All That I'm After: Is a Life Full of Laughter
First story in the All That I'm After series. A series of different 'Tony meets Gibbs' interpretations. I know they've been done before, but I may as well have a go at it. This is the first.
Tony's age: Twelve
All he was after was a life full of laugher
Laughter filled the small table which over looked the sparkling lake. Boats bobbed gently in their docks, bumping softly against the lake banks. Gibbs slung an arm around his wife, still smiling from the story Shannon had been recounting about four year old Kelly. Shannon leant into the one armed embrace, Kelly snuggling against Gibbs' free side. The marine had a warm smile across his lips, matching the warm feeling spreading through his chest as his redhead and his strawberry blonde snuggled up to him.
The waitresses bustled up to their table, having just cleared away their plates, the check for the meal in hand. Placing the check folder on the table, she bustled off again in a way only waitresses could manage. Gibbs didn't really feel like getting up right now, or moving at all, but Kelly had already yawned widely.
"Come on, Princess." Gibbs squeezed his arm around Kelly for a moment before bringing out his wallet. "Let's get you back to the hotel room." His little girl didn't protest, but slid down from the comfortable stretched chair, his plaited hair bobbing against her back.
"Don't run on the edge, Kels!" Shannon called, the worried parent in her brimming against the surface. Kelly giggled cheerfully, chasing a frog as it leapt desperately across the wooden planking it had jumped onto.
"Kelly." Shannon called again, her bright eyes shining with parental difficulties, a few of the people enjoying an afternoon on the thick jetty looked up at her call.
"She's fine, Shan." Gibbs assured his redhead, a laugh in his voice, unlocking the driver's side of the truck. "It's not like she's going to fall off the jetty."
"Jethro, I'm allowed to worry, I'm a mother, and Kelly can't swim." Shannon countered smoothly.
"It's good she's got you looking out for her then." Gibbs grinned, his blue eyes lingering on his frolicking four year old. Sure, he was keeping a close eye on the child, there was no way anything was happening to his little girl under his watch, therefore nothing for his wife to worry about. Worrying was his job, to take the strain off his wife.
Kelly jumped forward, trying to catch the obviously lost little amphibian. The green frog bounced up again, trying to escape the excited child which was following it with obvious glee.
A young boy was swinging his legs in a bored fashion. His shoes and socks were sitting beside him, one bare foot swirling the ripples in the lake with a toe. His light hair had obviously been neatly brushed that morning, but every now and then the kid would ruffle his hair with a hand, letting it stick up. His dress, now that was something interesting. The day had started off warm, but the rain clouds had started rolling in for the traditional April Showers, the boy had a dark suit jacket to match his pants. But, the kid had thrown off his jacket, rolled up the sleeves of his white shirt and the hems of his pants, letting the spring breeze whip around his bare legs and arms.
There was a soft hum of conversation going around the jetty, which the boy wasn't paying any attention to. His mind was wandering, his imagination taking him away from his life towards somewhere different. A snow covered mountain to take a snowboard down. The last minute of a football game with the scores even and one throw to victory. A warm arm wrapped around his shoulders. The baseball speeding towards him, ready to be hit out of the stadium. The arm tightening protectively around his shoulders. Indiana Jones jumping off a train, him following just before the train ploughed off the cliff. A soft kiss being pressed to his temple.
A scream broke through his day dreaming, his head whipping around towards the end of the jetty not three feet away. A large splash erupted from the water, sloshing onto the jetty, the ripples jumping up from the once calm water. The boy scrambled off his seat as a soaked strawberry blonde head burst from the water's surface a few metres out, the lapping tides of the lake carrying her further from the jetty. Without much thought, the kid broke into a sprint, pushing off the jetty's end with both feet together, hitting the water with his hands sharked out in front of him.
Strong strokes later, even from his lanky frame, the boy was able to make it up beside the struggling girl. He made a grab for her, hearing voices shout words he couldn't register. He was treading water furiously, reaching out a hand to grab the little girl's dress. Wrapping an arm around the girl, he tried to kick out into the water back towards the jetty. But, the little girl wasn't having any of it.
She screamed, flailing even harder. The boy's head was pushed back with a flailed hand, his grip loosening under the four year old. His hand lost its grip and his head splashed back below the surface, the girl following him.
Back in the car park just beyond the jetty both the parents also heard the terrified scream. Shannon even saw her little baby slip on the slick wooden planks, plunging backwards into the grey waters. She and her husband had sprinted off at the same moment, Gibbs considerably faster than her in her summer sandals. Shouts of their little girl's name filled the once quiet spring afternoon, but what neither parent had expected was the quick flash of a boy to dive elegantly into the murky waters after Kelly. Yet, the act was lost on both parents as Gibbs skidded to his knees on the damp wooden jetty, Shannon skittering to a half beside him.
"Give me your hand!" Gibbs shouted to the boy, who had reached his Kelly and was attempting to push back to shore.
"Kels! Kelly, you've gotta stop struggling, sweetheart!" Shannon's terrified shriek was projected just before the boy vanished from view, Kelly only just staying above the surface with her frantic thrashing.
Gibbs had already gotten to his feet, ready to jump into the dark waters, Shannon dropping to her knees in his place, trying to reach out to the young child. The marine had braced himself to jump, but just as he was about to bend his knees, he saw the pale head break the surface just in front of him, dragging Kelly along with him as he pushed off a rock jutting up from the lake bottom.
Shannon choked back a sob as Kelly was hoisted from the water, Gibbs grabbing her under her arms, cradling the little girl against his chest as she balled. He wrapped an arm around her, letting Shannon sink into the other as the wet child cried against her father's chest.
"It's okay, Princess, it's okay." He murmured into her pale hair, tightening his arm protectively around her shoulders.
A soft splash to his right made the sharp eared marine look round. The young boy, soaked to the skin with his hair plastered to his forehead made another attempt to pull himself onto the jetty, one hand slipping off the slimy jetty planking.
"Shan, take Kelly back to the car." He muttered softly, passing the young girl off to her mother, kissing his little baby on the head. Shannon stood slowly, careful not to jostle her daughter too much and so as not to slip on the jetty.
"Here." Gibbs held a hand out to the light haired boy, frowning slightly at the look of panic which flashed across the kid's green eyes. "C'mon, take my hand." His voice was calm, although his breathing hadn't quite returned to normal as the adrenaline coursed through his system. After a moment on hanging onto the jetty with one hand, the boy seemed to come to a decision through his inner battle. Raising a hand out of the water he gripped Gibbs outstretched hand tentatively, letting the strong marine pull him up onto the jetty.
Gibbs took in the boy, his pale hair was dripping wet, and his once smart white shirt clung to his skinny frame, his collar bone prominent against the white material. His pants looked filthy, the lake muck sticking to the fabric with a vengeance. Gibbs also noticed that the boy was shivering gently. No, the April afternoon wasn't turning out to be as pleasant as it was in the April morning.
"Where're your parents?" Gibbs asked the shivering child, his parent's instincts to find a blanket almost overpowering him. The kid didn't answer, wrapping his arms around his chest as a breeze drifted over the jetty.
"C'mon, let's get you dry." Gibbs tried a different tactic, pushing off his knees getting to his feet. The same flash of panic crossed the young boy's eyes, staring up at Gibbs with a hidden expression of fright.
"Hey, kiddo. I'm not gunna hurt you." Gibbs assured softly. "Come on, you've gotta be cold there." He smiled when Tony pushed himself up off the jetty by his hands, but the smile faltered when the kid yelped in pain when he put his weight on his right foot.
"Let's get that looked at." Gibbs voice remained calm even though concern was threading through his features. He gently put a hand on the kid's shoulder, ignoring the flinch which settled quickly, leading the limping figure towards their truck.
Shannon had Kelly bundled up in one of the blankets they always kept in the well stocked truck – Gibbs had always been adamant that they shouldn't go anywhere without at least two blankets and a first aid kit – when Gibbs lead the nervous boy up. Shannon's eyes lit up, pausing in her fawning over her little girl, who was held safely in her arms, to smile warmly at the boy.
"Thank-you. Thank-you so much." Her voice was quiet and sincere as she rocked her daughter. The kid made no answer, looking at his feet, arms still wrapped around himself against the cold.
Gibbs had fetched the remaining blanket, ready to wrap it tightly around the child's shoulders. He didn't expect the sharp flinch that pulled the boy a few steps away, stumbling on his injured foot.
"Hey, it's okay. I'm not going to hurt you." Gibbs matched his wife's tone, instead just holding out the thick blanket towards him.
"What's your name?" Shannon asked kindly as the blanket was taken slowly from her husband's grasp. The boy raised his head slowly, shoulders tense.
"Anthony DiNozzo, Jr, ma'am." His voice was soft, light, and childish. But, Gibbs had noticed a depth to the voice which many children didn't possess, hardly any should.
"Okay, Anthony, can I have a look at your foot, I know it hurts, I just want to clean it up, that's it." Gibbs asked quietly, pulling down the back of the truck to indicate a perfect place for the young boy to sit. It took a few moments of another inner battle, but finally Tony pushed himself up onto the side of the truck's trunk, resting his back against the side.
Tony fought back another of those embarrassing flinches when Gibbs' gentle hands picked up his throbbing foot. The sharp stone he'd pushed off to resurface had cut a shallow gash across the side of his foot. Nothing dangerous but no doubt painful.
"You didn't answer my question, Anthony." Gibbs smiled at the brave child before him, resting his ankle over one thigh as he reached back for the first aid kit.
"Tony." Came a very quiet reply.
"What was what, sweetie?" Shannon had joined her husband at the back of their truck, looking over the quaking boy who had saved their – now slumber her car seat – baby girl.
"I…I like Tony."
"Okay, Tony." Gibbs nodded, casting a sideways glance towards Shannon. "Still didn't answer my questions."
"Jethro." Shannon scolded gently, watching the boy's face carefully as his green eyes filled with apprehension. Obviously using every ounce of his self control not to yank his foot away and run, especially when the calming marine sitting opposite him wiped an alcohol swab over his injured foot.
"It's okay ma'am." He replied tensely, one hand fiddling with the corner of the warm blanket which he'd wrapped tightly around his shoulders. "Um…what question?"
"Where are your parents, Tony?"
"I…they…I….um." There was a long pause. "I don't know." Came the final, almost inaudible answer.
"Oh, are you lost, honey?" Shannon brushed a hand over Tony's damp hair, stopping it sticking to his forehead. He jumped slightly at the warm touch, but to her credit he didn't pull away. Tony shook his head in answer.
"Then are your parents live around here?"
Again Tony shook his head.
"Come on, kid, help us out here a bit." Gibbs probed, ripping open the sterile pack of a bandage. The kid's fiddling on the edge of the blanket increased, his bright green eyes darting anywhere but towards the two adults.
"Tony?" Shannon's soft voice brought out a slight quiver in the usually strong willed young boy's lips, sheen of tears crossing his bright eyes. Gibbs rested a hand over the secured plaster in comfort, his parental instincts kicking into over drive.
"Tony…son, where are your parents?" His voice was direct, gentle as he leant forward towards the boy.
"They…he…they left me here." With the broken sentence, Tony wrenched his foot away, dropping the blanket into a heap on the gravel of the car park as he broke into a sprint, ignoring the pain from his foot. Skittering along the jetty he didn't hear the concerned shouts from behind him as he grabbed his pristine jacket and managing to snatch up one of his shoes before taking off again along the lake side.
Gibbs hadn't missed the sparkling tears racing down the young boy's cheek before he'd taken off at a frantic pace, tearing across the gravel on his injured foot. No, Gibbs hadn't missed that, but Tony had missed the barely concealed paling of anger Gibbs had shown at the child's stuttered words. No, Shannon had seen, and she knew. She knew her marine, she knew what it meant. The passionate redhead gave the marine a quick nod, her emotive eyes staring across at the quick figure of the young child that had saved her baby without even knowing her.
There was so little that could repay for that, but that had to try.
Oooh, look at that, a new story. No, I'm not stopping with In the Cold Water I'm just multitasking. So, this is a bit AU, but you never know. I thought I'd give it a shot, I'd love to know what you guys think of it, I always do. Your reviews are amazing and if I had this much chocolate cake I'd give it all to you, but I do have unlimited virtual cookies. So, you can have them! Please do. Anyway, that's about it from me, but who knows where this'll go to! Lyrics by Daughtry. Smiles to Anni!