Chapter Three: So That I Can Feel The Rain
Dustbowl Dance - Mumford and Sons - Sigh No More
I've been kicked off my land at the age of sixteen
And I have no idea where else my heart could have been
I placed all my trust at the foot of this hill
And now I am sure my heart can never be still
So collect your courage and collect your horse
And pray you never feel this same kind of remorse
Gibbs glanced over at the only other occupied bed in the ward. After the heartfelt, painful, sobbing, the release of a young child clinging onto something new, the boy had bolted. Wrenched open the door of the car and sprinted for dear life up the snow banked concrete. And Gibbs hadn't done anything to stop him; it would've done him no good if he'd tried. Yelling after the boy would've done nothing than to spook him more than he'd already done to himself, running after him would've been useless due to his own medical history and he'd already done what he could for now. He didn't feel that any further action would benefit Tony right now. There were times when what you needed was to be alone to compact and release your thoughts.
He'd stepped back into the warmly heated Medical Bays, slinking over to the bed only catching the eye of Doctor Jason Preston once as he manoeuvred onto the surprisingly comfortable, in his experience of hospital beds, bed. Preston strolled out of his office with a slightly awkward expression on his face as he wandered slowly over towards Gibbs' bed, the marine watching him carefully the whole while.
"Gunnery Sergeant." Was the soft, awkward greeting from the doctor.
"Doctor Preston." Gibbs replied perfectly amiably, moving his feet onto the bed and leaning back comfortably against the pillows.
"And...uhm...how is he?"
"How d'you think, Doctor. He's a kid that tried to stay stoic about his mother and his brother's death for nine months without any form of release. Yeah, he's jumpin' over the moon." Gibbs deadpanned with a glint in his pale eye which the doctor couldn't meet.
"Do you have children, Gunny?"
"A daughter." A nod followed by a soft answer. His daughter, just a beautiful seven years old.
"Me too, I have two. Never was all that good with boys, teenagers especially, the wife tells me to get over it...but I can't do it. I don't know what I can do to help, I've seen neglect cases, I even wrote my dissertation on abuse cases when I studied psychology. I find myself at a loss here." He petered off, rubbing his jaw with a large hand. Gibbs let the doctor mumble on, what was it his business to interrupt the internal mumblings of the distressed man. But, what was it his place to take away that distress, he'd brought it on himself."
"What happened out there?" Was the final question from the flustered man, a hand through his thick hair.
"Not my place to say, but, he's gone to cool off." Gibbs gave a non-committal answer and a shrug.
"I should've known, it was staring me in the face, right in front of me. He might not seem it, but this is him being withdrawn, ever since he came back from the last family meeting. It was even on the news, I checked. I should've known."
"Doctor." Gibbs finally broke through the litany of self-pity. "And what would you've done once you knew. Comforted him? Ya think you could've done better than anyone else? Counselled him? You think he would've taken your advice or even confided in you. It took him nine months to tell you. How much do you even see Tony?"
The doctor paused for a moment.
"He's been in every day for his medical rotation." Came the hesitant reply.
"And that's been...what? A few months. You won't gain his trust in that long, he's not that sort of kid."
"And how would you know, Gunnery Sergeant Gibbs? You've known him for less than a day, barely talked to him." Preston bristled haughtily.
"I've seen enough to know he's just a kid in need of support."
"And you don't believe a trained psychologist and doctor can help."
"No, Doctor Preston, I don't believe you can help."
The doctor simply stared.
The young man sat alone in the silent barracks, head resting on his palm as a final tear slid down a heated and already tear streaked cheek. The other hand held a shaking photograph. It was slightly blurred, as if someone had just jogged the photographer in the middle of the take. Two boys stood, a taller boy with his arm securely around the younger, both grinning identical grins at the camera. The setting was a dark suited wedding, the bride could be seen just in the background behind the two suited boys. Turning over the photograph, the elegant cursive handwriting of his mother. Nicoli and Anthony, age 10 & 15, 24th August, Jennifer's wedding
Another photograph, this time the photograph grabbed from the sunviser in Jemima. A snow covered New York manicured lawn. Trees scraped up at the sky in the background, laden with white powder. A dark coated child had his arm thrown forward, the newly thrown snowball having just struck another boy straight in the shoulder as he peaked out from behind a tree. Turn over the photograph. Nicoli and Anthony, age 12 & 17, 2nd January, Snowball Fight
The last photograph from the car. A beautiful darked haired woman, her hair plaited loosely over one shoulder, smiling brightly at a young man with a guitar whilst a slightly younger boy stood on the chair behind, grinning over his brothers shoulder. The photograph had a crease down the side, folding off the edge of the picture. With shaking fingers, the young man completely unfolded the photograph, revealing the doorway of the room where a stern face was looking in, the dark eyes almost black in the darkened photograph. Quaking fingers refolded the picture, turning it over just enough to rip the folded section away, careful to not take the cursive words after it. Nicoli, Anthony and me, age 15 & 20, last night before Nicki's college. The ripped off section was deftly dropped to the floor as the last photograph lay in his lap, almost as if it was discarded.
Nicoli and Anthony, age 17 & 22, 18th March, My Young Men The last photograph taken. On that day. Clara DiNozzo's boys on the perfected DiNozzo estate lawn. Nick DiNozzo had Tony in a headlock, grinning widly at the camera, just about to tackle the young teenager to the ground. If it had been a film that's what it would've shown. Two happily rough housing young men before Tony recieved a call from a friend. Asking if he wanted to hang out, play hoops. He was going out with his mother and brother, just a casual lunch. He could do that again another time, right? That's what they all said before. No longer.
"It should've been me, too." Came the broken plea before all the photographs fluttered to the cold, dry floor.
It had been dark outside, the lights turned off in the sick bay and the on-call medic dozing quietly in his room down the corridor, Preston having left for the day, when the doors creaked open softly. Gibbs stayed perfectly still as the footsteps moved across the lino floor towards the empty bed earlier occupied. And that's where, half an hour later when Gibbs had rolled over, Tony DiNozzo had been curled up, shoes left neatly on the floor, covered only by his thick coat, lay soundly asleep.
Quietly as possible, Gibbs himself slipped out of bed, pulling one of his unnecessary sheets which were folded at the foot of the bed. He carefully draped the blanket over the boy, covering his shoulders before retreating to his bed. "G'night Lance Corporal." In his sleep, the boy didn't even stir.
The next morning Gibbs woke to the unmistakable tone of voice; a lecture. From a stern voice he didn't recognise. His head only throbbed slightly this morning, an improvement.
"Ah, I didn't expect to find you here, Lance Corporal DiNozzo, I expected you in your barracks, but no matter. Now, Lance Corporal, I need you to understand. You need to either contact your father or I shall do so for you. You can't stay here, this is the only January holiday into which our entire staff has found a time to release to their families. We can't have just one cadet left behind. Now, the number please, or must I look through your personal files. I really do not wish to have to do that..." There was a stiff, awkward pause. "Lance Corporal DiNozzo, what exactly are you doing?"
Tony's voice was the next to join the 'conversation'. "I'm multi-tasking, sir."
"Doing what, pray?"
"Isn't it obvious? I'm day dreaming whilst pretending to listen."
Gibbs couldn't help but chuckle softly under his breath.
"Listen, young man!" The same, indignant lecturer continued with a deep sigh. "Am I going to call or are you?"
There was a slightly hysterical laugh from the boy, a creak of a bed spring.
"You know what, sir? It wouldn't really matter. The only number I can call will get through to some sort of company switchboard, then you'll be directed to the secretary of the secretary of the secretary who will probably have a list in front of them headed 'who to lie to and say the boss is out in a meeting whenever they call', I'll tell ya, I'm the top of that list." The voice was slightly higher than normal. There was an exasperated sigh and retreating footsteps before Gibbs rolled over onto his back, blue eyes immediately meeting the green ones, the previous black smudges which had been so prominent the day before were fading slightly; his eyes no longer sparkling green surrounded by a rim of red.
"Good morning, sir." The young man's voice was polite, if slightly tentative.
"Lance Corporal." He greeted the morning voice back.
"And...you heard all of that." Tony dropped the eye contact to the bed spread still covering his legs, the book he'd obviously been reading before his CO had appeared lying spine up on one knee.
Gibbs just nodded in the affirmative. Tony nodded back, the silence obviously uncomfortable for him as he fiddled with the corner of his book.
"They say they're releasing you back into the wild, I'm...supposed to contact someone about, like, transport or something." Tony mumbled, giving a half shrug. "Want me to call...someone or...something, call ya a cab, medical records say you live in...Washington? That's like a seven hour drive or something." He rambled on, successfully tearing a few of the pages in the novel. Changing the subject, Gibbs craned his neck to see the book's spine.
"What you readin'?"
Tony glanced up, eye contact for a moment before breaking it again. "Captain Corelli's Mandolin." He gave a slight shrug again, unsubtly closing the novel. Gibbs himself had never read it, didn't really intend to.
"It's okay, but...I mean it's like walking along a sunlit street and then getting repeatedly hit over the head with a large stick. First half's all happy and charming, second half so far is just misery and...stuff." The boy rambled, tracing the title of the book with a forefinger. "Anyway, you're not really supposed to travel, but Doctor Preston said he can try and get you on a Med-Evac if you want to get to Bethesda or something?"
"And where're you gunna go, Lance Corporal?"
Tony raised his eyebrows at the question, staring down at the back of his hands. "No offence, sir, but...I don't know if that's any of your business."
"No, true." Gibbs conceded calmly. "But, neither was yesterday, and that seemed to help." Even the air tensed in the room. You'd have to cut your way around Tony's bed with a hatchet from the amount of tension radiating from the kid. You could almost see him shaking with it.
Gibbs slid off his bed, disentangling his feet from the covers and stepped across to the bed. Green eyes watched him warily.
"Tony." The voice was soft and, maybe a hint of concern. No, he didn't get concern, he didn't like it, right...
"Tony, who else can take you in, just tell me and I'll arrange it." The boy's eyes flicked between the marine, the book and the far wall, thoughts flashing through his mind in a series of whirl winding levels of confusion. Finally his eyes settled on the book.
"There's no-one else they...they don't live in America...My family, except my father."
And it doesn't seem like going back to him is a great plan. Gibbs joined in the silent contemplation, rolling his still shoulders slightly.
"Look, sir, you don't have to do anything for me. I'll work it out, I always do, I'll just...catch a cab back to New York. It's only like three hours and I'll just...head home. It'll be fine." The resigned look in the boy's set jaw was only offset by his dropped eye contact and constant fiddling.
"I don't leave men behind, Lance Corporal." Came the response after a long pause. "How old are you, seventeen?"
"Yes, sir." Came the slightly confused reply as Tony blinked, turning his head towards the musing marine.
"Ten minutes on the phone, find Doc Preston." Frowning, Tony slid off the bed, grabbing his bundled coat from the mass of bed covers and nodded to Gibbs' request, slipping out of the medical bay, fleeting a quick look across at Gibbs, reaching out to the on-the-wall phone cradle.
The phone rang softly, the tone gurgling in Gibbs' ear before it picked up with the familiar voice.
"Hey, Dad." Gibbs couldn't help the slight smile quirk at the sides of his mouth.
Tony appeared a few moments later, hovering self-consciously as Gibbs finished up his phone call, blue eyes shining. Doctor Preston bustled in a few moments later.
"You called Gibbs?" He looked up from the chart he'd been reading.
"I'm signing myself out." He didn't add AMA, he doubted the affect would be needed.
"Out? Really? Now you could've just asked me to do it for you. I suppose Lance Corporal DiNozzo found you some suitable transportation. " Gibbs quirked an eyebrow in response.
"Actually, Gunnery Sergeant Gibbs did that by himself, he's a very capable marine." Gibbs shot an amused look at the young man, who was obviously fighting back the urge to chuckle, but he held his facade long enough for Gibbs to turn away. Then he heard the quiet snigger.
"I see. Well, as long as you have somewhere to go and some way to get there and someone to stay with?" Preston questioned, picking up Gibbs chart from the end of his bed.
"Affirmative to all three."
"Who are you staying with."
"With my father." Out the corner of his eye, Gibbs checked on Tony, the boy's head had snapped around slightly, but only momentarily changed expression. Preston nodded slowly.
"I'll bring you your papers and I shall return shortly. Now, Anthony, that brings me to you. How and where are you staying?"
Tony opened his mouth, shut it and pouted slightly, staring once again at the back of his hand.
"I got him a lift, the Academy signed him out into my care for the holiday." Gibbs stated calmly, taking a seat in a vacant chair, stretching out his legs in front of him, resting comfortably in the chair.
Two stunned pairs of eyes stared at him in disbelief.
Seal my heart and brake my pride
I've nowhere to stand and now nowhere to hide
Align my heart, my body, my mind
To face what I've done and do my time
Well yes sir, yes sir, yes it was me
I know what I've done, cause I know what I've seen
I went out back and I got the gun
I said, "You haven't met me, I am your only son"
Might be a bit of a break before number 4 comes up or the next of DTOR, but if I can get another chapter up this week then I will. Thanks!
Eryn [Soul Music]