his Boss Tony knew better than to think Gibbs actually needed him here for the briefing. It wasn't like him to be so distracted during a case. He couldn't expect Gibbs not to notice. He was grateful that his Boss had arranged some relative privacy to give him a change to say what was on his mind. But even so it wasn't exactly the easiest thing to drop into conversation. Knowing Gibbs would sit here in silence until he said something, he struggled to find an appropriate opening. Deciding he could at least start with what he had planned to say in the back break room, before Gibbs phone had cut him off he broke the silence.
"Have to break one of your rules, Boss. Number six. Never say you're sorry.."
It was just as Abby had just returned DiNozzo Snr to the bullpen after his extended tour that Gibbs took Ziva's call regarding her and McGee's findings about Prince Abdulla. Surging to his feet, the team lead wasted no time in opening his drawer and pulling out his gun, putting it in his holster and grabbing his coat, even as he glanced across at his senior field Agent, who was having a sotto voice conversation with his father. From the looks of things, Senior was making a demand and Junior was trying to put him off.
"DiNozzo, grab your gear," As the younger man hurried to obey, Gibbs swept around his desk heading for the elevator, pausing only to make eye contact with DiNozzo Snr. "You too. You're coming with us."
"Might I at least ask where we might be going?" DiNozzo Snr didn't move.
"Just giving you a ride back to your Hotel." Gibbs' said blandly, knowing his expression gave nothing away.
"Here, Dad," Tony thrust his father's coat into his arms, effectively ending the staring contest. "Let's go."
Entering the elevator, Gibbs allowed himself a small smile as he realised that Tony automatically moved to stand shoulder to shoulder with him, leaving his father to take the 'probie position' up front. The smile broadened slightly as he saw Tony's fingers flick a subtle message in ASL.
The brother did it?
Gibbs gave an almost imperceptible nod, knowing that Tony would easily read it. As the three men exited the elevator no-one spoke as they made their way across the parking garage, towards the Agency issue sedan. When the two DiNozzo's both closed their hands on the door to the front passenger seat, he noted with a hint of pride that Tony refused to back down, when his father glared at him.
"Junior." His father reprimanded.
"Dad, I need to ride up front in case Gibbs needs back-up." Tony insisted.
"That's ridiculous, we're only going back to the Hotel." His father scoffed.
"You only get to ride shotgun with me if you're actually carrying a gun." Gibbs made his feelings clear.
With bad grace, DiNozzo Snr gave up the battle and resigned himself to back seat, even as Gibbs and his senior field Agent buckled up in the front. Looking at his father in the rear view mirror Tony offered a few words of advice as the car began to move off.
"You might want to find something to hold onto, Dad. Gibbs' driving skills make his personality look positively congenial."
"You saying I'm a bad driver, DiNozzo?" Gibbs asked dryly.
"Bad?" Tony pretended to consider that. "No, of course not Boss. I would never call you a bad driver. That would be unfair to bad drivers. The truth is you're downright terrifying."
"Never got a ticket."
"Only because nobody else can catch you."
"Never been in an accident."
"Only because everybody else can't wait to get out of your way."
"I'm sure I'll manage." DiNozzo Snr huffed.
Gibbs cast a surreptitious glance in the rear view mirror at the slightly affronted tone. DiNozzo didn't seem to notice anything wrong. Gibbs wondered if he was simply used to hearing his father sound affronted, irritated, impatient, and God knows what else. Frankly, Gibbs hoped that the man had taken a little offence at the easy banter between him and his senior field Agent. Maybe, it would help the man buy a clue that his only son was too much of a stranger to him.
"You know," Tony's tone was casual, but the challenge lurking below his words as they turned onto the freeway was unmistakeable. "Yesterday, I made from the Adams House to the Navy Yard in 19 minutes."
"Is that so?" Gibbs responded blandly.
"Uh huh," Tony shot him an evil grin. "Of course, at this time of day the traffic will be a bear you'd be lucky to do it in .. twice that."
"Ya think?" Gibbs' kept his eyes on the road, even as his lip quirked.
"Maybe, even three times." Tony allowed.
Gibbs gave a tight grin. And hit the gas. Hard.
Arriving at the Hotel it had been an easy matter to drop DiNozzo Snr off at his suite. To his credit the man made a good show of being unaffected by Gibbs driving, but the tint of green around his gills and his eagerness to part company with the two Agents told a different story. For his part Tony's simmering amusement at being in league with Gibbs lasted all the way up to the Penthouse. At least, until Prince Omar had made that comment about father's doing what could for their children. Gibbs hadn't missed the way that his senior field Agent had almost flinched at that. DiNozzo Snr had treated his offspring more like a millstone around his neck rather than a much loved child.
"Well, I guess that's that," Tony sighed, as they exited the suite. "What do you think Prince Omar will do to Abdalla?"
"Who knows," Gibbs shrugged. "But men like Prince Omar take family honour seriously. Abdulla's tarnished their reputation; I doubt he'll get off lightly."
Tony didn't say anything. He didn't need to. They were both thinking about the differences between the Saudi Prince's desire to do whatever he could for his son and DiNozzo's Snr's apparent indifference to the needs and wants of his.
"I asked my Dad to dinner," Tony surprised him. "Not sure how that will go. But maybe we can talk. Might even be a chance for him to tell me what's going on with him before I have to bust him."
"Maybe," Gibbs nodded his approval for the courage of his Agent. And if the man had agreed to dinner then maybe something Gibbs had said had sunk in after all. But he didn't want DiNozzo building his hopes up. DiNozzo Snr didn't strike him like the kind of man who would easily be willing to change his ways. "Go on. Take the rest of the day."
"Really?" Tony blinked at him. "What about my report?"
"It'll keep until tomorrow. It's not like there's going to be any trial."
"Boss, its OK," Tony protested, torn between gratitude that his Boss was looking out for him and embarrassment that Gibbs thought he needed special treatment. "I'm OK."
The hell you are, Gibbs wanted to retort. But he knew this was neither the time nor the place. DiNozzo would only be awkward and embarrassed if he pushed things right now. The younger man needed time and space to try and make his peace with his father.
"You forget," Gibbs offered him a small smile. "I know how long it takes you to get spruced up. Don't make me tell you twice. Go."
"I booked us a table at the Rooftop Grill, do you want me to bring you a doggy bag?" Tony offered a little shyly. "Their steak is supposed to be really good."
"Nah," Gibbs shook his head, even though he knew what DiNozzo was trying to say with the offer. "Really good steak needs to be cooked cowboy style over an open fire, that way it's charred on the outside and moist in the middle."
"Ok, now you're making me hungry." Tony scowled.
"You need me to tell you again, I might change my mind." Gibbs raised a brow.
"I'm leaving," Tony assured him. "I'll think of you as I'm eating my steak."
Gibbs hid his grin as his senior field Agent left with a much lighter heart, which had been his intention. Making his own way down through the lobby, Gibbs intended to take a few moments to sign off with the officers of the Saudi guard and thank the Hotel management for their assistance. He was more than a little surprised to see DiNozzo Snr standing there with his luggage, obviously waiting to be checked out. Coming stealthily up behind him, Gibbs took a sadistic pleasure in the way that the man jumped at the warm breath unexpectedly ghosting across his ear as much as the low dangerous tone.
"Special Agent Gibbs," DiNozzo Snr looked past him, his eyes flecked with anxiety as he searched the lobby area. "Is Junior with you?"
"Were you even going to tell him you were leaving?" Gibbs ignored the question.
"A last minute change of plans," DiNozzo Snr evaded, as he quickly recovered his equilibrium. "There's a small matter which urgently requires my attention back in New York,"
"More urgent than your only son?" Gibbs asked dangerously.
Just as Gibbs had intended DiNozzo Snr looked a little unsettled by venomous tone. Still, he again tried to rally, pasting on that smile that made Gibbs want to lay him out cold and gesturing towards the lobby bar.
"Look, let me buy you a drink, it's obvious that you have some things you want to get off your chest. We can sit and talk things out like civilised people."
With an effort, Gibbs kept his fists clenched at his sides. Nothing on earth would persuade him to take a drink with this man. And he knew he had only minutes to spare if he was going to run damage limitation here. He closed his own eyes briefly at the sudden and unwelcome memory of Kelly sobbing "Don't go, Daddy, please don't go." He couldn't change that, but he was damned if he would let this man just walk out of his son's life without so much as a word or a backward glance.
Not on his watch.
"You listen to me," He put himself right in DiNozzo Snr's face. "You get out your phone and you call your son. You think of a better reason for leaving than that sorry excuse you just gave me and you wait here and say good bye to him like a man."
"You don't want me to stay?" DiNozzo Snr blinked.
Gibbs felt a pang of guilt as he remembered how pleased Tony had been that his father had actually accepted his invitation to dinner and he could only hope he was doing the right thing. But DiNozzo Snr clearly wasn't ready to give his son any of the answers he needed. It was just setting the younger man up for more heartache and Gibbs figured DiNozzo had had enough of that over the last couple of days.
"Frankly, I'd like to run you out of town," Gibbs tone left no doubt that he wasn't joking. "Make sure he knows how much you appreciated spending time with him."
"You can't tell me how to talk to my own son," DiNozzo Snr blustered.
"Maybe not," Gibbs allowed. "But I can insist that you treat my Agent with the respect he deserves. You've brushed him aside his whole life. He needs to hear that you love him. You are not going to walk out of here and leave that boy hanging again. If you do I will hunt you down and make you sorry."
"Is that a threat, Special Agent Gibbs?" DiNozzo Snr frowned.
"Nope," Gibbs smiled the sort of smile that had made countless young recruits wet their pants. "That is a promise."
As DiNozzo Snr pulled out his phone, Gibbs turned on his heel. Making his way slowly back to the Agency Sedan, he leant on the side of the car, suddenly feeling much too old, and stared at his cell phone until it rang.
"Boss," DiNozzo was all business, a tone that hid a multitude of emotions but didn't fool Gibbs for an instant. "Change of plan. My Dad has to leave town, so I'll just get him checked out and then I'll head back to the Navy Yard to do my report."
"Take your time." Gibbs allowed.
There was a small suspicious silence, when Gibbs thought his senior field Agent might call him on the fact that he had accepted DiNozzo Snr's unexpected departure without question. Except, that Gibbs didn't think that was a conversation either of them would be entirely comfortable having.
"I still have the table booked at the Rooftop Grill," Tony said instead. "You want to join me for dinner? My treat, the steak really is supposed to be something special."
"I've got a better idea," Gibbs responded. "Go home, get changed and at be at my place by 18.30 hours. Bring the beer. I'll show you want a real steak should taste like."
"Will do," Tony paused and for once Gibbs didn't hang up, knowing the younger man had more to say. "Do you think I'm doing the right thing?"
Gibbs knew his Agent was referring to his plan to bust his father when he checked out, forcing the elder DiNozzo to come clean about his con-man lifestyle. Turning around, Gibbs sighed as he tried to think of an answer. He wanted nothing more than to see that man brought to account, but the fallout could get ugly and he knew what Tony was like for blaming himself when the world around him went to hell in a hand basket. It had to be his decision.
"You always do." He reassured the younger man.
Much later, as Gibbs carried their plates and the grill into the kitchen he had to admit, he had half expected DiNozzo to bail his father out. It was typical of the younger man to think of others needs before his own. What worried the former Marine was that so far he hadn't said one word about the elder DiNozzo bailing on him. As much as Tony was obviously used to a string of broken promises right before his father ducked out of his life, that one had to have hurt.
"You want me to wash those up?" Tony asked, following behind him.
"Grab a cloth." Gibbs instructed instead, as he let the hot water wash over the grill before he started scrubbing.
Between them, they made short work of the few dishes, Gibbs hiding his smile as Tony moved easily around his kitchen, putting things away without needing to ask where they went, before moving on to automatically re-fill the coffee maker and reaching up into the top cupboard and hunting around for a moment before he found the open packet of cookies he had started on his last visit.
"Why do you buy these things if you never eat them?" Tony asked, around a mouthful of cookie.
Gibbs simply rolled his eyes at him, which caused the younger man to blush slightly, both at the obvious answer to his question and at the small act of kindness. Pushing another cookie into his mouth he chewed a little more slowly as he watched Gibbs pull out two mugs for the coffee, recognising one of them as the world's best Boss mug he had bought a few years back.
"I got my Dad a mug like that for his Birthday when I was about ten," He recalled. "Never did see him use it. Never had dinner with just the two of us, unless we were on vacation, there was always my latest step-mother, or some business associate, always made me feel like I wasn't enough for him. Of course, I don't know if he really felt like that, because we never actually talked."
Gibbs filled both the mugs and passed one across to DiNozzo, before leaning back against the counter and waiting silently for the younger man to continue with what was clearly on his mind. Tony cupped his hands around its warmth, taking comfort in the familiarity of the domestic little scene. He'd long since stopped being surprised at how much Gibbs house felt like home to him.
"We moved so many times, when I was growing up," He reflected. "I lost count of the number of times I'd come back from boarding school to a different house. Sometimes, it even slipped my father's mind to tell me, so I wouldn't find out until we turned into what I'd think was someone else's drive. Back then I thought it was normal, I guess I just didn't know any difference. Like, I said we never actully talked."
"Is he gonna call you when he gets to Monte Carlo?" Gibbs asked idly, as if it didn't really matter.
"I guess we'll see," Tony sighed as he put his mug aside. "He said he enjoyed our talk and we should do that again, of course, he didn't actually say when."
"And if he doesn't call?" Gibbs eyed him closely. "Think you're gonna be able to handle that?"
"Always have before," Tony flashed him a smile that didn't reach his eyes. "Why should this time be any different?"
Gibbs turned to top-up his mug, knowing that DiNozzo wouldn't thank him for either his fury or his pity right now and he was feeling both far too strongly to be able to keep the emotions off his face, because that man coming here had raised Tony's hopes. Seeing him in his life, interacting with his friends, had given him a glimpse of what it might be like to have his father around. Having the chance to speak to his father on almost equal terms had ripped open old wounds. If DiNozzo Snr didn't call now it would be like rubbing salt into them. Making a decision, he reached up into the cupboard and found the items he was looking for.
"Here," He tossed the packages at DiNozzo. "Take those through."
Tony glanced down at the packages he was clutching to his chest and his face broke into a delighted and totally genuine smile as he recognised chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers.
"S'mores?" He grinned. "Do you have any sticks?"
"Got a back yard."
"And I suppose you want me to go get them," Tony grumbled good naturedly, tossing his next words over his shoulder as he headed out, dropping the food on the coffee table and headed to the back door. "You're supposed to be the survival expert, I'll probably trip on a root, or get bitten by a snake, and then we'll have to spend all night in the ER."
Once he was well out of earshot, Gibbs pulled out his phone. It took him a few minutes to get the contact details he wanted off the visitor's information DiNozzo Snr had filled out on arrival at the Navy Yard. He didn't care that it was late. He even got as far as dialling the number, before he hung up. Much as he hated the feeling of helplessness, if this was going to work then it had to come from Tony's father.
"You can't make him love me." Tony's voice spoke quietly from behind him.
Gibbs turned a little guilty to see his senior field Agent standing in the doorway. Worried that DiNozzo might think he had overstepped the mark, the fond look on the younger man's face came as a blessed relief.
"I shouldn't have to." He let a little of his frustration leak out.
"No, you shouldn't," Tony agreed. "But none of his failings are your fault. Either he'll call or he won't. And if he doesn't, I still a want a closer relationship but maybe I don't need it as much as I used to think."
"You sure about that?" Gibbs arched a brow.
"He's my father," Tony allowed. "But I've been fooling myself that he could ever really be Dad material. I just don't think he has the gene for it."
"You better not be thinking that you're too old to need a Dad," Gibbs warned.
"Wouldn't dream of it." Tony assured him.
"Because you acted like a damned idiot these last couple of days," Gibbs continued, as he led the way back into the lounge room and settled onto the couch, and pulled out his knife to strip the sticks Tony had found. "But then so did I."
There was a moment of silence. He almost expected a come back about that sounding a lot like an apology and he figured it would be no more than he deserved. He should have stepped up and had DiNozzo's six the minute that man set foot in the Navy Yard instead of trying to be so damned honourable and do the right thing. Instead, the look Tony gave him as he glanced across spoke volumes. Gibbs felt his chest tighten at the depth of love in that expression. A thousand words of gratitude affection, respect and regard were exchanged in that single look.
"Guess, it runs in the family." Tony smiled.
"Guess, it does." Gibbs smiled back.