A/N: I started writing this way back, before I'd heard about Flesh and Bone or knew that Robert Wagner was Daddy DiNozzo. I started writing it because I wanted to read a fic about Tony's dad that didn't make him a physically abusive sociopath but acknowledged what sounded like a difficult relationship. This is what I came up with. It doesn't fit with their canon relationship exactly, but there are some similarities. In fact that goes for the whole story.
Warnings? Coarse language ahead (but not too much). And it'll veer between some fluffiness and quite a bit of darkness. Because that's life, right? Oh, shut up and get on with it…
It was a moment of peace and tranquillity in the bullpen that Gibbs didn't normally experience. His agents were out sweeping a days-old crime scene for anything they'd missed the first time, taking their bickering, flirting and practical jokes with them. Gibbs couldn't remember the last time it had been so…quiet. It was so nice and he was getting so much done that he almost—almost—wasn't irritated by how long it was taking them to do the job. They'd been gone for three hours now when he was expecting it to take two. Damn it, he hoped DiNozzo hadn't let Ziva drive. She'd probably wrap the car around a tree.
He heard the elevator ping and he dropped his head to the file on his desk, preparing himself once more for what Abby liked to call his magic trick. He listened for three sets of footsteps and for Tony's voice, but instead heard one set of footsteps that were light and seemed unsure. He looked up to see a woman in about her mid-thirties, quite tall, dark haired and voluptuous standing in between his team's desks and holding a baby. She caught Gibbs' eye before he could look away and pretend he hadn't noticed her, and approached him.
She gave him a tight smile that didn't quite meet her worried eyes. "Hi, sorry to interrupt you, but I was looking for Tony DiNozzo? They directed me to this floor."
Gibbs glanced at the baby and felt his stomach sink. Jesus Christ, DiNozzo. What have you gotten yourself into? "He's out," Gibbs told her.
"Do you know when he'll be back?"
"No," Gibbs lied, wanting to get her out of there before the team returned. DiNozzo didn't need to find out about a baby DiNozzo this way, out of the blue and in front of all his friends.
The woman's face fell. "Oh. Could I leave a message for him?"
Gibbs nodded and she looked at him for a silent moment, waiting for him to pick up a pen. He didn't, so she talked anyway.
"Could you please tell him that his dad's wife came by? He's in the hospital and he's asking to see Tony. I've got a card here…" She trailed off as she stuck a hand into her bag, never once letting the baby wobble, and then handed a business card to Gibbs. "My cell number's on there. I'd really appreciate it if he called."
Satisfied that the baby did not have DiNozzo paternity—well, not DiNozzo junior paternity—he took the card and read it. Mia Mastroni Photography.
"His dad okay?" Gibbs asked, trying to make his voice even despite the territorial feeling gnawing in his gut.
Mia shifted the baby to her other hip. "No, he had a heart attack. Two, actually."
Anything else she was going to say was cut off when the elevator doors opened again and the rest of Gibbs' team spilled into the bullpen. Gibbs sighed at their bad timing, but listened as Tony started giving him the rundown.
"We got nothing, boss. And before you start in with the slapping let me assure you that we went over every inch of that room…" Tony trailed off as he noticed Mia, and looked to Gibbs without a clue about who she was. "Witness?"
Gibbs shook his head, then looked at Mia and pointed to Tony. Mia turned to look him up and down but Tony just looked back at her in question.
"Tony?" Mia asked.
"I'm Mia. Can we talk somewhere private?"
Tony looked from Mia to the baby in her arms, and a sense of panic came over him. He looked back to Mia looking for a ping of recognition that didn't come. "Um…"
"It's okay, Tony," Gibbs said gently. "You'll want to talk to her."
He didn't entirely believe his boss, but Tony dropped his backpack at his desk and gestured behind him at Mia. "Sure. This way."
McGee and Ziva watched them go, and then looked at each other in shock. They'd joked about the day when a woman would show up out of the blue demanding child support payments, but it had always been a joke.
"The kid's not his," Gibbs assured them.
"Oh," Ziva managed to say, before falling into her seat.
Gibbs glanced at her. "I still want a report from the scene."
She stood up again, back on her game. "Oh. Well, like Tony said, it was clean."
On shaky legs, Tony led Mia to the break room on the floor. He pulled a chair out for her and then took the seat adjacent. Mia gave him a smile in thanks. He returned a weak one.
"So. What can I do for you?" he forced out.
Mia arranged the fidgeting baby on her lap and shoved a set of plastic keys in her hands to keep her occupied. "First off, I just want to say that I'm sorry we're meeting this way. I'm your stepmom, I guess. I'm married to Tony Senior. At the moment."
Tony took that in without expression as a bad feeling formed in his gut. "Oh. Nice to meet you."
Mia grimaced. "Sorry, I couldn't work out a way of saying that so that it wouldn't be weird."
Tony gave her the ghost of a smile. "You didn't do so bad. I've had worse."
"Well thanks, I guess."
"At the moment?" Tony repeated.
Mia swallowed. "Yeah. Just decided to divorce, actually."
"Sorry," Tony said. He wasn't sure if he was sincere or not.
Mia shrugged, but Tony could see that she was obviously upset by the situation. "Should have seen it coming."
Tony took a wild guess that another woman was somehow involved but he kept the thought to himself. His dad was an asshole, but Mia seemed like a sweet lady and making her feel stupid for taking a chance on Tony DiNozzo Sr wouldn't make anything better.
"Anyway," she went on. "I'm not here to tell you about the divorce. I'm here because Tony collapsed last night from a heart attack. His second in a month."
Tears sprang to her eyes, and in response Tony just felt…numb. Sad, but not. Worried, but not.
"I'm sorry," he told her again.
She looked at him with a slight frown, and it took him a moment to realise that Mia probably wasn't expecting him to comfort her when it was his dad who was sick. He wished he could explain it to her but he couldn't. Not when he didn't fully understand it himself.
"He wants to see you," Mia said. "He's in a pretty bad way, and…he just really wants to see you."
If he was being honest, Tony was surprised by that. His dad hadn't wanted to see him a whole lot since he went to boarding school. He slumped back in his seat. "Right," was all he could think to say.
She grimaced again before asking, "I was also wondering if you might call his sisters? I never met them and I don't know how to reach them."
Tony sighed and dropped his head. His aunts, he could do. No problem. He might even be able to do his nonna. But it was becoming clear that he was being put in charge of his dad's affairs now, and he'd really prefer it if someone else could do that. Someone who actually knew the guy. Someone like his wife. But Mia was obviously hurting a lot—struggling with the possibility of losing him twice through divorce and heart attack—and so Tony nodded like it was no big deal.
"Yeah. I can call them."
"I know this sucks," Mia said. "I know that you guys aren't on great terms, and this is probably the last thing you want to do with your day. And I'm sorry for meeting you in one minute and dumping all this on you in the next. This isn't how I wanted to meet you at all."
Tony waved it away. "It's fine," he said, even though it wasn't. Jesus, Ziva, he cried out silently. Come around the corner now, please. I need some help here.
He took a deep breath and looked down at the baby who was currently trying to shove a set of plastic keys down her own throat. He attempted a smile. "Who's this?"
Mia simultaneously winced and smiled, and Tony guessed the answer before she gave it. "Josie. Your sister."
Tony nodded slowly, just making himself roll with the punches now. "Right. How old is she?"
Tony studied the kid for any sign of himself in her face. But frankly, she looked like every other four-month-old Anglo baby in the world. He reached out to shake her tiny hand. "Nice to meet you, Josie. I would've sent a stuffed animal of some sort, but I didn't know."
Mia breathed out a laugh. "You want to hold her?"
Tony's panicked eyes snapped up to hers. "What?"
"She won't bite. She doesn't have any teeth yet."
Mia lifted Josie off her lap and held her out to Tony. Against his better judgement, Tony took her under the arms and then sat her on his thigh and tucked her into the crook of his elbow.
"They bounce when you drop them, right?" he joked.
Mia turned a genuine smile on him. "Almost always. Think you could hold her for a bit while I go to the bathroom?"
No, he didn't think he could. "Sure. It's down the hall to the left."
Mia left him alone with Josie, and he looked down as the wriggly baby. She looked back at him with the same level of interest he was probably aiming at her, and then reached up towards him. She managed to swipe at his chin with two fingers.
"You're okay for a small, squishy red thing," he told her. She pulled her fingers back into her mouth, and Tony struck up a one-sided conversation.
"So, hi. I'm Tony. I'm sorry about your dad, but your mom seems really nice. I guess you haven't met your aunts yet, but they get squeaky around babies. They'll adore you. And they're pretty cool, so…"
He sensed Ziva approaching from behind him but wasn't bothered by her hearing him. "Your nonna's probably going to have some kind of fainting episode when she meets you. She's kind of dramatic like that. The whole family is, actually. You'll get used to it, though. Just tune it out or…Joining in is sometimes easier."
He frowned at the thought. "I hope you get to join in. I don't know what Mia's planning on doing. I hope you guys hang around for a while. Or at least give me your email address." He shook his head. "You're probably too young for an email address. Do you have a Twitter account?" He sighed. "I think I'm going a bit crazy."
Knowing that he was now addressing her, Ziva walked over to the table and took the seat to his right. "We all go a little crazy sometimes."
He looked up at her and shot her a smile at the almost movie reference. "Points for effort."
Ziva tilted her head to look at the baby, and Tony wrangled Josie in his arms so that she was facing Ziva.
"And this is?" Ziva asked.
"Josie," Tony told her casually. "She's my sister, apparently. And that woman from before? She's my stepmom. Oh, and my dad had two heart attacks and might die soon."
After a few silent beats of staring at each other, Ziva summarised the situation. "Well, crap."
Tony smirked. "Yep."
With his hands otherwise occupied, Ziva settled for putting her hand on his knee. "You're not okay," she stated.
Tony grunted instead of replying honestly and put his finger in Josie's hand. She curled a tiny fist around it and held on tight. "Apparently Dad wants to see me."
"You want back up?" Ziva offered without hesitation.
He gave her an unguarded smile, thinking that he had probably never appreciated her more than he did right now, but shook his head. "Not today. I need to get a handle on it all first. Find out what's going on and start calling the family."
Ziva nodded, seeing no reason to push him just yet. "Let me know if you do." She got up and then leant over his shoulder to peer at Josie. "They all kind of look the same at this age, yes?" she whispered.
Tony turned to look at her, pleased that she'd had the same reaction as him. "Yes! They do, right? I mean, I guess they have different hair sometimes, but facially? I wouldn't be able to pick her out of a line up. And I'm trained for that stuff."
Ziva smirked, but then affected a serious tone. "Beautiful though."
"Oh, of course. Precious," Tony rejoined.
Ziva straightened and, as she left, she briefly stroked the back of his head. He looked over his shoulder to make sure she was gone, and then leaned in towards Josie.
"That's Ziva," he whispered. "She's part of your family, too. Hopefully one day, it'll be more permanent."
Tony returned to the bullpen, intending to ask Gibbs for a few days' personal leave to deal with it all, only to find that Gibbs had already filled in Tony's application for leave form and signed it. Tony gave him a grateful look, and Gibbs squeezed his shoulder.
"Look after yourself, Tony," Gibbs said, conveying with his eyes the true meaning behind his words. Don't let the guy push you around.
Abby was next in line to give him a bone-crushing hug and kiss on the cheek. "I'm not above glaring at a man in a hospital bed if he deserves it," she whispered in his ear.
"Call if you need anything," McGee offered, foregoing physical contact that he knew wouldn't be welcome.
"Thanks," Tony said to them all, wondering where the hell Ziva had gotten to. "I'll see you in a few days."
He led Mia to the elevator, and they rode to the lobby in awkward silence. The thoughts swirling in Tony's head were starting to make him feel dizzy and sick, but the elevator doors opened a moment before he had to grab the wall for support.
They ran into Ziva, hands full of takeout bags, just as they reached the sidewalk outside, and Tony resisted the urge to grab her and drag her to the hospital with him.
"You are going?" she asked.
He nodded. "Yeah. Gibbs has given me a couple of days off."
"Call me later," she told him, and Tony knew that she meant whenever. Even if it was 3am.
He cleared the lump in his throat. "Yeah. Or I might come by?"
To his relief, she nodded easily. "Sure."
As Tony walked Mia to her car, she leant closer to him with a question on her face. Tony could already guess what was coming and sighed to himself.
"Is she your girlfriend?"
"No. She's my partner."
"Oh. You just seemed kind of close."
"We are," he replied in a tone that invited no further discussion.
"Oh." Mia got the message, and dropped it.