Bourbon? Scotch? Whiskey? Beer?
Tony contemplated the fastest, surest way of getting pathetically drunk so he could get his mind to stop thinking the same thoughts over and over again. Get drunk, forget about Charlotte and Jesse…
He couldn't forget about Charlotte and Jesse. He could only force himself to not think about them. It hurt too much to think about them.
He wasn't heartless. He wasn't shallow. He wasn't even as much of a playboy as he pretended to be. He just wanted the hurt and the loneliness to go away. If he kept distractions around him, he didn't think about them. He didn't think about her laugh or the baby's big blue eyes. He didn't think about those late night conversations when he came home from an undercover assignment and wanted to talk about anything 'ordinary.' He didn't think about that first night home from the hospital with Jesse and checking on him every half hour as he slept. He didn't think about how it felt to hold his newborn son in his arms and know that he and Charlotte had made a miracle. He didn't think about all the plans they had made…
No, he wasn't going to allow himself to think about that. He was going to get pathetically drunk and pass out and wake up with a hangover that would keep him from thinking about anything for a while.
Just as he decided on the whiskey, he heard, "That won't help for long."
"Hi, Boss," he muttered as he put the whiskey back down and turned to face Gibbs standing in the doorway, pizza boxes in hand. "Dinner?"
"Figured you'd decide on a liquid diet if I didn't bring a pizza." Gibbs walked in and shut the door with his foot.
"I thought Ducky took me off pizza for a while. My blood tests showed I have more tomato sauce in my system than I need."
Gibbs put the pizza box on the table and said without missing a beat, "I won't tell him if you won't. Got coffee?"
Tony just grinned and nodded his head. "Already made some."
Gibbs said nothing. He pulled out two mugs from the cabinet and poured them each a cup. Gibbs somehow always knew how to get through to Tony when things were going bad. It didn't happen often, but when it did, Tony knew Gibbs would be there to help him get back on his feet.
Gibbs had brought over pizza and a movie when the disastrous undercover assignment with Rene Benoit had gone to hell in a hand basket. He'd understood. At least, Tony thought that Gibbs had understood why it had hurt him so much. Gibbs hadn't known about Charlotte then. He didn't understand why losing Jeanne had almost destroyed him. He just knew that Tony was hurting right down to his marrow.
Without a word, Gibbs turned on the television and surfed through the channels until he found a movie he liked – ironically enough, it was Ghostbusters. He handed Tony a cup of coffee then moved one of the pizza boxes to the coffee table as he plopped down on the couch. "Sausage, pepperoni and extra cheese," he said as if Tony didn't already know. "Thick crust this time."
Tony didn't argue. He sat down as well and before he took the first bite of pizza. "This is what we did on Friday nights," he told Gibbs.
"Money was tight, so going to the movies and out to dinner wasn't an option. Every Friday, she'd order a pizza from this joint just up the street from us, I'd stop by Blockbuster and rent a movie, and that was our Friday night date."
"Had to do that with Shannon a few times when we were dating," Gibbs confided in him.
"I thought you were in the Marines then," Tony pointed out.
"I was, that doesn't mean weren't on a budget." Gibbs handed Tony a package. "Here."
Tony ripped into the wrapping and saw three pictures of him, Charlotte and Jesse framed. One was a still shot from the DVD Carlisle sent. Another was from one of the picture albums. The third was a blowup of the picture Tony had showed Gibbs, the one taken just after Jesse was born.
"It's time they were remembered," Gibbs told him. "I've got copies of these for your desk at work, too."
Tony felt his eyes water, then felt the tear run down his cheek.
DiNozzos didn't cry, right? Wasn't that one of the big rules his father had told him?
Gibbs handed Tony a plane ticket to Ghana with a 24-hour layover in Chicago.
"Uh, Boss –"
"Jeanne deserves to know the truth. All of it. She may kick you out of the country and probably never want to see you again, but maybe she'll give you five minutes so you can explain what happened if you ask nicely. And one other thing –" Gibbs slapped Tony on the back of the head.
"Hey! What was that for?"
Gibbs picked up another slice of pizza. "That was for letting Jeanne go in the first place and for telling her none of it was real."
Tony glanced back down at the ticket. "Why the layover in Chicago?"
Gibbs picked up his coffee cup and took a sip. "There's someone there you need to tell the truth to as well."
Tony hated cemeteries. He didn't want to visit one, he didn't like passing by one, he didn't want to end up in one. They were creepy, kooky, mysterious and spooky – okay, enough, DiNozzo. No need to hum The Addams Family theme song.
Tony had a small bouquet of flowers in his hand as he kneeled down by a headstone.
Charlotte J. DiNozzo
Beloved Wife and Mother
"Hi, Charly. I bet you never thought you'd see me here, did you?" Tony looked around. No one was nearby. "I should have come by lots of times. I know. I moved to Philadelphia right after you and Jesse died." He glanced at the next headstone.
Jesse A. DiNozzo
May Flights of Angels Sing Thee to Thy Rest
"Hi there, big guy," he said to his son. "I'm sorry we never got to have more father/son chats. You know, I would have loved to have seen you play baseball or soccer. You'd be twelve now. I guess we'd be having arguments about you keeping your room clean, huh? I'm really sorry I couldn't stop what happened. I'm sorry you didn't get to live your life. I'd have traded places with you. I want you to know that."
Then he turned his attention back to his wife's headstone. "I guess you've been watching me every now and then and know what I've been doing all these years. Everything that's happened to me. I thought I saw you once. Remember when I had the pneumonic plague? I think I saw you. I was lying in that bed, the doctor was in there, and I felt myself start to drift. There you were with Jesse in your arms. You were smiling at me. Then I heard Gibbs' voice and he slapped me on the forehead. You were gone and I was back there in that bed."
He put the flowers in the metal vase attached to the headstone.
"I know you would be proud of how I've done my job even if you'd get angry for how I've lived my life. I get that. I can't say I'm all that proud of myself either. I've done a lot of things you wouldn't like. I've done a lot of things I don't like. You always told me that I was better than that, that I deserved better. When I lost you, I guess I thought I didn't deserve to be happy because I survived. Maybe I didn't deserve anything good. I sort of shut off all the good things we had together in my brain. If I didn't think about it, it wouldn't hurt, you know? I just realized lately that not remembering you and Jesse makes it all hurt worse. I've gone all these years trying not to think about how much it hurts… all I did was hurt myself."
"NCIS has been good to me. I've had some good friends and made some enemies. But you know how police work can go. It can get dangerous. During an undercover operation, I met this lady named Jeanne Benoit – but maybe you know about that too. The thing is that I fell in love with her, and I betrayed her. She hates me. I don't blame her. Even you'd hate me if I'd done the same thing to you." He took a deep breath, then continued. "The thing is that I lied to her when she came back, and Gibbs is right. She deserves to know the truth, and I owe to myself to tell the truth. She won't want to see me, but maybe she'll let me explain and I'll leave."
He heard a noise, looked up and saw a few people walking into the cemetery. "Ya know, I feel like Martin Riggs in Lethal Weapon 4. Did you see that? He was in love with a lady named Lorna and went to explain it to his dead wife Victoria. He just wanted to let her know how he felt. I guess I do too. You see, I never stopped loving you or missing you. I know I never talked about you to anyone. The truth is that it hurt so much every time I thought about you. All our plans, everything, it was just gone when I lost you and Jesse. I think I was gone too. The person that was me just stopped existing. I didn't see that person again until I met Jeanne."
"I don't know if you'd like her, Charly. I hope you do. I know I did. She let me be me for about a year. Sure, I was pretending to be a film professor named DiNardo, but that was the only thing that I pretended during that time. Everything else – I was the man you married. I'd forgotten what he was like, the real me."
He took a deep breath and wiped away a tear forming in his eye. "Gibbs made me some pictures of us. I've got them in my apartment and on my desk at work. I think the idea that I was married still surprises them. Frat Boy Tony wouldn't get married, I guess. They're still tiptoeing around me. Every time Abby sees me, she gives me a hug. Not that that's unusual for Abby. She's a very huggy person. Ducky keeps telling me he's there if I want to talk. Gibbs… he gets it, you know? He understands. All during the case, he was polite. Supportive. Not that Gibbs isn't supportive of us when we're in trouble or need something, it's just he's not nice. Usually. He's gruff most of the time. I guess he thought I needed him to be the polite Gibbs for a little while. He's back to his usual self now. He slapped me on the back of the head when he gave me the plane ticket. I think things are getting back to normal."
He stood up, looked at the gravestones, cursing the fact that they existed. "I'm going to Ghana to talk to Jeanne. Gibbs is right – we need to settle things truthfully or at least I do. Maybe she'll talk to me, I don't know but I'm going to try. I can't live a lie, sweetheart. I never could even though I could work undercover." He took a few steps away and then turned back. "I'll come back. I promise. Oh, and in case you didn't know, Carlisle blew up our motorcycles. I haven't ridden mine in years, but I just want you to know I'm really sorry it happened. I know how much you loved your Harley." He paused, then, "I don't know what else to say. At least, not right now. I wish I knew how you felt about all this, but I hope you're okay with it. I do love you and Jess, Charly. I never forgot you, but I'll think about you from now on. I promise."
He kissed his fingertips and placed them on the headstones. With a last look, he turned and went back to the cab waiting for him. As soon as he got in, the cabbie asked, "Where to?"
"Back to the airport. I've got a plane to catch."
"Hey, do you mind if I turn on the radio?"
"No, go ahead. Is there an Oldies station in the area?"
"Sure." The cabbie turned on the radio and changed stations.
One song was finishing up just as the DJ said, "That was Shambala by Three Dog Night. And now, by special request just phoned in, here's a classic that will really get your motor running!"
Get your motor runnin'
Head out on the highway
Lookin' for adventure
And whatever comes our way
Yeah, darlin', go make it happen
Take the world in a love embrace
Fire all of your guns at once
And explode into space
Tony looked up toward the sky and smiled.
Big thanks for Tejas and Annie for betaing this story.