Ever since the premiere, I've had a "Tony's past" tag rolling around in my head that refused to take shape. And then, I was making dinner while listening to reruns on USA, and "Knockout" was on (I'm not the only one who does that, right? NCIS as my constant background music?) Tony is speaking to Tara and mentions St. Anthony, patron saint of lost things. And this is what came from it.
Tags the end of 9x01, Nature of the Beast.
It was so serendipitous it almost felt contrived. A softly lit hospital room. An old black and white movie. And a gold crucifix sliding distractedly through the fingers of one Dr. Rachel Cranston as she spoke to Gibbs about her recommendations for further 'treatment.'
It was the perfect trifecta of psychological triggers really. He had actually tried to talk to Doctor-Kate's-sister about it before, but she was more focused on untangling the mystery of his latest in a long line of fuck-ups. Tony turned over on the hospital bed, away from the two people casting him glances of pity and concern, and allowed his mind to return to their earlier conversation.
"You know when my mom died, we were in a room like this…"
Angels with Dirty Faces...Cagney the mobster...Bogey's priest...
The game started when he was three.
He had been hiding from new nanny Olga: a ferocious hag of a woman who spoke harshly to young Anthony and threatened him constantly with her cane. He had loved nanny Bridgette and, crying, told his mother so. But she had simply muttered, So does your father, and sent Bridgette away.
And so, when nanny Olga decreed in her rasping chain-smoker's voice that it was bath time, little Anthony had run away from her and hid under his mother's bed. His fingertips brushed against something smooth and cold as he shimmied between shoeboxes, his hand clutching in terror around the small object when the door banged opened. But absent was the uneven clunk clunk clunk of Olga's dreaded cane. Instead, the sound of dainty stilettos echoed on the room's rich wooden floors.
"Anthony, you naughty monkey! Where are you?"
The young boy cried out at the welcome sound of his mother's voice, squirming out from beneath the bed and reaching up for her.
"Anthony Dominick DiNozzo, what did I tell you about being a good boy!" She scolded, pulling him up and setting him on top of the soft duvet. "What do you have here…"
She kneeled in front of him, taking the small gold necklace from his shaking fingers.
"Why, you found Nona Sara's crucifix!" She exclaimed, holding up the fine chain. "I've been looking everywhere for it." She fastened it around her neck, tucking the cross beneath the high, jeweled collar of her cocktail dress. "You are my very own little Saint Anthony!" She said indulgently kissing his cheek.
That was the day Anthony found a way to make his mother happy.
He saw nannies and housemaids with far more frequency than his own parents, but his mother always came to him when she lost something. An earring…a glove... She would walk by the nursery, calling out in a singsong voice:
Please come round!
Something's lost and can't be found!
Anthony would giggle and run after her. In hindsight, the missing items were blatantly easy to find, but they both delighted in the joy of small fingers holding up lost treasures in triumph.
His mother always called him her little Saint, but Anthony, basking in the glow of a mystery solved, decreed that he would grow up to be Columbo and Superman rolled into one. She wholeheartedly agreed.
But the game changed as he grew older. And so did his mother.
When he was six, he heard her calling for the maid to find a lost flask, whatever that was. Anthony bounded in, singing at the top of his lungs: Something's lost and can't be found, 'cept by me! The maid caught him by the collar, steering him back to the staircase and sent him away with a smack to the head and orders to keep quiet.
When he was seven, he peeked into his mother's room and found her sprawled out on the floor, stretching well manicured fingers underneath an armoire. He crept curiously closer, noticing a small white object on the ground a few feet away from her. He picked it up and squinted; it looked like one of the aspirin he was given when he had a headache.
"Are you looking for this?" He asked quietly. His mother looked up, her attention zeroing in on the pill between his fingers. She stood quickly on unsteady slippered feet and snatched it away from him.
"Don't touch that!" She snapped, and Anthony took a step back, eyes widening. Granted, he rarely saw his mother anymore. In fact, after he walked in on her sipping at his jar of Sea Monkeys a few weeks ago, he had locked himself in his bedroom and refused to talk to anyone for two days. But still, she had never yelled at him before. Not like this.
She seemed to register his hurt and just sighed. "Go play, my Saint Anthony. Mother needs to rest."
When he was eight, he stood in a sterile and softly-lit room, staring at the empty space where the hospital bed had been. It was gone now, as was the body of his mother, whisked away by nurses who patted his head and clucked sympathetically. His father stood in the doorway, speaking in quiet tones to the priest who had administered last rites, but Junior paid them no heed. He clutched at the small gold crucifix, his mother having pressed it to his palm with one last, surprisingly lucid smile. He squeezed the object tighter and tighter in his hand until he could blame the stinging pain for the tears now clouding his vision. His mother's singsong voice echoed inside his head on an endless loop.
Something's lost and can't be found.
That was the day Anthony started telling people to call him Tony.
Despite his best efforts to forget his saintly namesake, he became an expert on things-lost over the years. A career of fame and fortune to a shattered kneecap. A trusted partner to corruption and lies. A fiancé to the pressures of a cop's life and his best friend's bed. He learned slowly, painfully, repeatedly that loss was inevitable and attachment always led to heartache. So, he simply stopped caring, stopped seeking friendships or relationships that went beyond a casual conversation or a night wrapped around a warm body.
That strategy served him well until the comforts of consistency and loyalty slowly eroded those defensive walls. He didn't really register that it had happened until he was ferociously scrubbing blood and brainmatter from his face. Kate, always the devout Catholic, was actually the one who informed him that Anthony of Padua was not just the patron saint of lost things - but of lost souls. Of course, at the time she was teasing him about lost souls of the ditzy co-ed persuasion. But as Tony watched his partner's blood drain down the bathroom sink, he recognized a new dimension of irony in her words that sent him heaving into the nearest stall.
An endless parade of painful examples over the next few years made it clear that he was destined to become an unwilling expert on lost souls as well. Paula Cassidy, so eager to join her fallen team that her final act of heroism must have come with deliberate and welcome finality. Jeanne, the woman he foolishly allowed himself to love amidst a clusterfuck of lies and betrayal, hurt so badly that she lashed out with murderous castigation. Jenny Shepard, so determined to depart on her own terms that she hadn't given thought to the nuclear fallout of guilt and pain she was leaving behind.
And Ziva. Hers was the one instance where he allowed that, maybe, he had actually been blessed with some saintly good fortune. She was his culmination of things lost: friend and partner and promise of something more. And she was his greatest find, halfway around the world and hidden in the worst darkness he had ever known. That September, Saint Anthony returned triumphantly with the queen of lost souls, and it wasn't till the subsequent months struggling to rebuild charred bridges and broken relationships that he allowed himself to wonder if she was ever really his to lose in the first place.
Tony turned over again on the hard hospital bed, wincing as his assortment of injuries all jockeyed for his attention. With this night came the most bizarre wave of losses he had ever experienced. Whole chunks of his memory went missing and Anthony, expert on things mislaid, had needed the help of a licensed psychiatrist to find them again. Unfortunately for him, the price for memories-found turned out to be higher than he could currently handle: two more souls felled under his watch.
He took a few carefully shallow breaths, unsure if the pain in his chest was the increasingly crushing guilt or simply the result of where bullet met kevlar. He wanted to follow through on this train of thought, to find a manner of punishment befitting his latest sins and failures. But his eyelids were drooping southward now of their own accord, self-preservation winning out over his desire for continued self-flagellation. Gibbs caught his tired eyes, giving a little jerk of the chin that told him it was okay now to rest; the boss would have his six. Tony's gaze flickered to Rachel then, the muted light winking against the gold at her neck. His fist clutched automatically around nothing more than air and a memory as a singsong voice carried him into a fitful sleep.
Something's lost and can't be found...
I hope you enjoyed it. Those with Italian Catholic grandmothers like mine can attest that the little Saint Anthony poem is a real thing!
Please leave a little note and let me know what you think and thanks as always for reading and *hint cough cough* reviewing.