"Bye, Dad…You take care of yourself."
"Goodbye, Junior. We'll talk soon."
The two men embraced and Tony watched as his father headed for the airport gate. He stood waiting as his father went through Security. DiNozzo Senior turned back to wave and then was finally gone from his sight. Tony sighed to himself and headed back to where he had parked his car. The last few days had sent Tony's emotions and his anxiety level spiraling practically out of control. At least his father was finally on his way and no major damage had been done. He got into his car and started aimlessly driving. Once again, he found himself at the familiar place where he always seemed to end up when he was feeling upset or confused or sometimes for just no reason at all.
"Your father get off okay?" Gibbs didn't even need to turn around to know who was walking down his basement stairs. He'd had a strong feeling in his gut that Tony would be showing up.
"Yeah…Hitched a ride with Donald Trump…" Tony shook his head incredulously and sat down on a wooden chair. "I don't know how he does it…well I guess I do know how, but still…it's crazy, you know?"
Gibbs stopped sanding and turned around to face his Senior Field Agent. "So…how did you leave things, Tony?" he asked, studying the younger man closely. "Did you get a chance to talk?"
Tony shrugged, at first not meeting Gibbs' eyes, then he nodded. "Yeah…yeah we talked."
"So…how did it go?" Gibbs pulled up another chair and took a seat across from Tony.
"It…it went well, I guess…I…" He bit his lip and stood up, then walked over to Gibbs' boat and placed his hand on the wooden frame. "Did you do lots of father and son stuff with your dad when you were a kid, boss?"
Gibbs hesitated before answering. "When I was really young we did, but then we just used to clash. We went a very long time without talking. But you already know all this, Tony."
Tony nodded thoughtfully. "Fathers and sons…I guess it's all pretty complicated…"
"Families, by definition, are complicated," Gibbs agreed. "Nobody's is perfect. Trust me on that."
"Yeah…I know…It's just…"
"Just what, Tony?"
"My father knew that I bought him the ticket to Monte Carlo last year."
Tony couldn't hide the surprise in his eyes as he gazed back at Gibbs. "You know? How do you know?"
"He told me."
Tony wasn't sure how he felt about that. "When? What else did he say?" he asked, a hint of anger in his voice.
"Come on, DiNozzo…it's nothing to get upset about...we were just talking, that's all."
Gibbs shook his head. "Not really. We were talking about the case. It just kind of came up in conversation."
Tony considered that, then decided it really didn't matter. "I told him I wished I could go back in time…to when we used to be able to talk…" Tony said quietly. "There was this fishing trip we went on…it was shortly before my mom died…Anyhow…we had such a good time, we talked, laughed, told jokes. It was the best time I could remember having with my dad. I mentioned that to him, figured he wouldn't even remember it at all…"
"But he did," Gibbs stated knowingly, reading Tony's expression perfectly.
Tony nodded. "Yeah he did…He said it was one of his fondest memories too. He actually carries a picture of us from that trip, boss. He keeps it in his wallet. He showed it to me…Said he looks at it every morning."
"So it obviously was pretty important to him."
"I guess so…I don't know…" Tony answered with a shrug as he turned his eyes back on the boat.
"Of course you know, Tony. A man doesn't carry a picture like that around with him for no reason, especially for all those years. It must be very special to him."
"He…he wants us to try to get that back…to talk more…be more like how we used to be. But…I don't know if we can. What do you think? Do you think we can?" Tony turned his eyes to Gibbs and looked at him searchingly. "Is that even possible?"
"Anything's possible," Gibbs said. "Things are a lot better now between me and my father. We still have our ups and downs. You will too, but it might really be worth it, DiNozzo. You should give it a shot, see what happens."
"I don't know…" Tony shook his head slowly. Not all his memories were as pleasant as the fishing trip. It wasn't like his father had ever really hurt him, at least not physically, but sometimes being ignored hurt just as much, if not more. His father's silence had spoken volumes. Tony had felt abandoned, like his father hadn't really cared about him at all.
"What is it?" Gibbs questioned softly. He could see that something was really bothering Tony.
"I don't know…I wish I could just let things go, you know? It would be so simple if you could just put bad memories into a box and pack them away for good."
"That would be nice. But we both know it's not that easy," Gibbs said.
"No, its not," Tony said, his attention back on Gibbs' boat once again. "Your father…he taught you how to work with wood, right?"
"Yes, he taught me," Gibbs said, nodding.
"And it's really important to you."
"Yeah, its good for stress relief and I enjoy it…" Gibbs was unsure what exactly Tony was getting at.
"I don't have that. I don't have something that my father taught me that really stuck with me, you know? I mean we had that one fishing trip, but that was it and it's not like it gave me some lifelong love of fishing. We didn't play baseball or football. We didn't shoot hoops. We never went to games together. We never bowled or flew kites or made things out of wood. Why didn't we do those things, boss?" Tony asked, turning to Gibbs, looking on the verge of tears. "Why wasn't I good enough for him to do those kinds of things with?"
Gibbs gazed back at Tony. "You were good enough, Tony. Your father not doing those kinds of things with you had nothing at all to do with you. I think you know that too, right in here." He gently patted the center of Tony's chest. "Your father is what he is…it didn't have anything to do with you. You were a kid. He just didn't always make the best choices and I think he's trying to make up for that now. Give him a chance, Tony. It can't hurt anything and it might be a really good thing for both of you."
"I guess so…" Tony stroked the wood of the boat, feeling the smoothness beneath his fingertips, a look of longing in his eyes. "I'll try…I'll give it a chance…"
"Hey…" Gibbs put his hand on Tony's shoulder. "Its not that hard you know…"
"Huh?" Tony faced Gibbs, confusion in his eyes. "What's not that hard?"
"Working with wood….It's not that hard. You could do it if you wanted to."
Tony shook his head. "I don't know the first thing about it, boss. I'd never be able to do it…I'd just screw it up if I tried."
"Not if you had a good teacher."
"Where do you find a teacher for something like that? I don't have time to take classes with the schedule we have. You should know that better than anyone."
Gibbs rolled his eyes and lightly whacked Tony on the back of his head. "Please tell me you're not that dense, DiNozzo. I would be a good teacher."
Tony looked back at Gibbs uncertainly. "You would teach me?" he asked, his expression a mixture of hopefulness and doubt. "But…why would you even want to? I don't think I'd be very good. I'd probably just mess it up and then you'd get mad and I'd get frustrated and it would just turn into a huge fiasco. Probably not a very good idea at all," he said, shaking his head.
"Stop over-thinking this. Do you want to learn how to do it, Tony?" Gibbs asked, ignoring his agent's babbling.
Tony nodded. "I'd like that very much, boss."
"Good. We're off this weekend. Get your butt over here Saturday morning and we'll get started, okay?"
"You're sure?" Tony asked. "I don't want you to feel like you have to do this. I mean…its okay if you don't want to."
"When have you ever known me to do things I don't want to do?" Gibbs asked, staring back at Tony.
Gibbs nodded and smiled. "That's right, never. 9 a.m. Saturday morning. Don't be late. I'll even throw in breakfast."
"That sounds good, boss," Tony said, returning Gibbs' smile and starting to feel much better about things. "It sounds really good."