A/N - Sorry about the snafu yesterday! I'd gone back to change a few things in the previous chapter and had to mess around to change its header from 25 to 24 and I inadvertently triggered an alert.
I was determined to pack everything in and make this the last chapter because I'm so heartily sick of this story dragging on and on - insert gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair here - but after messing around for another 24 hours, I've had to face the fact that it was becoming too unwieldy and I've ended up splitting it into two parts. There will now be a chapter 26. It will mean re-writing some bits I'd previously discarded, but I think it will be worth it.
I hope you enjoy the new chapter :)
Tony awoke the next morning to the sound of muted voices just outside his bedroom door. With a little effort he managed to tune into the conversation and quickly recognised Jack's measured tones trying to persuade Davey to let his daddy sleep a little longer; Davey on the other hand, was sticking to his opinion that they should wake him. The little boy sounded so earnest that Tony couldn't help smiling as he listened.
"But Grampa Jack, it's breakfast time and Daddy needs to get up, 'cause if he doesn't he's gonna miss it, an' he can't miss it 'cause then he won't eat and then he won't get well so quick - Abby says so!" Davey insisted, sounding eerily like their favourite forensics expert.
"Well now that's true, but getting lots of sleep is really important too because that's the time when our bodies get to rest," Jack explained gently. "It's also the time when we can use more of our energy to mend anything that's hurting us - so, if you think about it, the more sleep your daddy gets, the sooner he'll get better."
"Oh. Abby never telled me that bit," Davey admitted, sounding a little crestfallen.
"Hey, don't worry, he's gonna be up and around in no time," Jack assured him. "Now how about we go back to the kitchen and make him something that he can eat when he gets up, huh? There's nothing wrong with moving breakfast to a little later in the day and my famous oatmeal is really good for what ails ya."
"Hey, it's okay you guys, you can come on in - I'm already awake," Tony called out, hoping to avoid the prospect of more oatmeal: He'd never been a particular fan and after being served that runny gloop at the hospital, he suspected he'd be quite happy to avoid it for the rest of his life.
Within a few seconds, the door was flung open and Davey dashed into the room. "Daddy, did you sleep enough?" he asked anxiously. "Have you done some good mending?"
Tony resisted the urge to laugh and gave a reassuring smile. "Yup, I sure have, but do you know what? I've heard that hugs are the best medicine anyone can get." He patted the bed and asked, "Do you want to climb up here and give it a try?"
"I can do that, I can!" Davey agreed with a grin, clambering onto the bed next to Tony and squirming under his arm. "Me an' Grampa Jack are gonna make you oatmeal too, aren't we Grampa Jack? It's real good for..." his voice trailed off and he looked deep in thought before looking over at Jack. "What's it good for, Grampa?"
"For what ails ya," Jack supplied with an indulgent smile.
"Oh, yum," Tony said trying to sound enthusiastic and failing miserably.
Jack winked at him. "Son, even oatmeal can taste good when you pile it up with honey and cream and sprinkle a little cinnamon on top." He gave Tony an assessing look before asking, "Are you up to joining us in the kitchen, or should I make up a tray?"
"Depends on how long you give me to get there," Tony replied with a wry smile. "If I get up now, I might make it by lunchtime."
"Not with a personal valet and chauffeur at your service," Gibbs announced from the doorway as he pushed Tony's wheelchair into the room. "Davey, you go help your grandpa start breakfast and we'll be along in a few minutes, okay?"
"Sure!" Davey replied enthusiastically, giving Tony a quick kiss and then sliding off the bed. "Be quick, Daddy. Me an' Grampa are gonna make lots and lots." He took hold of Jack's hand and started tugging. "C'mon Grampa, we gotta go!"
"Whoa, slow down there, half-pint, the oatmeal's not going anywhere," Jack huffed. He resisted long enough to throw a delighted look over his shoulder and then let Davey drag him from the room.
Tony smiled over at Gibbs. "Looks like Grandpa Jack is a great hit," he said.
"Yeah," Gibbs agreed, although the distracted look in his eyes seemed at odds with his reply.
"Are you sure you're okay with this?" Tony asked worriedly. "Would you prefer it if Davey called him Mr Gibbs or something?"
"Absolutely not!" Gibbs insisted, giving himself a mental shake. "The way Dad was with Davey just now reminded me of how he used to be with Kelly and I got hijacked by an old memory, that's all." He gave a sad smile. "It's good that he gets to be a grandpa again."
Tony nodded his agreement, not trusting his voice to remain steady if he tried to speak past the lump in his throat.
"Right then, let's get your lazy ass out of that bed, shall we," Gibbs said brusquely, not wanting to dwell on the past. He positioned the wheelchair next to the night stand and then gently manhandled Tony to the edge of the bed before deftly completing the transfer.
"Hey, you're getting good at this," Tony said, settling himself with only a slight groan. "You could have a real future as a manservant if you ever decided on a career change."
"Oh, really?" Gibbs asked, raising an eyebrow and looking less than impressed.
"Absolutely! Although if I were you, I'd avoid telling your employer he's got a lazy ass or what he should do with it - I don't think that'd go down too well," Tony replied with a smirk. He adopted an posh English accent and added, "I think what you're supposed to ask is whether sir would like you to draw him a bath and after he says yes, you're supposed to present him with a freshly ironed morning newspaper."
Gibbs snorted in amusement as he headed towards the bathroom to start the shower.
From where he was sitting in his wheelchair, Tony distinctly heard him say, "In your dreams, DiNozzo!" before the hiss of water drowned out any further comment.
By late evening, Tony was lounging contentedly on a large sofa in the open plan living area with Davey curled up next to him, fast asleep. The sofa was one of three arranged around an imposing stone fireplace and off to the right was a dining area that led on to a modern kitchen; to the left the room ran in an L-shape past the fireplace to sliding glass doors which led out onto a sun deck and garden.
As he lay there, Tony found himself smiling as he looked down at the sleeping child. Davey had been dashing around the house and garden almost the whole day, disappearing for a little while to explore his new surroundings and then running back to Tony every now and then to report back on what he'd found. By far the most exciting discovery had been a jungle gym out back and Davey had whooped with delight as soon as he'd spotted it and had proceeded to clamber up, down and over the thing for what seemed like hours, giving Tony a few heart-stopping moments in the process.
Gibbs, Ziva and McGee had been absent for most of the day reconnoitring the surrounding area and trying to address any safety concerns they identified. The house already had a decent security system, but McGee had tweaked a few things and added a couple of cameras to cover the approach road: All in all, they'd done as much as they could to ensure Tony and Davey's safety and with no sign of pursuit, Vance wanted Ziva, McGee and Abby back at work after the weekend.
At the thought of their imminent departure, Tony's mood took a dive and he wondered how long the threat of more trouble from Gallo would hang over them: Without Davey in the equation he would've insisted on staying in DC to help with the investigation and to hell with the danger; with Davey, he simply couldn't take the risk. Even though he accepted that fact, he couldn't help wondering when Stillwater would stop being their safe haven and start feeling more like a prison.
Thankfully Jack chose that moment to enter the room and effectively interrupted his dark thoughts.
"Are you alright, son?" he asked, his voice full of concern. "Do you need your pain pills?"
"No, I'm good thanks," Tony replied, looking down at Davey and running his hand tenderly over the little boy's hair. "My little entertainer here finally ran his batteries down and left me with too much time to think, that's all." He gave a wry smile. "I can't believe he lasted as long as he did, to be honest."
"Ah, the boundless energy of the young," Jack said with a smile. He gestured to the sofa next to Tony's and asked, "Mind if I join you? Leroy's making some calls and I thought I'd better make myself scarce."
"Sure," Tony agreed immediately. "I've been wanting a chance to thank you properly for helping us out like this. I didn't want to impose, but when Gibbs said you'd offered, I couldn't say no."
"It's my pleasure," Jack replied sincerely. "When you get to my age you don't get a lot of opportunities to make a difference any more, even though the will to help is still there."
Tony gave him a grateful smile and turned to stare at the flames dancing in the fireplace: Gibbs and his father might seem at opposite ends of the spectrum where conversation was concerned, but when it came down to it, their values were essentially the same and he would trust them both with his life.
"Where are the others?" Jack asked.
"They're up in the little home office Abby found in the attic this morning," he replied with a sigh. "She's been holed up in there most of the day searching the internet for the perfect house for me and Davey to live in once this is all over. She's adamant it has to be a house with a big yard and now she's drafted in McGee and Ziva to help her." He grimaced and waved his hand towards a large pile of papers on the coffee table in front of them. "Those are the details of the ones she's found so far."
"And you're not so keen?" Jack surmised, noting his less than enthusiastic reaction.
"It's not that I don't think it's a good idea," Tony began, "it's just that things are changing so fast and I don't want to rush into anything." He sighed deeply. "I loved my apartment and I had it just the way I wanted it - and now I have to give it up."
"Surely lots of children are brought up living in apartments these days."
"Yeah, but not ones whose dad is on the death list of a psycho mob boss," Tony pointed out. "I'd be stupid to go back to a place they know about and if I have to move anyway, a house seems the logical choice."
"But not a choice you have to make right now," Gibbs remarked as he strode into the room. "Once everything with Gallo is squared away, you and Davey can stay with me. That'll give you time to weigh up your options before you have to decide anything."
Tony looked a little stunned at the offer. "Are you sure, Boss? I mean you're used to having your own space and you like things clean and tidy. How are you gonna put up with the extra noise and mess and mud being tracked through the house every five minutes?"
"I've done it before, DiNozzo," Gibbs pointed out. "Besides, with a little time and effort, I'm sure me and Davey can break you of those bad habits."
Tony tried to look offended, but with Jack guffawing with laughter and Gibbs sporting a wide grin he realised he was fighting a losing battle and couldn't help joining in.
Once McGee, Ziva and Abby returned to DC, life fell into a strangely leisurely rhythm: Gone were the early morning alarms, the frenetic commutes and the long, stressful days at work they were used to in the city; instead came the opportunity to kick back, relax and enjoy a little family time. The only structured elements to the day were mealtimes, bedtime for Davey and Tony's PT sessions, which Ducky had managed to arrange after one of his contacts suggested using a retired practitioner he knew in the area.
As the days passed, Tony's mobility began to improve dramatically and with it, his optimism about the future. Davey was thriving in their new surroundings and he spent his time zipping around like a frenetic little pinball all day. It was only when sunset signalled time for dinner that he seemed to slow to a more normal pace and afterwards, they'd all relax in front of a roaring fire and watch a DVD until it was time for a story and bed.
Abby contacted them every day and after a few attempts to talk to a suddenly monosyllabic Davey on the phone, she'd switched to Skype and found he was much more animated when he could actually see her. The two were becoming firm friends and Tony would often sit close by and smile as he listened to their conversations being conducted at light speed.
Unfortunately, on this particular morning Tony was silently cursing good old Chatty Abby, who, during a call the night before had let it slip that she, Ducky and McGee were coming for a visit the next day. Davey had been so excited at the news that any chance of a decent nights sleep had gone right out of the window: It had taken ages to settle him and then he'd woken up at almost hourly intervals, worried he was going to miss their arrival.
As Tony sat there nursing a hot cup of tea and feeling like death warmed over, he stared balefully at the little pocket rocket sitting across from him tucking into a large bowl of cheerios. How could he look no worse for wear after getting so little sleep?
"Tough night?" Gibbs asked as he walked into the kitchen looking just as well rested as Davey.
"You could say that," Tony muttered grumpily, his bleary eyes at half mast. "When Abby gets here, she's on babysitting duty until I catch up on some sleep."
"Ah, the joys of parenthood," Jack chuckled as he followed his son into the room. "Just think what you've got to look forward to in the run up to Christmas!"
Tony groaned and took another sip of his tea.
"Can I leave you guys to it this morning?" Jack asked, bustling about looking for his car keys. "They're having a bake sale at the community centre and if I don't at least show my face, I'll be black balled from Friday night bingo!" He spotted his keys and was just about to head out when he remembered something. "Oh, Daryl brought some supplies over last night, including the fresh juice and eggs you wanted. They're in the refrigerator."
"Thanks, Dad," Gibbs called after his father as he went to get the fixings for breakfast. Tony looked like he could use a hearty start to the day.
"Can I help?" Davey asked, rushing over to join him, his eyes gleaming with excitement. "I'll be real careful."
Gibbs smiled at Davey's eagerness and nodded his agreement. "Here you go, give that to your dad," he said passing him a plastic bottle of OJ before grabbing the eggs. As he turned around, movement on the security monitor in the corner of the room caught his eye and he spotted McGee's car just turning down the track towards the house. "Looks like the others are just arriving," he announced.
"Yippee!" Davey whooped, practically levitating off the floor as he dashed out of the kitchen. He was in such a hurry that he kept tripping over his own feet, however he still managed to be in position to launch himself into Abby's arms as soon as she stepped through the front door.
"Abby! Abby! Daddy and Boss are making a new baby in the kitchen!" he shouted excitedly. "You wanna come see?"