A/N: No, this is not a part of the Song!Verse. Its a one-shot that I wrote to try to inspire myself to write. This is what came out. The title is a song, by Wolf Parade. Never heard it. But it seemed fitting. Please review. They do much to encourage my muse to finish the next story!
As always, I own nothing. Except Ben.
Anthony glanced around everything around him suddenly turned black. Knowing it wasn't the end of the world because there was no awesome action se-quen-ces like in those movies, Anthony knew that he had either gone blind or Michael was back.
And seeing how he could suddenly hear Michael's voice, Anthony was pretty sure he wasn't blind.
Anthony put his fingers in his ears when the rather large ape-like boy started cussing.
Mother said that listening to those sorts of words would turn him into the kinds of people that didn't have a family or a house and Anthony was pretty sure that his Mother knew about these sorts of things.
Because his father never said those kinds of words and his father had lots of stuff that Mother said was important. But no matter how many times he asked, Mother never told him why exactly they were.
"Hi Michael," Anthony stood, making sure not to get any dirt on his sailor suit. He mom like this suit and even though it was stuffy and always made that space between his legs feel funny, Anthony wore it because his Mother liked it.
"You little dweeb," Michael scowled and showed Anthony down.
Having the floor hit his butt unexpectedly, shocked Anthony more than anything.
He wiped at his eyes fast though, because his Mother said that crying was for little kids and since Anthony was six now he would have to learn to control him e-mo-tions.
"Ouch," Anthony said, rubbing his butt and trying very hard not to cry, "Why'd you do that Mike?"
"Don't call me that," Michael scowled and shoved him again, "And I did it because you're in that stupid sailor outfit again. Didn't your mom ever tell you that only smart people become sailors, not stupid kids like you?"
Anthony's heart hurt at the words. He was smart, Rosa, their cook, said so. And Steven their butler did too! Even grumpy Mr. Murphy who cleaned their yard said Anthony was smart!
"Be quiet Mik-Michael," Anthony said, "My Mother says-"
"Momma's boy," Michael taunted as he shoved Anthony down again.
Having enough of playing with his cousin, Anthony turned around and walked inside, knowing Michael wouldn't come it. Michael didn't like his house because it was dark and scary looking, like the castle that had been in the movie that Rosa had watched with him.
"Anthony, dear, is that you?"
Stopping in his tracks, Anthony felt the hairs on the back on his head rise.
Mother didn't sound right. She sounded like Her.
She always came when Mother had been drinking a lot and Anthony knew that his Mother liked to drink that awful smelling stuff a lot.
"Anthony, are you ignoring me?"
Slowly stepping back, Anthony looked at his Magnum P.I watched. It glowed in the dark so he could see the time but still, Anthony had to count really slowing to know the time.
When was his Father getting home? He made Her leave.
Anthony backpelled faster now, knowing that the happy tone in her voice was what his uncle like to call dee- seat-ful.
Seeing his Mother at the end of the hall, Anthony hurried back, knowing that if she couldn't catch him, he would be okay.
Hurrying up the stairs, Anthony didn't look back.
If she couldn't catch him, he would be okay.
Moments later, Anthony was nice in safe in his room. But something was terribly wrong.
Anthony's stomach was grumbling like he was sick or something but he didn't feel like he was gonna be sick. Instead he felt something much worse.
"Mother?" Anthony opened his door quietly looking down the hallway for his Mother.
"Mother?" Anthony called again when he heard a loud crash come from his Mother's room.
What if she had fallen again?! What if she had hurt herself?!
Running down the hallway, Anthony tripped going down the last step and fell.
Upon hearing another crash though, Anthony urged himself towards his Mother's bathroom, the feeling in his stomach was getting worse.
As he turned down the hallway, Anthony heard a loud, awful crash and sprinted the last few feet.
"Mother!" Anthony reached the door and pounded on it, his fear getting the better of him.
"MOTHER!" Anthony cried desperately, knowing that something was terribly wrong.
But the echo of the gun blast was his only reply.
"What the hell Junior?"
Junior stumbled, and cringed as the tumbler fell to the ground. It was moments like this where he wished his Father didn't smack him for "foul language" because right now, the only thing that was going through his mind was:
"Dad, I," Junior sputtered and picked up the still intact glass. The only casualty had been the liquid inside it and seeing how there was a whole bottle of it just over there-
"Can't you do anything right Junior?" His father stood and Junior hoped that one day, one day he grew as tall as Nonno Dominic because then his father wouldn't be able to stand over him and look down at him.
"Dad, I'm sorry, I'll pour," Junior started but shied away from Anthony Sr. raised hand.
Junior watched silently, knowing he couldn't say anything more to change the situation. His swirling green eyes bounced back from his father's hand to his face, never staying in one place for very long.
Junior saw something flash through his father's eyes and before Junior could even try to understand it, it was gone and instead covered with the slightly glazed over look his father had seemed to have every day since his Mother had kille-
"Just," his father ran the hand that had been raised over his own face, "Just go Junior."
Junior bit the inside of his check, holding his last comment in. Where did his father want him to go? He would do it, anything he asked.
Didn't his dad know he didn't have anywhere to go?
But he could never say that to his father. Could never tell anything like that to his father.
Which was why his father probably blamed him for happen to his mother. He'd been the one in the house when it had happened. He had heard-
"Yes sir," Junior said loudly before slowly leaving the room.
Hannah, their recently hired maid, raised a hand to stop him but Junior shook his head.
He was ten now. He shouldn't be crying in front of people.
Hurrying down the brick steps in the back of the house, Junior pushed past Mr. Murphy who yelled for him to slow down.
For once, he didn't listen to Mr. Murphy.
Mr. Murphy didn't know anything.
Everyone thought it was an accident but Junior knew-he had heard what had happened.
Glad that he had his tennis shoes on, Tony ran past the back fence, jumping it in one swoop like his cousin Pete had showed him last summer.
He liked the woods. It was always colder there and in the summer it felt nice.
Pushing his legs past their limit, Junior kept going.
There was a tree he liked to climb, one that no one could get him down from.
Stumbling again, Junior yelled and cried at his stupid feet. They were never doing what he meant for them to do.
Picking himself off the ground, Junior scooted back against the nearest tree. The presence was comforting in a way. It almost reminded him of the hugs he used to get, a long time ago.
Finally letting the tears fall in the middle of nowhere, Junior didn't even bother wiping them away.
He hated himself. He hated how he felt, what he thought and most of all what he dreamed.
With his mother, well, he couldn't change anything. She had locked the door and no matter how hard Junior had cried and yelled, she wouldn't open it.
But the way Junior felt about his namesake…
Because when Anthony Sr. had raised his hand, Junior had wanted-needed for his father…
His dad had never hit him.
Had never laid a hand on him.
And Junior hated that he sometimes thought that that was worse.
"Wake up AJ."
"What?" AJ rolled over and jumped up, hearing the Reveille as the loud sure tones of the trumpet reached his dorm room.
"Dude," Ben, AJ's roommate and best friend laugh, "You should be so glad they make us cut our hair like this or you would have a serious case of bed head every morning."
"Shud up," AJ slurred as he made his way to the connecting sink. He shared the restrooms with five boys, including himself, and miraculously, it was unoccupied when he stumbled in.
Ben followed, laughing at AJ, "Hurry up. Dorm leader we'll be made if you don't clean your mess up again."
"Sorry sorry," AJ stumbled as he made his way back towards the room.
"Hey," Ben caught him and laughed, "AJ, you're the clumsiest guy I know."
"Yeah but I made the junior football team," AJ righted himself and smiled.
"RISE AND SHINE KIDDIES!"
Both AJ and Ben's eyes became the size of saucers.
"Crap!" Ben said before pushing AJ towards his side of the room, "Clean it, clean it, clean it!"
Picking up his clothes and shoving them in his dirty basket, he grabbed the bottom sheet and whispered a "thanks" when Ben grabbed the other side and helped him tuck in the sheets.
Grabbing his pillow that had somehow managed to land on the other side of the room, AJ set it down just as Matt, their dorm leader, opened the door wide and yelled at them, a smile on his face, "FORMATION IN TWO MINUTES!"
Breathing a sigh of relief, both boys melted onto their respective beds before jumping up a moment later to get changed into their running uniforms.
"Hurry up AJ," Ben laughed, "Are you sure you're twelve? Cause you get ready as fast as a five year old."
AJ scowled at him briefly before smiling and shoving the bigger boy out of the way.
Hurrying down the halls, AJ and Ben greeted the rest of the boys in their barracks. The way the dorm room system was set up, AJ and Ben's floor had about fifty boys, all in the seventh grade, that were all part of Barrack A. From there, it depended on which smaller group, or platoon, you got assigned to at the beginning of the year. AJ and Ben were in platoon 3, making them the A-3 platoon.
"FORMATION!" Matt smiled as the younger boys struggled to get into formation. The whole group of boys had only been here for a month but still, compared to how it had been those first few days, AJ knew that had approved immensely.
Even if he envied the way Matt's barrack, the seniors, formed in the morning. He couldn't wait for the day that waking up at 0630 was easy.
"Alright," Matt said, smiling at the barrack he was in charge of, "Today's Saturday so, after today's run, everyone reports to the Mess Hall. From there, you either go to the sports field if you made an athletic team or the fitness center if sports isn't your thing. After that, today's activity is goat carts so if you want to do that, report to the Durham field after lunch at 1330. If you're not there, you should be in the student tutor center. Understood?"
"Yes sir!" the fifty or so seventh grades called out.
"Okay then," Matt said before turning away, "Let's go then."
Matt took off at a brisk pace but one that had been difficult to keep up with the very first day.
"Come on AJ," Ben looked over his shoulder at his friend who had tripped over someone's foot.
"Hey," Ben laughed when AJ finally caught up, "I got it! You should be a clown after we graduate!"
"Yeah and maybe you should be a stand-up comedian," AJ breathed heavily as both Ben and he caught up with their group, "Then we can have our own show."
Ben laughed in-between breathing, before turning towards AJ, "I'll race you to the front."
Never one to turn down a challenge, AJ raced to catch up his friend.
"Don't let you feet get in the way!" Ben called back moments later.
AJ smiled. One day he would catch him.
"Dude, you cannot seriously still be here."
Tony lifted his head and brushed away the water and sweat that was making its way down his face.
"Ben!" Tony smiled, a smile that made your face hurt because you were so happy, "What are you doing back in country? Army cut you lose already"
"I'm on leave, thought I'd swing by," Ben, who was now shorter than Tony by four or five inches, walked over to his best friend and slapped him on the back, "Dude, what are they feeding you? I swear you've grown another two inches since September."
Tony smiled, shoving his friend in return for the slap, "Dude! Why aren't you with your mom and dad?"
Ben smiled, stumbling slight at the unexpected power Tony now had in his shoves, "I am here. Mom and Pop wanted to catch a Buckeye football game, especially because everyone's been looking at this new tight end and all…"
Tony smiled, "Don't know what news you've been getting but it sure ain't the same one I've been reading."
Ben suddenly pulled up short and gazed at Tony with wide eyes.
"What?" Tony asked, immediately on edge upon seeing Ben's expression.
"You mean," Ben gulped and wiped his face before shaking his head, "You mean you can finally read?"
There was a moment of silence before Ben went flying sideways.
Tony took no satisfaction in catapulting his friend across the field though, because Ben was being Ben and as he fell headfirst into the grass, he was busting a rib laughing.
"Alright already, let it die," Tony walked over and extended his hand, helping Ben stand.
Ben made a big show of wiping the tears from his eyes before smiling, "If you had seen the look on your face, you'd be laughing too."
Tony smirked at that, not wanting to smile at his own expense but not able to stay mad at Ben for long. Ben's laugh was infectious though- it made you feel better just listening to it.
"So," Ben finally sighed, letting his laughter fade out, "Next game?"
"Sure," Tony nodded, "They let us give tickets out to family. I'll leave at the box office, just ask for them tomorrow."
"Cool," Ben smiled before tapping Tony on the head.
"Race you to the front AJ."
"Dude," Tony paused, his tone enough to cause Ben to glance back instead of taking off in a full sprint, "No one's called me that for a long time."
Ben smiled, "Would you prefer Junior?"
"Hell no," Tony shook his head.
Ben laughed before turning and taking off.
And even though Tony had gotten extremely faster since those days in seventh grade, had finally grown into his feet, it didn't do a heap bit of difference on his race with Ben.
But Tony smiled and ran faster, knowing that one day, he would catch him.
If he could ever start a sprint without stumbling.
"Ben no!" Tony raced after his partner, his gun rubbing against his arm as Tony took off at a full sprint.
The suspect had taken off behind the alley and Ben, of course, had gone after him.
The little shit.
Almost two years they had been partners in Baltimore and still, Tony found each day interesting. Ben had been honorably discharged from the Army, having been part of the Green Berets for most of the time he served.
But Ben wanted to start a family. So he had left the Army and Tony had set him up as a patrol officer in Philly.
And then all that crap hit the fan and Ben had followed Tony when he had moved to Baltimore, his newly married wife in tow.
Ben should have been a red head, Tony thought, as he lost sight of Ben for a moment. With his temper…especially when a suspect to a rape-murder case decided to head for the hill…
"BEN!" Tony yelled, thankful that he ran still. He had run a lot his college years but his body was no longer the 21 year old version that could take this kind of abuse and roll with it.
Tony saw the back of Ben's suit disappear behind a corner and hurried after him.
In the next second, hundreds of things happened almost synchronously. But when Tony would look back on it, he would only remember four, maybe five things.
One: He stumbled. Tripped over his own feet like a week-old yearling.
Two: A gunshot was fired and Tony knew as he tucked, rolled, and struggled to get to his feet, that the gunshot did not sound like the gun Ben carried.
Three: Tony turned the corner and saw their suspect, a gun in his hand, a body-Ben- on the ground.
Four: Tony dropped his shoulder and just like he had years ago on the football field, used his momentum to hit the target while the guy still had his back towards him.
The rest was fuzzy and hazy and if Tony hadn't seen the footage from the security camera later, he would have denied ever doing the things people said he had done.
Because their suspect had gone to the hospital with a dislocated vertebra, a fractured collar bone and eye socket, and a concussion so bad the paramedics thought he had been hit by a car.
But Tony didn't remember doing anything to him, other than hitting him like he had been trained to do back in college.
Because he had been a tight end and as a tight end, sometimes he caught and sometimes he tackled.
This time, Tony had tackled.
Looking back, the fifth and final thing Tony remember for that day, that awful day that would haunt Tony forever, was that when he had grabbed Ben's face, his partner had smiled and whispered his last words forever.
"Guess you finally caught me AJ."
"Ger off," Tony slurred, trying to balance himself without any help. It was 0630 and Tony's biological clock had woken him up, virus or infection or whatever he had be damned.
"Tony, Gibbs will kill me if I let you go out there so you can go for a jog-"
"S'not," Tony shook his head and tried to get his fingers to tie the laces, "Not a jog. S'race."
"A race?" McGee asked, flabbergasted, "Against who?"
Tony paused and smiled, the kind that McGee hated because he knew they were fake.
"Ahah!," Tony said, the painkillers or whatever the doctors had him on finally kicking in and making him slightly out of his mind, "Can't tell you 'at 'Gee. No but he knows bout the races."
"Tony, you need to get back in bed," McGee tried once again to get Tony to lie down but the man was having none of it.
"I said get off!" Tony yelled this time, not a hint of the slur anywhere in his speech, "Leave me alone McGee. You don't understand."
Not totally understanding Tony's behavior but guessing it might have something to do with the plague, because what other traumatic event had Tony gone through in his life, McGee just pushed Tony back down and prayed that someone more capable of controlling Tony-Ziva, Gibbs, Ducky or even Abby, would walk through the hospital door soon at such an ungodly hour.
But then just as quickly as it started, Tony slumped backward into the hospital bed and sighed sadly, letting his head rest on the pillow.
McGee sighed also, hoping that he wouldn't have to actually tackle Tony. Because even though he was the same height and Tony's fever had spiked, Tony had been in college football.
And McGee had no doubt that if he wanted to, Tony could crush him.
"I tripped," Tony whispered, his voice stopping Tim's thought train, "Is cause I tripped."
"Tony just go back to sleep," McGee wondered if Tony was hallucinating. With a fever that high, McGee didn't doubt it.
"Didn't mean to trip Ben," Tony looked at McGee and Tim was shocked to see tears falling from his eyes, "Its cause my stupid feet don't always work right, remember?"
"Tony," McGee started but stopped when Tony grabbed his hand and squeezed it as if where his last lifeline in the middle of the ocean.
"Remember?" he repeated and Tony's voice cracked with emotion.
Not knowing what else to do, McGee nodded, "Yeah Tony, I remember."
And then Tony blinked and looked at McGee and started crying, gut wrenching sobs that reverberated somewhere deep in Tim's own soul.
He hoped that no one ever tried to stop Tony from running again.
Tony slipped out of his room as quietly as he could. Normally, he didn't have this problem. Of course normally, he didn't share a house with his Boss.
Stupid gas leak.
"Where you going DiNozzo?" like a ghost, Gibbs appeared out of nowhere, making Tony jump and subconsciously reach for his gun.
Raising an eyebrow at Tony's obvious movement, Gibbs didn't say anything else but waited patiently.
"Just going out for a run Boss," Tony said cheerfully, hoping that Gibbs wouldn't ask too many questions, wouldn't dig too deep.
"Didn't figure you for an early riser runner," Gibbs said, sipping the coffee that was suddenly in his hand.
If Tony had been in a better mood, right about now he would have made a crack about Gibbs' obvious superpowers but Tony wasn't in a good mood so instead he just shrugged and hoped his smile looked real enough that Gibbs didn't question it.
"Military Academy, can't seem to break the habit," Tony said in way of answering Gibbs' unasked question.
"Huh," Gibbs said before walking back towards his room.
Tony knew right then that Gibbs hated the fact that he hadn't noticed this one quirk about Tony before.
But Tony was too busy thinking about other things so he let the thoughts slide right on by.
Gasping slightly when the cold air hit his plague scared lungs, Tony gave his body a few moments to adjust before stretching his legs quickly.
If he didn't stretch right, his knee would bug him all day…
Taking off at a brisk walk, Tony headed down the street, not knowing where he was going but at least having a specific goal in mind.
Way back when Tony had been AJ, Ben and he had had a bet. You had to run the length from the light pole to the rec sign in seven seconds.
He had never been able to come close but Ben had almost done it by the time they had graduated for the military school.
Soon after graduating, Ben had gone off to the Army and Tony had accepted an athletic scholarship to OSU, playing for their football and basketball teams.
Then Tony had stumbled in a game during his senior year and all hoped of going pro had gone out the window with the news that his knee would have to undergo some reconstruction.
But Ben had taken the emergency leave to snap Tony out of the funk he had fallen into and a few years later, Tony had help Ben get a job and learn how to live with the civilians again.
They had been an awesome pair, Tony smiled fondly at the memories. He had been happy then, had enjoyed being the uncle to Ben's little boy, AJ.
They had put away tons of "bad guys" as little AJ liked to call them.
They had killed guys too but mostly had saved people.
Or at least tried.
But that was the thing about life.
Tony's breath caught and the change in breathing caused his feet to almost do the hokey-pokey before Tony caught himself just before he did a face plant on the cold cement.
Adjusting his breathing, Tony mentally measured off the distance, knew how long it would take.
Not from the light pole to the rec sign.
From here to there, and in his mind, there was a killer with a gun and here was the corner of the street.
Preparing himself for the hardest part of his whole day, Tony took three deep breaths before exploding into a sprint.
Because seconds matter with everything.
It determined whether or not you escaped a nightmare that liked to use their hands to hit or their hands to do nothing at all.
Seconds determined whether or not you got to the front of the group before your friend or whether or not you touched the light pole before time was up.
Seconds decided who lost and who won football games and whether or not you could have ever play past your senior year.
But seconds where fickle and finite and never seemed to do what they were suppose to.
Feeling his legs giving out, Tony pushed himself harder, for just a second more. Because he never tripped here, not when he needed every second.
Gasping as he passed his mental marker, Tony took huge gulps of air, knowing that he had made it and wondering if Ben would have ever made it too.
But it didn't matter now.
The seconds he earned here didn't change anything in the past.
And Tony knew he should be surprised-he had learned that hard lesson the day his mother shot herself in the master bathroom and come across it again the day Ben had died.
Tony might have been like running but Ben had been the runner in the end.
And Tony couldn't save everyone.
No matter how hard he runs.