Gibbs was fuming when he finally picked up the phone and dialed Tony's number. He glanced at his watch as he listened to the phone ring over and over again. Nine-thirty, and where the hell was DiNozzo? Just as he was about to conclude that his senior agent was not only playing hooky, but also avoiding him, Tony answered.
"DiNozzo, where the fuck are you?" Gibbs bellowed into his cell.
"Hi, boss. Good morning to you, too. I take it McGee didn't tell you about my email."
"He told me." Gibbs paused to glare at McGee, who cringed, knowing that Gibbs was fully capable of shooting the messenger.
"Then what's the problem?" Tony tried to inject his reply with a casual tone in the hope of defusing Gibbs' wrath.
"In the middle of a big case, you inform me, via email, that you're taking the rest of the week off, and you want to know what the problem is!"
"I told you in my note, I had some unexpected company arrive last night."
"Tell your guest to leave. I need you here."
"He can't leave."
"If he arrived then he can damn well leave again. Or better yet, you leave him. I don't care as long as you get your ass in here. Now!" Gibbs was not about to take no for an answer.
Tony gave an exasperated sigh. "I can't do that. Really, boss, you're gonna have to trust me on this one, leaving this guest alone would not be a good idea."
Something in Tony's tone finally got through to Gibbs, and he paused long enough to notice the loud noise emanating from the background of Tony's end of the conversation. Noise that sounded suspiciously like a crying baby. Gibbs sucked his breath in sharply, wondering what sort of mess Tony had gotten himself into this time. Over the years, Gibbs had learned that when it came to problems, his senior agent bore a remarkable resemblance to Velcro. Once trouble found him, it seemed to stick.
"Tony, what's going on?" he asked suspiciously.
"Nothing I can't handle. I just need a few personal days."
"DiNozzo, I can't help you if you don't tell me the problem."
"That's fine because I don't need any help, I just need a few days to sort some things out." Tony decided it was time to end the conversation. "So, I'm glad we settled this. I'm gonna take the rest of the week off and you'll just have to abuse McGee in my place. Okay, I'll be going now ... my guest is, uh, calling for me."
"DiNozzo! Wait just a goddamn minute-" Gibbs interjected before he pulled the phone away from his ear and gazed at it in amazement. "He hung up on me," he said to the room at large.
For a long moment, Gibbs remained standing at his desk, either stunned or lost in thought, then he reached a decision. He grabbed a set of keys and tossed them to McGee. "Gas up the truck."
Ziva looked up, doing her best to pretend she had not been following his phone conversation with great interest. "Do we need to gear up?" she asked innocently.
"Nope," Gibbs said as he stalked out of the bullpen. Then, under his breath, he added, "Don't need guns to save the idiot from himself."
Tony was not surprised when his doorbell rang a short time after the phone call. The question had never been whether Gibbs would show up, simply when. He peered through the peephole only to see that Gibbs was not alone, he had brought McGee and Ziva as well. This was more attention than Tony wanted right now, and for a brief moment he debated the wisdom of pretending he wasn't home. He quickly discarded the idea, knowing that they had to be able to hear the racket inside and sure that if he didn't open the door his boss would have Ziva pick the lock. Whether he liked it or not, he was going to have to face them. With a sigh, he turned the knob and stood aside.
The team was so shocked by the sight that greeted them that they stopped in their tracks. The door had opened revealing a wildly disheveled Tony, hair sticking up, bags under his eyes, and what looked like a plastic shower curtain draped over one shoulder. But none of that was anywhere near as surprising as the screaming baby he had cradled against his curtain-protected shoulder.
Gibbs was the first to recover. "Oh, for God's sake," he said as he reached out to take the screaming child from Tony.
"He's all yours," replied Tony, handing the baby over. Then he pulled the plastic off his shoulder and held it out to Gibbs. "You might want this, boss. He won't stop crying and who knew someone so small could contain so much snot."
Gibbs waved him off with a disdainful look and expertly settled the infant in his arms. "What's with the background noise?" he asked as he headed over to the stereo and turned off the music that was providing a counterpoint to the baby's cries.
"I thought it might distract him," Tony said. "Don't babies like music?"
"Lullabies, Tony, not Aerosmith," blurted Ziva.
"Well, I had to listen to it, too," Tony retorted peevishly. After his stressful night, he was not about to put up with any criticism, especially from Ziva, who was not exactly a baby expert herself.
McGee was the last to stop gaping at Tony, but when he finally did, he asked the question they all were thinking. "Uh, Tony, where did the baby come from, and what are you doing with it?"
"He showed up on my doorstep yesterday. He came with this." Tony grabbed a piece of paper off the coffee table and handed it to his partner. McGee scanned it, his eyes widening as he read the contents.
"This is a paternity test," he gasped, "and it says you're the baby's father."
"The question is, who is the mother?" Ziva peered over Tim's shoulder to look at the document. "All of the maternal information has been blacked out."
Gibbs strode over and snatched the paper from McGee's hands. He gave it a quick glance then dropped it disdainfully onto the table. "Doesn't mean a thing."
"Gibbs is right," McGee said, "no civilian lab would have access to DNA databases. We only have the mother's word that the sample they tested came from you."
"The word of a mother who is hiding her own identity," Ziva added. "That seems rather swishy to me."
"Fishy, Ziva. Seems fishy to me," Tony corrected out of habit. "Swishy would mean ... uh ... well, it would mean gay, and given that this is a matter of reproduction I don't think it's at all ... swishy. Fishy, yes, but definitely not swishy." Tony knew he was babbling, but, between exhaustion and embarrassment, he couldn't seem to help himself.
"We'll deal with that later," Gibbs said. "Have you fed this little guy recently?" he asked when all his efforts to stop the baby's wails had failed.
"I tried, he took some earlier but he doesn't seem to want anything now."
"Formula?" Gibbs asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I'm not a total idiot, boss. Besides, he came with supplies."
"Did you warm it up?"
Gibbs shook his head in disgust and headed for the kitchen.
"Hey, boss, don't blame me. I said he came with supplies, not instructions."
Once the baby was fed, quiet, and stowed in his carrier, Gibbs sat Tony down on the couch. "Start at the beginning and tell me how you ended up in this mess."
"He just showed up on my steps last night. The bell rang around nine, and when I opened the door, there he was, along with a box of supplies and an unsigned note."
Tony dug into his back pocket and removed a crumpled piece of paper. "Dear Tony," he read, "This is Matthew, and as you can see from the test results, he is your son. I have done the best I can, but I cannot keep him with me any longer. He is yours now, I hope you love him well."
He handed the note to Gibbs and continued his tale. "I did go out to look around, but his mother, whoever she is, was long gone by then. After that, well, you can imagine what my night was like. It took me an hour just to figure out how to get the damn diapers to stay on."
"Do you have any idea who the mother could be?" McGee asked.
"It could be anyone," Tony answered.
"Even you, Tony, have not dated enough women for it to be anyone," Ziva objected.
"Forgive me, Zee-vah. Yes, there are a limited number of possibilities, but I have no idea which one of them is Matthew's mom."
"None of that is important right now," Gibbs said. "Right now we need to bring Matthew into headquarters and run a paternity test of our own."
"Boss, you really don't have to do that, you've got cases of your own to run, you don't have time for mine."
Gibbs gave Tony a pointed look, amazed that he was turning down help that might get him out of this mess. "The sooner we get this figured out and the baby placed where he belongs, the sooner you'll be back to work."
"I know, but it's my mess, and it's time I stopped being a jerk and did the right thing. I can handle this myself."
"Is that why you didn't bag the notes or anything else that arrived with him?" Gibbs asked. "You don't want us investigating - you've already decided keeping the baby is the 'right thing.'"
"Maybe it is," Tony said mulishly. "Maybe I'm not the shallow cad you all think I am."
Soft-hearted McGee jumped to Tony's defense. "We don't think that."
"Annoying, immature, nosy -" Ziva recited, changing her tack when Gibbs shot her a warning look, "but not shallow and probably not a cad - although I am not sure since I have not heard this word before," she concluded sheepishly.
"Tony, investigating is the right thing to do," Gibbs said in a firm but gentle tone that brooked no objection. "We owe it to Matthew to find out where he really belongs."
Gibbs turned to the other agents. "This is why I brought you along. We're treating this like a crime scene. Ziva, you canvas the neighbors. Find out if anyone saw or heard anything around nine last night. McGee -"
"Bag and tag. Got it, boss," McGee finished for him.
"I want everything that came with the baby." Gibbs held up the DNA report. "My gut tells me this is all a hoax."
Unfortunately, Tony's neighbors seemed to be a private bunch and other than one woman who thought she might have seen a dark, late model sedan parked on the road, no one had any information. With nothing else to go on, once they got back to NCIS, Gibbs took a DNA swab from Tony and then put him and Ziva to work tracking down any possible mothers among Tony's dates from the time in question. Ziva's obvious glee at finally gaining access to Tony's little black book earned her a headslap, but as soon as Gibbs saw they were occupied with their task, he headed for the lab with the baby, the evidence, and McGee in tow.
Abby was waiting at the door for them. "Oh, Gibbs, I heard you had a baby, and that Tony's the father. Wait, that didn't come out right. I mean, obviously you can't have a baby, and even if you could, it wouldn't be Tony's. Although, when you think about it, it would be kinda cool because you guys would make cute babies, as long as they were all boys, that is. Can I see him, Gibbs?"
"Only long enough to get some DNA."
She peered intently at the baby. "He doesn't really look like Tony, not unless Tony was a Cabbage Patch Kid, which would be kinda cute, but -"
"Sorry, Gibbs, I just can't believe Tony's a daddy," she said as she swabbed the inside of the baby's mouth
"I don't believe it," Gibbs said, handing her Tony's swab and the note, "and you're gonna prove it."
"No problemo, bossman. I can run this pronto. I'll dust everything for prints while I'm waiting, but don't expect much because, I gotta tell you, it looks pretty contaminated. What was Tony thinking?"
"He wasn't. Need to find that mother, do whatever you can."
Gibbs then turned to McGee and handed him the paternity test. "Hack into the lab's computers and find the original data from this sample. Then run it through the military database. Maybe we'll get lucky."
Tony and Ziva hadn't made any progress, and although Abby was able to isolate a few clear prints, they led nowhere. McGee, however, hit pay dirt. The father turned out to be Sergeant John Petrocelli, a marine stationed in Afghanistan. Gibbs sent McGee to MTAC with orders to find Petrocelli and get him up on a video feed, then he went to break the news to Tony.
"We found the father."
"I'm guessing it's not me," Tony said, resigned to the fact that he already knew the answer.
"Nope. Marine named Petrocelli. McGee's calling him in MTAC as we speak."
"That's good, I guess."
"Tony, you do not have to take on some kid to prove you're one of the good guys," Gibbs said.
Tony gave him a stricken look. "It's not just that. Matthew reminds me of my childhood. Sure, at first I was furious that some one night stand had saddled me with a kid. Talk about an inconvenience. Then I looked at the little guy and realized he had no one that wanted him. Here he was, abandoned on my doorstep, and all I could think was how inconvenienthe was. Just like my father. It took me less than ten minutes as a dad to start acting like my father, not thinking about anything other than how to keep the kid from getting in my way."
"Tony, You had just had a shock, and trust me, all parents feel that way sometimes. It's a hard job."
"Yeah, well my dad felt that way all the time, and it hurt. You have no idea how much it scared me to realize I wasn't much different from my dad. I looked at that baby, and I vowed that I would take care of him. That I would be the one person who never found him inconvenient, the one person who was always there for him. This was going to be the way I proved that I was nothing like my dad." He gave gibbs a pleading look before continuing, "How can I give him up to someone who, until now, probably didn't even know he existed."
"Come up to MTAC and let's meet the guy before you jump to conclusions."
The man who appeared on the screen was a burly marine with olive skin and dark hair cut high and tight.
Gibbs introduced himself. "Sergeant Petrocelli, I'm Special Agent Gibbs and this is Special Agent DiNozzo."
"My CO told me that NCIS wanted to talk to me he but didn't give me any details. What's this about?" Petrocelli asked.
"A baby was found abandoned yesterday and we have reason to believe that you are the father," Gibbs explained.
"What?" Petrocelli was clearly shocked. "I haven't been home over a year."
"That'd be about right - baby's maybe four months old," said Gibbs.
"Yeah, but I didn't ... oh, shit ... Marlene."
"Marlene who?" Tony asked, suspiciously.
"My ex-wife, I guess she goes by Marlene Tully now."
Gibbs waved to McGee, indicating that he should pull up any information available. Then he turned to Tony and whispered, "Is the name familiar?"
"Yeah, I think so, but boss, if its who I think it is, I didn't ever sleep with her." Gibbs raised his eyebrows at this statement, and Tony continued, "I met her in a bar nine or ten months ago and we just talked. Not that she wasn't hot, but she was really broken up about something so we just chatted and I drove her home. I gave her my number in case she ever needed a friend, but man, I never expected this."
"Got it," exclaimed McGee, holding up a printout of Marlene Tully's driver's license. Gibbs showed it to Petrocelli, who said it was his ex-wife, and to Tony, who confirmed it was the woman he had met.
"Wow," said Petrocelli, a smile spreading across his face. "I can't believe I'm a father. Is it a boy or a girl? Can I see him?"
"In a minute. We have some questions first. Do you have any idea why your ex would do something like this," Gibbs asked.
"Well, she never wanted kids. In fact, that's why we got divorced. It wasn't pretty at the end, I'll bet she tried to give the baby away just to hurt me. She knew I wanted a son."
"Well, you've got one now. They should give you some compassionate leave but is there anyone who can take the baby until you can fly home?"
"Yeah, my parents will. In fact, they'll be thrilled."
"Agent McGee will get their information from you. Congratulations, sergeant."
Then Gibbs turned and headed out of MTAC, a still disconsolate Tony trailing in his wake. The situation had been resolved in what seemed like the best way possible but Tony still seemed shaken and upset. It was time to get to the bottom of this. At the foot of the stairs, rather than heading into the bullpen, Gibbs turned left, jerking his head to indicate that Tony should follow. When they were hidden around the corner he stopped and faced his senior agent.
"Well," said Tony halfheartedly, "I guess it's time to break out the cigars."
"Matthew's gonna be fine. What's really bothering you?"
"I dunno ... I wanted a chance to do better with him."
"You have nothing to prove. Hell, being a good guy is what got you into this in the first place."
"Yeah ... but, you know, sins of the father and all that ..."
"Dinozzo, just because you had a bad father doesn't mean you'll be a bad father," Gibbs assured him.
Tony pasted a weak smile on his face. "Easy for you to say," he muttered, "you didn't grow up with my dad."