Characters: Tony DiNozzo, Jethro Gibbs, Dr. Rachel Cranston
Spoilers: Season 9: takes place after "Nature of the Beast"
Warnings: angst, hurt/comfort
Summary: A long buried secret from Tony's childhood threatens to destroy him; can Gibbs save him from going under?
Disclaimer: I don't own NCIS; I only wish I did!Part 1
Tony DiNozzo felt like he'd been running for years when in fact he'd only been running for a little over thirty minutes. He had jogged off and on all his life but ever since he had returned from Somalia almost two years ago, Tony had become a fervent runner to the point that running had almost become like a drug; it was a rush that helped cleanse his mind and his body, giving him a release like nothing else could. Well, almost nothing, he thought to himself.
His mind drifted to EJ. Their relationship had been the proverbial shot in the arm that he had so desperately needed; it had been nice to have someone who seemed to understand him and didn't try and make him become something he wasn't. Tony had been able to take off the mask that he constantly wore and be himself and he would always be grateful to her for that; he just wished that he would have had the chance to tell her exactly what she had meant to him. She had been shot and her body had not been found; he didn't want to believe she was dead, but as time marched on, the possibility of her being alive was dwindling every day.
He glanced at his watch as turned down the street by the river. Tony had already run nearly four miles and he at least had two more to go before he turned back towards home. Gibbs would probably kill him if he knew that he was out running while he was still suffering from the effects of the concussion that he had sustained last week but he had to do something or he was going to go stir crazy sitting in his apartment thinking about the past few months; besides, Rachel had been the one to tell him that maybe he needed to get out and get some fresh air and he wasn't about to disobey the doctor.
Dr. Rachel Cranston had come into his life unexpectedly a few months ago and had forced him to take a look at himself. When he figured out that she was Kate's sister, he had understood why she had seemed to relentlessly pursue him; she was taking the opportunity to tell him some things that Kate never had a chance to and Rachel's words had meant a lot to him. Their paths had crossed again when Gibbs had brought her in to help him regain his memory and now, he was seeing her on a professional basis. Tony had to admit that talking with her was helping him come to several realizations but if he were honest with himself, he was scared of discovering the real Anthony DiNozzo.
A blood-curdling scream shook him from his thoughts, stopping him dead in his tracks. On the dock, a distraught young lady was peering into the murky water, desperately yelling for her son. Tony sprinted towards her, his legs burning from the exertion, but he pushed himself even harder as he neared the hysterical mother.
"Adam! Adam!" she continued to shout. "Somebody help me! My baby!"
"Ma'am?" Tony touched her arm in an effort to get her attention. "What's wrong?"
"My son, Adam," she sobbed. "He fell in! He can't swim!"
Without hesitation, Tony dove into the water and began searching for the missing boy. The shrieks of the boy's mother faded as he swam deeper into the river; he found himself praying that Adam hadn't drifted far and would be easy to find. Tony was determined to save this boy; he had seen enough death this week and if he had any say in the matter, no one else would die.
His eyes were burning and he was going to have come up for air soon. Please God! Please let me find him! For the first time in a long time, it seemed like God had heard his prayer. Adam's shirt was snagged on a discarded pile of wood underneath the pier; the boy's motionless form and his fixed stare brought back images of a similar rescue when he had pulled Gibbs and Maddie out of a submerged car on that cool, fall day. He pushed the memory back into the recesses of his mind as he fought to free Adam; time was running out and Tony knew that he had to act fast.
It took only a few seconds to free Adam but it seemed like an eternity before he broke the surface with the tiny figure in his arms. He deposited Adam onto the pier and climbed up after him; Tony immediately checked for a pulse and then began CPR when he ascertained that the child didn't have a pulse or wasn't breathing. He tried to block out the mother's frantic cries as a crowd gathered around him, watching him as he struggled to save Adam's life.
"Did anyone call 911?" he asked between compressions.
"The paramedics are on their way," a bystander shouted out.
"Does anyone else know CPR?" Tony wasn't sure how long he could keep going; exhaustion was creeping upon him but he couldn't give in to the desire to rest, at least not right now. He was grateful when he heard the sirens blaring in the distance, growing louder as they drew closer to the pier.
As he prepared to deliver two more breaths to Adam, the boy began to cough and Tony immediately rolled him over on to his side. Adam's mother grabbed her son and pulled him close to her, vowing never to let him out of her sight again. Tony sat back on his haunches and watched the tearful reunion. Although he was thankful that everything had worked out for Adam and his mother, he couldn't ignore the nagging feeling that was starting to plague him; the agent figured that the adrenaline rush had worn off a little quicker than normal and he was experiencing the aftereffects.
As the EMT's coerced the lady into giving up her son so they could examine him, Tony forced himself to his feet and raked his fingers through his wet hair. The mother came over to him; a smile had replaced the expression of terror that had been etched in her lovely features a few moments ago.
"Thank you so much. I don't know how I can ever thank you for saving Adam's life," she said.
Tony stared at the disheveled mother, wondering who had called out Adam's name. "I uh…I…you're welcome," he finally replied.
"I don't even know your name."
"Tony. Tony DiNozzo."
"I'm Maggie Bryson and I guess you know my son."
Tony tiredly laughed. "Yeah, we've met."
"How can I repay you?"
There was no way anyone could put a price tag on a human life. Tony smiled at the disheveled woman and replied, "Just love your son."
"I do; I don't know what…I just turned my back for a second," Maggie tried to reason, her eyes brimming with tears.
"I wasn't trying to cast blame; I didn't mean to sound like I was. I just meant that I didn't expect any kind of payment; it's reward enough to know that Adam's alive."
Tony stared at Maggie, confusion emanating from his piercing orbs. "Did you say something? I heard someone call your son's name."
Maggie shook her head. "I didn't hear anything."
"I guess I still have water in my ears," he joked, trying to explain the voice that only he seemed to be hearing.
"Thanks again," Adam's mother said as she placed a kiss on his cheek.
Tony made his way through the crowd, barely acknowledging the pats on the back and the encouraging words that were offered by the onlookers. Glancing at his watch, he knew he needed to get back home and change out of his wet clothes but he no longer had the energy to walk back the four miles to his apartment; as much as he hated the thought, he was going to have call someone for a ride. Reaching in the pocket of his sweatpants, he pulled out his cell phone; of course, the waterlogged piece of equipment was useless as was the money and credit cards in his wallet. Tony was surprised that he didn't lose his belonging during his unexpected swim; maybe he could salvage a few things and not have to replace them.
He continued to stare at the phone in his hand, shaking his head in disbelief. "Great," he muttered. "Guess I'll be walking home after all."
He turned to see one of the paramedics running to catch up with him. Tony knew that they probably wanted to check him over as well, but he just wanted to go home. He brushed off the EMT as he started his journey home. "I'm fine."
"We'd like to be the judge of that, sir," the paramedic said, handing him a blanket from the ambulance.
Taking the blanket, he wrapped it around his shoulders, grateful for the little bit of warmth that it offered. "I'm fine. Thanks."
"Are you refusing treatment?"
Tony pulled the blanket tighter. "Yes and I'll sign whatever you need me to sign; I just want to go home and get a hot shower."
"Have you got a cell phone on you?" he asked, purposely redirecting the subject.
The paramedic handed Tony his cell phone. He debated on whom to call and decided he would call the one person who wouldn't ask too many questions; hopefully he could catch Palmer before he left for work. He breathed a sigh of relief when the ME's assistant answered on the second ring. Tony briefly explained what happened and where he was and just as he had hoped, Palmer didn't ask for an elaborate explanation; instead he merely told him that he would pick him up at the pier in ten minutes.
Tony hung up and handed the phone back to the EMT who had retrieved the paper he would have to sign releasing the paramedics of any liability. Other than being a bit chilled and the dull ache that had been present in his head for about a week, he was fine; of course, he was tired, but that was to be expected. Tony recalled that it had taken him a couple of days to get over the last underwater rescue he had executed and he figured this time wouldn't be any different, especially since he was still recovering from a concussion as well.
Sitting on the curb, he rested his head on his knees, waiting for Palmer to arrive. Tony briefly considered taking a short nap but quickly decided that it wouldn't be a good idea; however, as soon as he got home and took a shower, he was going back to bed. He had one more day off before he was supposed to return to work and his only goal the rest of the day was to relax.
Adam! My baby! Help!
Tony's head jerked up at the sound of the distant voice. He glanced around to see that nearly everyone that had gathered around the pier had dispersed as the ambulance headed towards the hospital. There was no one around him who could have said anything; the voice that he heard was in his mind. "Just what I need on top of everything else," he mumbled under his breath. "Now I'm hearing voices; wait until the Doc hears about this."
He saw Palmer pull up and Tony was able to forget about the haunting voice, at least for now. Pushing himself up off the ground, he walked over to the passenger side of Jimmy's car and opened the door to discover a couple of towels laying on the seat and the heater going full blast. "I figured you might need them," Jimmy stated as he handed the towels to him.
"I got a blanket from the paramedics; just spread them over your seat so I don't get it too wet," he instructed, knowing that he wasn't doing a good job hiding the weariness that was beginning to overwhelm him.
After the towels were situated over the seat, Tony slid in and shut the door. He held his hands in front of the vents in an effort to get warm. "Thanks, Jimmy. I just kind of ran out of steam."
"You're welcome. I know that you'd do the same thing for me, if I had jumped in the river and saved someone's life; of course, I'd have to learn how to swim first," Palmer mused.
Tony grinned at his colleague and then closed his eyes and laid his head against the window. Although he could sense Jimmy's concern, Palmer didn't press him to talk and he deeply appreciated the younger man's willingness to simply be his friend. Over the years, he and Palmer had developed a unique and unexpected friendship and now, Tony considered the ME's assistant to be one of his best friends.
Within a couple of minutes, Palmer pulled up outside his apartment building. Feeling the car come to a stop, Tony opened his eyes and sat up. "Thanks, Jimmy."
"Any time. Are you sure you're okay?"
"Yeah," he tiredly replied. "That little swim just took a lot out of me."
"That was a brave thing to do, Tony; you're a hero."
He shook his head. "No, Jimmy; I'm not a hero. I'm just a guy who was in the right place at the right time."
"It took a lot of courage for you to jump in that river and save a complete stranger; I mean not everyone would do that and…"
Tony silenced Palmer with a wave of his hand. "Let's just drop it, Jimmy; I'm too tired to do this. Anyway, I better get going so you're not late for work."
"I'm sure that Dr. Mallard will understand when I tell him…"
"That's another thing; let's keep this between us. I've caused enough excitement around NCIS this week; I don't want to be the topic of the scuttlebutt again."
"I don't understand," Palmer said.
Not wanting to explain his reasoning, Tony hoped that Palmer would just honor his request for the sake of friendship. "I just don't want a big deal made out of this; please don't say anything."
"I won't," the ME assistant promised.
Tony opened the door and got out of the car. As he shut the door, he thanked Palmer once again and slowly made his way up the stairs to his apartment. When he felt better, he would give Jimmy a better explanation as to why he didn't want anyone at NCIS to know about his heroic efforts, provided that he could think of a plausible reason.
Fumbling in his pocket for the keys, he managed to pull them out of the soaked pants and unlocked the door. As he entered the living room, he began to strip out of the wet clothes as he headed to the shower and within seconds he was standing under the near scalding water, allowing it to cascade over his taut body. Tony felt the tension begin to ebb away; the stress of the morning was going down the drain, leaving behind the weariness that he had been battling since the rescue.
He remained in the shower a few more minutes before getting out. Quickly drying off, Tony slipped on a pair of sweat pants and a sweatshirt and crawled into bed, pulling his comforter up around his neck; it felt good to be warm again. He began to drift off, his mind replaying what had happened the morning; as he allowed darkness to claim him, Tony's dreams turned to another time and another place.
Tony stood in the shadows watching the dark haired boy as he sat huddled on the pier, his arms wrapped around his legs as he tried to make himself invisible to everyone gathered around him, especially his parents. He could hear the boy's mother sobbing and the sound of her heart-wrenching cries brought tears to the child's eyes. Couldn't she see that she was upsetting her child?
Tony had arrived in time to see someone pulling the child out of the river, saving the boy from a near drowning; however, no one seemed to be worried about the boy at the moment. All the attention was on the weeping woman and Tony couldn't understand why no one was taking care of the boy.
He heard the voice of the boy's father trying to soothe his mom, but his dad had not uttered a word to the child. Didn't they realize that he needed to be comforted too? Tony could see that the child was cold, wet, and tired, and to top it all off, the young boy obviously had no idea what was going on.
Someone had set the boy on the pier and had asked him if he were all right; despite coughing up some water, he gave a cursory nod to his rescuer who left him alone and returned to the crowd surrounding his parents. Tony continued to observe the boy who was now sitting alone, waiting for his mom and dad to come and assure him that everything was all right; he couldn't help but wonder just how long the child was going to have to wait.
He saw a glimmer of hope flicker across the boy's face as his father finally made his way over to him. The boy sat up straight as his dad approached him as if he were expected to keep up a certain appearance even when something tragic had evidently occurred.
Tony took a step closer as the boy's father knelt down beside him; unable to see the man's face, he would have to settle for being able to hear what was being said to the lad. He had a feeling that this child bore the weight of the world on his shoulders and that the weight was about to get a lot heavier.
The older man's expression portrayed both sorrow and anger and Tony could tell that the boy want to run and hide. When the father finally spoke, there was fear evident in the child's expressive orbs. "I need to ask you a question," his father said.
"What is it?" the boy nervously asked.
"I need to know what happened."
By the blank stare that the boy was bestowing upon his father, Tony figured that the boy had no idea what his dad was talking about. Looking at his wet clothes, the small child shook his head and shrugged his shoulders. "I must have fallen in the river. I was just watching the ducks and…"
"And I guess I fell in."
"You guess you fell in?" his dad bellowed. "This isn't about you! Where's Adam?"
Tony flinched at the mention of the familiar name. "Adam?" he mumbled to himself.
He was shaken from his thoughts as the mother came running over to the child and grabbed him by his shoulders. Tony started to go to the boy, but some kind of invisible force was holding him back.
"Please," the woman begged. "Tell me where he is!"
The sight of his mother, distraught and disheveled, was clearly frightening her son. Although, Tony couldn't see her face either, he could imagine the expression that had to be etched in her features in order to terrify the boy in such a manner.
"Where who is, Momma?" the child timidly asked.
"Adam," she blurted out. "Where's Adam?"
Tony shuddered at the sound of that name again. He wrapped his arms around him to ward off the chill that seemed to envelop him. Where they talking about the boy that he had just rescued? He never saw another child at the scene and the boy's father had been nowhere around; the whole scenario was different yet familiar and Tony had no idea what was real and what was a figment of his imagination.
The mother began to scream over and over as she shook the boy. "Adam! Adam! Adam!"
The boy was trying to pull away from her. She was clearly hurting him and no one was doing anything to stop her; Tony knew he had to do something before the boy's mother did something she regretted.
He began to run towards the boy, the mother's screams resonating in his mind. Tony had to save him; he had to save Adam. No wait, that wasn't right. He had saved Adam; Tony had to save this nameless child who definitely needed someone in his corner.
His mind was becoming muddled as the image before him began to fade until he was surrounded by the darkness. Tony stopped in his tracks and began to look around but he could see nothing in the black void before him.
"Hello?" he called out. "Is anybody out there?"
A child's voice echoed through the gloom, shattering the silence that had suddenly surrounded Tony. "Help me! Help me!"
"Adam!" Tony sat up, sweat rivulets streaming down his face. His heart was pounding and he felt like he was going to be sick. Putting his hand on his chest, he tried to slow down his breathing. After a few seconds, he blew out a long breath and wiped his face.
Tony silently chastised himself. He should have expected nightmares; the agent had experienced them after he had rescued Gibbs and Maddie so he should have expected it after saving Adam this morning. However, this particular dream hadn't been like his previous ones and that unnerved him.
After he had saved Gibbs and Maddie, Tony had suffered from nightmares for a couple of weeks. The scenarios would play out differently but the results were always the same. In his dreams, he had been unable to save the team leader or the girl and it had taken him a while before he could sleep the entire night through; Tony suddenly wasn't looking forward to the next few nights.
He was still having problems dealing with Cade's death and EJ's supposed death and now he was going to have to add the stress of nightmares that had been triggered by his heroic efforts. Maybe going back to work was what he needed; he could focus on his job instead of trying to figure out how to keep his nightmares at bay.
The ringing of his phone interrupted his thoughts; it was a good thing that he still maintained a landline since his cell phone was no longer functioning thanks to his earlier swim in the river. He fumbled for the phone and finally managed to answer it.
Tony smiled at the voice that had become his anchor this past week. "Dr. Cranston, how's it going?"
"I should be asking you that," the psychiatrist pointed out.
"Oh, well; I'm okay. Just taking it easy before I go back to work."
"Really?" she pressed. "That's not what the news said."
The knot in Tony's stomach tightened. "The news?"
"The news is hailing you as a hero after you saved a little boy from drowning," Rachel continued. "You've not had an easy week and I was just making sure that you were doing all right."
Tony scrubbed his face, thankful that she wasn't calling to chastise him. "Yeah, I'm fine. For now," he added.
"What do you mean for now?"
"Just what I said. I'll be fine until Gibbs gets a hold of me."
"You don't think he'll be proud of you?"
"It's not that," Tony said. The thought that Gibbs would be proud of him brought a tiny smile to his face. "It's just that he'll probably kill me when he finds out that I didn't call him and he had to see it on the news."
"I don't think it'll be that bad."
As if on cue, his call waiting indicated that he had another call coming in. Glancing at the caller ID, he shook his head in defeat. "We're about to find out; if you don't hear from me in the next fifteen minutes, call Ducky."
As Tony prepared to answer the call, he considered the possibility that perhaps Gibbs didn't know what had happened. Of course, that was wishful thinking because he was knew from experience that the team leader would know exactly what had happened and probably was also aware that he left the scene without being checked out by the paramedics.
Taking a deep breath, he answered the call. "Hey Boss, what's up?"
And here's the second new story, unless you read this one first. LOL I really can't wait to know what you guys think. Thanks to AZGirl for being my beta on this and my sounding board! Any remaining mistakes you find are mine!