Author's Note: Thanks to everyone for reading and commenting on my story. You guys are amazing! MAKE SURE THAT YOU READ THE AUTHOR'S NOTE AT THE END!
Special Thanks to Gotgoats for betaing this whole ginormous story! You are truly amazing and I just love you so much! Pbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbt
And now…the moment(s) you've all been waiting for…
The night after the sentencing hearing, Senior was kept in the county jail awaiting transport to the maximum security prison. In the morning, before the van arrived to take him away for the next twenty-five years (Senior still couldn't believe how badly he'd been tricked), his lawyer showed up.
Teo was dressed smartly in a tailored suit, silk tie and shined shoes. "Good morning Mr. DiNozzo," he said pleasantly.
"What the hell do you want," Senior snarled at the young man.
Teo fought the urge to laugh in his face. "Well I came to see how you're faring after the sentencing," he said innocently.
"You sonofabitch you knew damn good and well how many years I'd get in prison if I confessed to those goddamn crimes and you let me think that it wouldn't be that long! You lied to me!"
"I never lied to you," Teo said, holding up his hands in defense. "Whenever you asked me a question, I gave you an honest answer."
"An honest lawyer," Senior snorted. "I got screwed by an honest lawyer. I'll make sure you never get work in the Public Defender's office again!"
"Fine with me," Teo said seriously. "It would keep me from having to represent the likes of you," he paused for a moment. "Before I go…I was asked to deliver this to you. I think you'll find it enlightening."
Teo slid an envelope through the bars. "It seems you're already getting fan mail!" he said cheerfully.
Senior plucked the envelope out of Teo's hand and slung it on the bed. "Get out of here," he roared. "I don't want to even look at you again! Go! You're fired!"
"You can't fire me, Mr. DiNozzo," Teo said. "I quit. And next week when you realize you want to make an appeal—call someone else. I won't be available."
Teo turned and left the cell, and he never looked back. He had a beautiful fiancé, a wonderful job starting next week, and he had no room in his world for a sociopath like Anthony DiNozzo Senior.
Senior flopped down on his bunk and let out an exasperated sigh. He wondered if Teo had only showed up to poke at him—the lion in the cage. He wondered what time the van would be there. He wondered about what his new situation would look like. He ran a hand through his hair and looked at the envelope on the bed beside him.
Realizing he had a few minutes to kill, and wondering what was inside the thick envelope, Senior ripped it open. He was surprised when he saw three pieces of carefully folded paper fall out. Setting the envelope to the side, he opened the papers. His eyes widened in fury and horror as he began to read…
Dear Mr. DiNozzo.
You do not know me because I am only a little girl but I know who you are. You were my little brother's daddy before my daddy got to be his daddy. You don't get to be his daddy anymore since you were so mean to him. I think you should go to jail for a very long time and I think you should not ever be able to see or talk to My Tony ever again since all you ever do is hurt him. He is blind because of you and can't see to go play in the field with me anymore. I hope you don't get to play outside when you are in jail. And I hope you are in jail until you are a very old man. Leave My Tony alone.
From, Kelly Gibbs.
Senior actually growled in anger as he flipped the page and saw the pictures that were included. The little brat had drawn a picture of a family—of the Gibbs couple with the little girl and Tony. There were two older adults in the picture as well. Probably fucking grandparents, Senior fumed. He read the words carefully scrawled on the bottom of the picture, "We are glad Tony is in our family. We love Tony," and balled up the picture and tossed it to the side.
Flipping to the second picture Senior's gaze became murderous. There was a sad looking man standing behind bars—obviously in a jail cell. Who the hell did this child think she was? Where did she get off judging him for his actions? Was this the family that would be raising his son? He shook his head as he read the caption on the picture. "Mean Daddies need to be in jail."
Tossing that picture aside, along with the letter, Senior began to pace. He did that quite a bit. He walked to the end of his cell, turned, and his gaze fell on to the small pile of papers. "Fucking bitch," he growled. "Someone needs to teach that little smartass bitch some manners."
He walked to the front of his cell and slid his arms through the bars. On second thought, perhaps he should keep those pictures and that letter. They might prove useful one day. They might help him figure out who the hell the Gibbses were, and where they are.
He could guarantee that he was going to feel the need for a conversation in about thirty years.
The doctor shook his head and smiled when he saw the helmet that Jethro had selected for Tony to wear. The doctor had intended for Tony to have a helmet that covered the top of his head, and would keep him from hitting his face if he fell. Jethro had selected a helmet that covered Tony's entire head—from the back of his neck, almost down over his eyes and ears. Tony's head looked horribly abstract when he wore it, but adorable nonetheless.
"Are you ready to go home Tony?" It was the morning after the sentencing hearing and Tony was squirming to get out of the bed and go home.
Tony nodded and smiled. "I excited!"
The doctor smiled. "You are?"
"Yes! I get a go to my house with my Jethro and my Shannon and I get to see my puppy-doggie!"
Beside the bed, Jethro smiled. Shannon had returned home the night before to make sure that everything was ready for Tony's return. The bedsheets had been changed, extra pillows had been dug out of the closet, and Kelly was nearly vibrating with excitement over her brother returning home. Kelly wanted to throw Tony a welcome home party and invite all the children in the neighborhood, but Jethro and Shannon vetoed it, thinking that it might be too overwhelming for the little boy—they didn't want to trigger a migraine if they could avoid it. He'd have enough of them as it was.
Still very unsteady on his feet, and plagued by dizziness from the still-receding concussion, Little Tony didn't complain as Jethro lifted him gently into the wheelchair. Stuffed animals, balloons, cards, and the overnight bags were piled into another wheelchair for easier transport. As they neared the door, Tony groaned and put a hand over his tummy. Jethro immediately stopped.
"You ok buddy?"
"I's feelin' like I's a gonna frow up again," Tony whimpered, clapping a hand across his mouth.
The nurse who was walking them out nodded. "The doctor thought this might happen," he said. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a small bottle of prescription anti-nausea medication. "Go ahead and give him one of these now, and he can have another one in four hours if he needs it."
"Tony doesn't do too well swallowing pills…" Jethro said uneasily, eyeing the bottle—and the size of the pills.
"They're chewables! Orange flavored."
Jethro nodded and dumped a pill out into his hand. "Here ya go Tony," he said, and Tony took the pill and smiled weakly when it tasted yummy. He chomped happily on it and the group continued outside to the rental car Jackson was using. Shannon had put Tony's car seat in the backseat the night before. Jethro lifted his littlest into the car seat and buckled him in.
"I'll ride in the back with him Dad," Jethro said softly, shutting Tony's door and walking around the back of the car to the backseat on the driver's side. They all thanked the nurse for all of his help before everyone climbed into the car. Jackson started the engine and looked in the back at Tony. They shared a smile and Jethro patted Tony's leg gently.
"Take us home, Dad," he said.
The nurse stood on the sidewalk and waved until the car was out of sight.
On the lower east side of LA, Anne Joseph pulled into a driveway and took a deep breath. She had required Stacy and Ted to repeat the entire process to become foster parents. They'd taken the course, the test, done the individual and couple interviews, completed the panel interview, been fingerprinted again and had their background checks redone. They'd completed the process several months earlier, but Anne was reluctant to place another child in their care.
This call had come in late the night before. When they checked available families, the only available families in the system that lived relatively close by were the Gibbses and the Kinleys—Stacy and Ted. Anne knew that Jethro and Shannon had their hands full right now, so she sighed and made the call. She talked to Stacy first, and then to Ted. She told them about the case, and about the child they would be getting the following morning.
Stacy was excited to be getting the child—a little girl named Kayla. Anne told them how she had been neglected, and was showing signs of being sexually abused. They would need to make sure she saw a pediatrician as soon as possible. Stacy agreed wholeheartedly and they set a time for the next morning.
Anne got out of the car now, and walked around to the back and opened the door. The little girl looked terrified, resigned, jaded. She was seven years old and had the weight of the world on her tiny shoulders. Anne lifted her out of the car with a gentle smile and hugged her close. "I promise, Little One," she said gently, running her fingers through the girl's hair. "I promise I will keep you safe. If you are not happy we will fix it ok?"
Kayla nodded. Anne had not heard her speak since they'd left her uncle's house. She picked up the child's bag. It contained a dress that was torn, a pair of blue jeans that was stained and a shirt. There was a small pink bunny with limp, tattered, dirty ears that was also hanging out of the top of the bag. It was everything the child owned.
Anne knocked on the door and Stacy and Ted let them in with smiles and handshakes. "This is Kayla," Anne said, eyeing the foster parents closely.
Stacy took a step closer. "Hi there," she said quietly with a gentle smile. Anne didn't say anything, but hoped that Stacy would be different now than she used to be.
Kayla looked at the woman who was to become her foster mother and gave a tiny wave. Anne gently sat her down and then handed Kayla's bag to Stacy. Ted took Kayla by the hand and was walking her towards the bedrooms, telling her about where she would be sleeping in a low voice.
Stacy opened the bag and glanced inside. "Well that bunny looks like it needs to go in the trash," she murmured, "it's completely ruined…and those clothes," she sighed, "walmart clothes…" She glanced up, realizing she'd been speaking out loud, and nearly cowered at the glare Anne was sending her way.
The social worker took a step forward. "Stacy…I want to explain something to you. When we were called to pick Kayla up from the house where she was staying with her uncle…we told her she could pack a bag. The items that you see in that bag—the items that you are calling trash—those are the things this child has in her world that she chose to bring with her. They are her things. I don't care if the bunny was dipped in skunk stink and rolled in tar—that bunny is staying."
Anne nearly smirked when Stacy looked mildly ill, but continued speaking. "And those clothes…she said the dress is one that her mother bought for her before her parents were killed. She chose the pants and the shirt in the bag because they were her favorite clothes when she would play outside with her father. Just because you think these things are garbage, because you think they're worthless, doesn't mean that they aren't the greatest treasures that this child possesses."
Stacy stared into the bag again, seeing the dreadful looking objects in a new way. She felt her heart break a little bit, and she looked up at Anne. "I was horrible to Little Tony," she whispered.
Anne nodded. "Yes you were. This is your second chance."
"He had a card…it was from the man who'd found him. It had his phone numbers on it…I threw it away…the clothes that the man's wife had bought for him…I threw those away too." She looked shocked. "I am so ashamed," she said softly. "Please…can you tell me if he is alright?"
Anne thought back over the year—the Christmas and the party for his birthday, the trips to the beach, the doctor…the drama in the courtroom…and she smiled. "He's doing really well. He's safe and with a family who absolutely adores him. Little Tony is going to be just fine."
Stacy smiled and tears filled her eyes. "So is Kayla," she promised. "We will make sure that Kayla is loved, and that she's happy—not just cared for." She smiled at Anne. "I promise."
Anne nodded. "I'll be checking up on you," she said. "You will have two visits a week from me for the first six months. We'll go from there."
Stacy nodded. "Absolutely," she said.
Anne stayed long enough to make sure Kayla was settled, and when she saw a smile on the child's face—something it took her far too long to see with Tony—she smiled and left with promises to visit again in three days. She got back in the car and thought back over the last year.
There had been many lessons to learn, but now, most importantly, there were two children with loving families who would be safe from the evil in the world.
Days like this made Anne love her job.
The lock rattled on the door to the cell block and Senior took a deep breath. Chuck was on duty this morning, and when Senior saw him walking down the block with the guard from the prison, Senior began to consider that maybe he'd had it not-so-bad with Chuck and his verbal jabs…the name badge on the guy's uniform said "Martin" and Senior decided very quickly that he needed to make a friend.
"Good morning," Senior said pleasantly.
"Shut it," said Martin. "I don't want to hear a peep out of you unless you are bleeding to death. And then you only get one peep. Got me?"
Senior swallowed hard and nodded slowly. Following orders seemed like a good idea—a better idea than making friends.
"Put your hands through the hole in the bars," Martin snapped. Senior complied and flinched when the handcuffs bit into his wrists just slightly. Martin had turned his hands so his palms were facing out. He had almost no use of his hands now.
"Take three steps back," Martin snapped. Chuck unlocked the cell and Martin stepped inside. Chuck blocked the door to the cell while Martin walked around behind Senior and snapped the shackles on his ankles. Martin snapped a chain on the handcuffs and snapped it on to the shackles. Martin moved to the door of the cell and stopped, noticing the balls of paper on the floor. He looked at Senior with fire in his eyes.
"DID YOU THROW THAT SHIT ON THE FLOOR?" Martin pointed at the papers.
Senior nodded silently.
Martin got right up in his face. "I ASKED YOU A QUESTION!"
"Yes Sir," Senior mumbled, feeling his dignity take another hit.
"Pick that shit up," Martin sneered. "And put it in your pocket. It's coming with you. That way you can decorate your new cell with it."
Senior picked up the papers that Kelly Gibbs had sent him without a word of protest, and put them into his pocket. Martin grabbed his arm and began steering him out of the cell, laughing when Senior stumbled on the short chains.
"You gotta take shorter, faster steps, dumbass," Martin laughed. "You'll kill yourself trying to strut like a peacock in those things."
Senior glowered at the guard. "Thanks for the warning," he mumbled, scuttling along beside Martin, trying to stay on his feet and not face plant before he got to the van.
Senior regained a little bit of his confidence once he arrived at the state prison facility. Looking through the bars as the people he would be sharing space with for the next…quarter of a century and he smiled. He as better than all of these people! He was educated and smart—well rounded and sophisticated.
Martin stopped outside of a cell and pulled out his keys. Inside was a man, sitting on the bunk—the lower one of course. The man's face was hidden by the bunk above his head, but Senior knew that he was being watched.
"Mornin' Moose," Martin said amicably as he opened the cell.
"Hiya Marty," replied a deep, rumbling voice from the shadowy bed.
"This here's your new roommate. Play nice, ok?" Martin undid the shackles and handcuffs and gave Senior a gentle shove into the cell. "Welcome to your new home," he said. "Moose here…well he's been needing a friend for a while now. He's been all alone since…"
"Since Lil Davy died," Moose said.
"Wh-who was Lil Davy?" Senior asked softly.
"Oh he was my cellmate before you. He died," Moose said with a sharky grin.
Senior's eyes widened. "What…uh…what happened?" All the confidence was running out the door—and leaving Senior alone in the cell.
Moose rose off the bed and Senior's eyes widened when he saw the giant of a man. Standing well over six feet tall, probably closer to seven feet, Moose's arms looked like tree branches, and his legs looked like tree trunks. The man's head was shaved bald and there was an eagle tattooed on his head, covering most of his hairless scalp. Senior noticed the man was scruffy with a few days old stubble, and he was missing several teeth, and—Senior gulped—a couple of fingers. Moose eyed him up and down skeptically, sizing him up. Senior felt his cheeks warm at the scrutiny.
"He died," Moose said, "Because he told someone my name."
Without warning, Moose's arm shot out and he slapped Senior right across the head. "No Dummy," he said. "Although you're kinda funny. No he told someone my real name. Wanna know what it is?"
Senior shook his head. "N-No…M-Moose is fine with me…i-if it's ok with you."
Moose took a step closer and Senior could smell the stink of his breath. Martin stepped out of the cell and banged on the bars as he locked Senior in. "Y'all play nice," he said with a drawl and a chuckle, and then he strolled away, leaving Senior to fend for himself.
"Actually," Moose said, towering over Senior with an evil glare. "I think you should call me Sir. What are you in here for?"
Senior swelled up with…something…it wasn't confidence. Swagger maybe? Something that would surely get him killed if he didn't reign it in. He puffed out his chest. "I killed my wife, and abused and abandoned my son in a parking lot…Sir."
Moose's gaze darkened. He grabbed Senior by the shoulders, spun him around and slapped him—hard—into the wall. Senior's vision doubled for a moment from the impact with the wall, but quickly cleared. Moose pressed his body up close to Senior's back, resting all of his weight on the smaller man, and when he spoke his voice rumbled right into his ear.
"You killed your wife…and abused your son…and then abandoned him," Moose said slowly.
Beneath him, Senior nodded. He whimpered in pain and shock when a hand suddenly grabbed him by the balls—and twisted. "You know what I'm in here for," he sneered into Senior's ear.
Senior's guts twisted along with his balls and he could barely form a thought. "Uhh…no Sir," he gasped out, groaning louder when Moose twisted a bit harder.
Moose turned Senior around and slammed his back against the wall. Senior groaned in pain when his head bounced off the cinderblocks. He gasped when one of the beefy forearms suddenly settled over his throat and pressed—hard. Moose leaned right into Senior's face and smiled. The smile was evil, full of anger and malice.
"I'm here…because some douche bag murdered my wife and son," he snarled softly, his voice just barely a growl. There was a hint of sadness in his eyes as he remembered his lost family. "I killed that sonofabitch, and now I'm in here til I die."
Senior gulped. Moose smiled.
"I wonder how long you'll survive in here…maybe if you use that mouth of yours like all good little pretty cocksuckers should insteada talking so damn much…you might survive. How long the judge give you?"
"I'm eligible for parole in 25 years," Senior whispered. He blinked several times as his vision began to gray around the edge from lack of oxygen.
Moose pressed a bit harder and leaned in, kissing him on the cheek. "I'll be surprised if you last 25 days," he said. He shoved Senior to his knees and unzipped his pants. "But I'll teach you how to be a good boy. Don't you worry your pretty little head about that. On second though…maybe instead of Sir…maybe you should call me Daddy. Yeaaah that's it. You can be my little Daddy's Boy. I like it."
Senior whimpered as Moose pressed his hard, stinky erection into his mouth.
It was going to be a long 25 years.
Jethro woke up and smiled. He and Tony had been home for a week and a half. The trial was over. The grandparents had each gone back home to take care of a few things. There were talks that they would return for Tony's surgery, and each needed to check on things before then. This morning they would have their adoption hearing and after that—provided there were no unpleasant surprises—there would be a celebration, just the four of them.
The doctor had been unable to move the date of Tony's surgery, so he was still looking at his leg surgery being in the middle of July. He wore his helmet most of the time he was awake, but he was still battling frightening headaches, and some days when he'd first returned home he'd only wanted to lay in bed or on the couch. Jethro stuck close by him on those days. He'd decided to take some of his leave time to stay with Tony since the little one couldn't return to preschool yet. For now they were taking things a day at a time, and were beginning to see Tony make some wonderful improvements.
Jethro rolled out of bed, surprised at how late he'd slept and headed for the hall. The day before had been Kelly's last day at school for the summer. He peeked into her room and saw that she was still asleep. It was only seven in the morning, and Jethro smiled at his sleepy little princess. He smoothed her hair and kissed her forehead softly, before ducking back out of the room and crossing the hall to check on Tony.
They'd had a bit of a late night. It was the night before the adoption hearing and Tony was extremely fearful of having to go back to a courtroom. They'd explained to him that his father would not be there, that it would only be the four of them and the judge, but Tony was still a bundle of nerves. He'd worked himself up enough that he'd thrown up, which had triggered a migraine, which had caused him to tense more, leading to a leg cramp, and…on and on.
Jethro smiled in relief when he saw Tony was sleeping peacefully, helmet on the floor next to his bed, arms wrapped tightly around the stuffed octopus that Kelly had gotten him while he was in the hospital. He walked closer to Tony's bed and straightened his littlest's covers, tucking them up over his shoulder. Their hearing wasn't until eleven…there was time to let the children sleep a little longer. God knows they'd all earned a rest. He took a moment to pet Sasha on her head and she licked his hand. The dog hadn't understood where her boy had been or why he'd been gone for so long. But she knew that he smelled a bit different when he came home, and he was much quieter than usual, and she hadn't left his side in days, except for when she had to run outside to do her business, or visit the food and water bowls.
Heading downstairs, Jethro smiled when he smelled the coffee brewing. Entering the kitchen Shannon kissed his cheek and handed him a cup of the strong black brew that he loved. He sipped the coffee and closed his eyes with a smile. "That's good," he whispered. "How'd you sleep honey?" He grinned.
Shannon smiled. Once they'd finally gotten Tony down for the night, they'd both been too keyed up to sleep. They had spent quite some time wearing each other out…reconnecting…building their relationship to make it a little stronger…and this morning Shannon was practically glowing from all of their passionate lovemaking. It made Jethro a little sad that they would never be able to conceive another child together…but he had to admit…it certainly made their…nighttime activities more pleasurable for both of them. They were able to do what they wanted with each other, and not have to consider things like birth control, ovulation, condoms, or the like. They could simply focus on each other, and that made their lovemaking a truly beautiful thing.
"I slept like a baby once you finally decided to keep your hands to yourself," Shannon said with a playful chuckle.
"I was not the one who kept whispering and talking," Jethro said, equally playfully. "I am not responsible for my actions when you whisper in my ear like that, you naughty wench."
They clinked their coffee cups together and giggled softly. Sometimes, life was damn near perfect, and this…right here…sharing coffee together…this was one of those moments.
"Are you hungry?" Shannon asked. It was just before nine in the morning when Tony showed up at the bottom of the steps, yawning and scrubbing an eye with one hand. He'd not put his helmet on yet, which worried Shannon a bit, but he didn't seem too wobbly, so for now they would just keep an eye on him.
Tony nodded and yawned again, his hair was tousled and sticking up all over and he was moving at a snail's pace and limping badly—not uncommon for first thing in the morning. On top of everything tightening up while he slept and having to get his body moving again, Tony was not a morning person. He made his way slowly to the kitchen and smiled at Jethro who was sitting at the table with the morning paper.
"G'Morning Buddy," Jethro said with a smile.
Tony waved at him and put his head down on the table still sleepy. He was also feeling nervous, but hadn't given that feeling much attention yet.
Jethro smiled and ruffled his child's hair. "Where's your helmet?"
Tony raised his head and looked at him. "I's forgotsed it," he said softly.
Jethro noticed the way that Tony was speaking…the reverting behavior was always indicative of something bothering the little one. "You ok?"
"I's scareded," Tony whispered.
Jethro pushed back from the table a bit. "Come here," he said gently, holding out his arms to his child. Tony slid off the chair and found himself scooped up into the safety of Jethro's lap. Nothing could ever touch him here. "What are you feeling scared of, Littlest," Jethro asked softly.
"I's…" Tony sighed. "I's a-afwaid they's a gonna makes me go and live with someone new," Tony said softly. "I's a…I's scareded m-my mean-daddy g-gonna h-hurt me again."
There had been no more improvement to Tony's vision. He could see fine straight ahead, a bit blurry around the edges when he used only his right eye. His peripheral vision was only colors and fuzz though…there was no distinction to the things he was seeing. He was partially blind in that eye, and the doctor was not optimistic about that ever changing.
"Well I can guarantee you one thing. Your mean daddy is in prison. He's gone. He'll be gone until you are a grown up. And he will not hurt you anymore ok? You are safe and mean daddy isn't going to hurt you. And as for you having to go live somewhere new? I don't think that's going to happen."
"Why how's a come you's a so sure," Tony said, jumbling his words together a bit.
"Well…because we love you so much…and I think you love us so much…and I think once the judge sees that, he will say that you can be our little boy forever."
"You's a be my new daddy?"
"I'll be your new daddy," Jethro confirmed, swallowing a growing lump in his throat. "Your mean daddy won't be your daddy anymore after today."
Tony smiled. He liked that idea. "I's a be your littlelest?"
Jethro kissed him on the forehead and smiled, tweaking the child's nose softly. "You will be my littlest and I will be your daddy."
"What would you like for breakfast," Shannon asked, coming into the kitchen with a sleepy looking Kelly dragging along behind her. "We have to keep moving…we need to leave in about an hour so we will have time to drive up to the courthouse so we aren't late."
Tony looked up at Jethro, and then looked at Shannon. "Can we's a have blueberry pancakes?"
Shannon looked at him. "This morning?" She glanced at the clock.
Tony nodded. "We's a had's 'em a first times I eated here," Tony said softly.
Jethro and Shannon were immediately thrown back to the night that they met the small child who had fallen and crashed into the garbage cans in the picnic area on the fairgrounds. How far they'd come. "Sure Tony," Shannon said. "We'll let Daddy drive us to court," she grinned at Jethro. "We'll not be late."
"This court awards full custody of Anthony DiNozzo, Jr, a human being and a minor-child to Gunnery Sergeant Leroy Jethro Gibbs and his wife, Mrs. Shannon Fielding Gibbs, both being of sound mind and having adhered to all requirements established by this court. Custodial parental rights of Anthony DiNozzo Senior have been permanently terminated effective immediately. Visitation is prohibited. Mr. DiNozzo is to have no contact with the minor-child Anthony DiNozzo Jr., his custodial guardians, or any member of their family. He also may not occupy any space within five hundred yards of the minor child."
The judge adjusted his glasses and looked at Jethro and Shannon. "As per request, the child's name shall be legally changed and a new birth certificate will be designated reflecting the change. Sgt. Gibbs, Mrs. Gibbs, take Anthony DiNozzo Gibbs home and be good to him. This court is adjourned."
The bang of the gavel seemed to startle little Tony who still hated loud sounds. He flinched and squinted both eyes shut at the sudden loud noise. A large hand rested gently on his shoulder and he bit his lip trying not to flinch. He looked up and saw Shannon hugging Maia and thanking her, and saw Kelly smiling at him excitedly. Jethro was smiling down at him, and knelt before him.
"Easy Tony," Jethro's voice was soft in his ear. "You ready to go?"
Tony shook his head. "I's don' wanna go with my mean-daddy no mores," he said softly. He hadn't understood what the judge was saying—confused by all of the legal speak, Tony had only heard his father's name, and Jethro and Shannon's names. He didn't understand what was going on.
"Oh you aren't going with him Tony. Not ever again. He's gone now," Jethro reassured him. "You're coming with us."
"Where we's goin?"
Jethro smiled. "How about we go have a special lunch?"
"Yes Kelly too!" Kelly exclaimed. The family left the courthouse together, all smiles.
The family went to a place Tony had never visited before.
"What's this place," he wondered softly, taking in the purple and orange walls and rows of games and places to play. A set of ski-ball tracks lined one wall, shelves of toys lined another, and there was a stage along the back with a real life drum set.
Tony couldn't believe his eyes—there was a gorilla sitting at the drums and a large mouse holding the guitar. A bear was holding up an electric bass. But…animals couldn't play instruments, could they? There were children and parents and families all over—mostly younger children since not all of the schools were on vacation yet, and everyone was eating.
Tony turned to Jethro with a fearful gaze, his fingers knotting furiously. "What's we gonna do here," he asked him softly. Kelly whooped in excitement and ran off as soon as her hand was stamped.
Jethro knelt before him and hugged him gently. This child needed so much love and affection; Jethro and Shannon tried to give it to him whenever possible. "This place is a place where you can play and have a lot of fun. We're celebrating Tony."
Tony thought for a moment. "What's ceb…re…lating," he asked, mispronouncing the word.
"Cel-eh-brat-ting," Jethro pronounced the word slowly. "It means…well I guess it's kind of like we're having a party."
Tony's eyes widened in fear and he glanced around desperately for the door to the outside. He remembered his own birthday party and how the kids had each brought gifts. "I's didn't bring a present!" Tony felt awful because he hadn't thought to bring a present.
"Aww baby you don't need to bring a present," Shannon said gently. "This celebration is all about you and how excited Daddy, Kelly, and I are that you get to live with us forever!"
"Why's ya excited? I's bad," Tony said softly, his eyes drifting to his shoes.
"Oh no," Shannon said hugging him. "You aren't bad at all sweetheart. You're wonderful and we love you so much."
Tears filled Tony's eyes. He was so confused by everything that had happened. It was all very big to a little six year old. "Then how's a come my mean-daddy thinks I's a worthless sniveling little shit?"
Several parents cut their eyes suspiciously first at Tony and then at Jethro at the child's words. Jethro quickly glared them away.
"Honey your father told you lots of mean things didn't he?" Shannon's voice was soft and she rubbed up and down Tony's arms.
Tony bowed his head for a moment and then nodded, his eyes still on the floor.
"Sweetie, the bad things he said to you…they weren't true. They were all lies," she told him. "Remember we talked about that? About how he told you those lies to make you feel yucky?"
Tony's gaze shot up in shock and he stepped back shaking his head. "No 'em wasn't lies! I's bad!"
"Why do you think you're bad kiddo," Jethro asked him softly.
"A cause I's peed the bed and I's lost-ted a tooth an' it bleeded onna pillow case. Oh and a cause I's 'pilled-ded my milk cup and a cause I's too loud. An' then I's a got hurted inna court and I's a cried when my leg hurted…I's loud and I's dumb and mean-daddy say he shoulda sacked me and tossed-ded me inna river whens I's a baby so's I wouldn't be so much trouble."
Tony explained all of this in a very matter of fact voice and when Jethro and Shannon didn't respond immediately he looked up shyly.
Shannon had her face tucked into Jethro's shoulder and Jethro looked like he wanted to kill something.
Tony gulped. "See?" His voice was soft, sad and resigned. "I's bad. I's made Shannon cry and I's made Jethro mad. I's bad. Bad, bad, bad."
Jethro dropped to his knees and pulled Tony into a hug so fast he squeaked in surprise. "You. Are. Not. Bad. You did NOTHING wrong and nothing to deserve what that man did to you. You hear?"
Tony hesitated for a moment then nodded.
"We're mad and sad because your father made you believe those things. We are not upset at you. We love you and we want you with us. We think you are wonderful."
Tony pulled back and stared at his new daddy. "Wonnerful? Not bad?"
"Not bad Angel," Shannon whispered through her tears. "Never bad. We are so happy you are ours."
Tony nodded slowly, unsure of how he should react. Jethro smiled and saved him.
"So tell me. Do you like pizza Tony?"
The child stared at his new daddy for a long minute before dropping his gaze to the floor again. He mumbled something but it was so quiet that Jethro couldn't hear it over the noise of the restaurant.
"What's that son? I couldn't hear you."
A quake of fear charged through the little boy and he stared up at Jethro in fear.
"I's sorry! Sometimes I's forgets I's gotta talk loud."
"That's ok Tony," Jethro soothed him. "Can you tell me what you said?"
Eyes dropped again and Jethro ran his fingers through the child's hair.
"I's said I's don' even knows what pizza is. I's heard it but I's never tried it."
Jethro blinked and gazed at Shannon who bit her lip. Had they honestly not had pizza since they'd had Tony? How could that be?
"Well I like it. I think you'll like it too," Jethro told him. He led them to a booth and they sat down.
Tony's eyes were alight with interest. "You's a gonna lets me tried it?"
Jethro nodded. "If you want. Let's order and then we'll play."
Tony looked around curiously. "Play what?"
Shannon smiled. "Everything in here is for kids to play with. You could even go on stage with the band if you like."
Tony's eyes rounded and his jaw dropped slightly. Then he quickly shook his head and looked at his lap. "No…no thanks," he said softly. "I's shy. I's can't sing."
Shannon smiled and ran her fingers over the child's shoulders. "You don't have to sing. We just want you to have fun."
The waitress came over. She had her long hair tied back and braces on her teeth. "Hi! I'm Tina! I'm gonna be your waitress! Do you know what you'd like or would you rather me start with drinks!"
Tony shrank pitifully away from the perky waitress. This day was so hard and filled with so many strange people. First the big judge, and now this strange place filled with screaming children and loud waitresses. Didn't people know they could get whippins for being so loud?
Jethro smiled at Tony and then looked to the waitress. He ordered sodas for all of them. "And," he said, "we want to get a large pizza."
"Ok! And what would you like on it!"
Jethro looked at Shannon who nodded her head. "Pepperoni, sausage and extra cheese," he told her.
"OK! I'll have that out to you in just a few minutes!"
"Where do we get tokens," Jethro asked her. Shannon smiled down at Tony and made a silly face. Kelly came running up, excited, and already out of breath from the exertion of trying to see everything at once.
"There's a token dispenser just around the corner!" Tina pointed.
"Thanks," Jethro said and stood up. A few moments later he returned with two plastic cups filled with gold coins. He handed one to Kelly who thanked him and then ran away, and set the other down in front of Tony. "There ya go buddy. You use the tokens to play," he said and held out his hand for the little boy.
Tony slid off the bench and took Jethro's hand. He held the cup of coins in the other hand and stared at it almost reverently. He glanced back at Shannon.
"I'm gonna stay here and wait for the pizza," she told them. "You boys go have some fun, and after we eat I'll play too."
Tony nodded and looked up at his daddy, his eyes round with shock. "You gived me moneys?"
"Sort of," Jethro said, chuckling. "These tokens cost money, and they make the games work." They approached the ski-ball tracks. "Let's see," he mumbled to himself. "Put the token in…here…and then—oh! There it goes," he said as the balls rolled down. "Now we play!"
"How's a play? I's don't know how," Tony said, his cheeks turning pink. He felt bad that he'd never played before. Embarrassed.
"I'll show you Tony," Jethro told him. "Nothing to be ashamed of. You'll like it. Ok so you take the ball like this," Jethro picked up one of the wooden balls and handed it to Tony. "Then you stand here," he carefully positioned the boy so his arm was in the middle of the track. "Then you have to roll the ball up the ramp and land it in a cup. You can't throw it though, you have to roll it."
"Show me please? You's a go first," Tony begged.
Jethro nodded and rolled the first ball. It landed in the 30 cup. Tony smiled brightly and clapped his hands. He made an awkward movement that looked suspiciously like a jump and nearly fell over. Jethro caught him easily, thankful that, in the end, they'd made Tony wear his helmet. "Good job Jethro!" Tony exclaimed.
Jethro wished Tony would call him Daddy. His heart ached for it. He wanted his little boy to know that Jethro was his daddy now and that he was safe with him. Jethro figured there may be some negative relation between the name and the person though, if he associated his birth-father with the word daddy at all. Jethro began to wonder if the child would ever call him anything other than Jethro.
"Ok Tony," Jethro told him. "It's your turn now. Like I showed you."
Tony ambled awkwardly up to the track and picked up a ball. He positioned himself very carefully just as his daddy had showed him how to do. He took a deep breath, and rolled the ball…halfway up the ramp. It rolled back to him and Tony looked up at Jethro, tears filling his eyes. "I's no good," he said softly, starting to put the ball down.
"Oh no you don't," Jethro said. "You were doing great you just need a little more power behind it, that's all. Just have to roll it a little harder. You were headed right for the high scores. I did the same thing my first time."
Tony blinked. "Really? You's was bad at it too?"
Jethro laughed. "Yep, it takes practice. Let's try again, shall we?"
Tony giggled and nodded eagerly. He positioned himself again and this time rolled the little ball as hard as he could. The ball skipped up the ramp and landed right in the 50 hole. Tony stared at it for a minute, the beginnings of a grin tugging at his lips. Jethro patted him on the shoulder and kissed the side of his head. "That's good work son," he said. "Go again!"
Tony decided that he loved ski-ball. When the game was over he looked at Jethro. "I's wanna play mores!"
"Well put another token in and we'll play more," Jethro told him. He glanced over his shoulder at Shannon who smiled and waved. He waved back. "Hey Tony, look. Mommy's watching you," he said. A quick glance around told him that Kelly was having fun blasting a fire truck with a water gun.
Tony didn't answer and Jethro turned to see why. Tony was clutching the cup close to his chest, and shaking his head slightly. Jethro, ever patient with his son, knelt before him. "What's up buddy?"
"I changed-ded my mind," Tony said softly. "I's don' wanna play no mores."
"Ok," Jethro said easily. "You want to play something different?"
Tony shook his head no.
Confused by the sudden change in his little boy's demeanor, Jethro put gentle hands on his child's shoulders. "Why don't ya wanna play?"
Tony clutched the cup even tighter and squeezed his eyes shut. "I's a gonna saves 'em," he told Jethro in a strangled whisper.
"But they're meant to be used," Jethro told him gently. "You use them to play the games!"
Tony shook his head again. He began grabbing handfuls of the tokens and shoving them into his pockets.
"What ya doin' kiddo? Talk to me," Jethro said. He sat down on the floor, right in the middle of the restaurant and pulled his child into his lap. "What's going on in that noggin of yours?"
"I…I's a gotsa saves the moneys," Tony said, fear in his voice and was it—desperation?
"What do you want to save them for?" Exasperation was beginning to creep into Jethro's voice and he willed it back down. Tony would have a good reason—though for now there was no telling what it would be.
Tony shrugged and his head bowed. "A portant stuff," he said matter-of-factly to his lap.
Jethro ran a hand through his hair. "Okkkkk," he said drawing out the word carefully. "What important stuff?"
Tony leaned his head back so it was on Jethro's shoulder, and he put his hands over his pockets. "I's don' wanna tell you," he said uneasily. "You's a get mad a me."
"I won't get mad Tony," Jethro hugged the little boy a bit and rocked back and forth slightly. "I promise I won't get mad. You know you can tell me anything."
Tony took a deep breath. "I's a gonna saves my moneys so I's can gets my leg better. If I's still gots moneys after I's gets my leg better, I's a gonna buy Shannon and Kelly a flower and I's a gonna buy you's a toy car so's we can race." He paused and looked up at Jethro. "If you's wanna?"
Jethro was completely floored by the little child's confession. "Oh Tony. Of course I'd love to race cars with you," he told his boy, softly, right into his ear. He patted the little boy's bad leg gently, "and we'll get your leg better," he promised. "Remember Dr. Trexler? He's going to help us get your leg better. And you don't have to pay for it Sweetheart. Mommy and Daddy will take care of it ok? You're ours now and we will take very good care of you because we love you so much."
Jethro saw Shannon waving them over. The pizza had arrived.
"We'll get you a coin bank if you like Tony," Jethro said standing up. He carried Tony with him, bridal style, so he could see Tony while he talked. "If you have a coin bank then you have a safe place to save your real money. However. The tokens in your pockets only work here. They don't work anywhere else. This is the only place you can spend them."
Jethro sat Tony beside Shannon before he sat down next to Kelly and they began to eat. Tony mmm'ed and ummm'ed and ahhh'ed in delight at the wonderful taste of the pizza. He'd always wanted to try it! But his mean-daddy would never let him. Now his new daddy liked it too! Tony ate two large slices of pizza, much to Shannon and Jethro's delight.
"He's gonna eat us out of house and home when he gets bigger," Jethro told Shannon with a smile. He winked at Tony who grinned.
After lunch they all played together and Tony used about half of his tokens. They played ski-ball together and lots of other games. After an hour or so of being on his leg nonstop, Tony began to wobble some, his leg was just unable to hold him up anymore. It seemed to Jethro and Shannon that the leg was getting worse by the day. It seemed that the more Tony relaxed, the more his leg hurt. He didn't have to struggle to be strong so more. He knew he had a mommy and a daddy who would take care of him.
Jethro scooped his boy up, hugging him close. Tony wrapped his good leg around Jethro's waist, the other leg dangled limply, the bad angle of it was easy to see. It reminded Jethro of the evening they found Tony, and Jethro was pleased to note that Tony was heavier than he'd been that night. Shannon took Kelly's hand and they slowly made their way to the car. They didn't even cash in their tickets—they would do that next time.
Jethro strapped Tony carefully into his car seat and Tony blinked sleepily up at his new daddy.
"I's a take a rest," he mumbled with a yawn. "My leg a hurts," he whimpered. His hand moved slowly to the spot where it always hurt the most.
"Sorry buddy," Jethro said softly. "We'll give you some of your medicine when we get home to help it not hurt so much, and we'll put the ice pack on it again ok?"
Tony nodded, mostly asleep. Shannon crawled in the back seat, between the kids. "I'll sit with him and rub his leg. That sometimes helps," she told Jethro. He nodded and climbed in the driver seat of the SUV. Kelly chattered away, pleased with how her day had turned out and excited that they'd all had so much fun.
They arrived home a little while later and Shannon smiled when she saw that Kelly had fallen asleep during the car ride, her head resting on the window. Tony was also asleep; his head was rocked forward in his seat and Shannon carefully removed the helmet. She was afraid that with it being as big as it was, that it would cause his neck to ache if he sat like that for too long.
She looked at her sleeping children and then up at her husband. He smiled and nodded. He got it. They carefully climbed out of the car and took their children up to their beds. It was late in the afternoon—the perfect time for a bit of a rest. Shannon picked up her cross-stitching and Jethro opened a magazine he'd gotten in the mail about wood working. They sat together on the couch, enjoying the peace that had finally settled upon them. Upstairs the faint sounds of sleeping children could be heard. It wouldn't be long before they were awake and things would get exciting again.
But for now there was peace. Quiet, relaxing, all encompassing peace. Jethro put his hand on his wife's knee as they each focused on their own activity. She smiled at him for a moment before turning back to her pattern.
Life was good.
Author's Note: Many of you have expressed some sadness that this is the end of Daddy's Boy (for which I am extremely grateful!). Just a reminder that this story is part of an on-going series. The next story in the series is called "Breaks and Repairs." There will be some drama, there will be some mystery, there will be some angst (because I can't seem to write a story without it!), and there will be lots of family bonding. I'm already working on this story, so it shouldn't be too long before I get the first chapter up!
Again, thanks to everyone who has read and commented on this story. Over 1000 reviews—I am completely speechless and extremely grateful. Please join me as we watch our Little Tony start to grow up. I welcome any feedback or suggestions that you have—but please remember to be nice!
See you all soon!