Summary: A work place shooting on Halloween, prompts Tony to recall why he hates the holidays so much but especially Halloween. Meanwhile, his closely guarded secret is about to be revealed to people that care about him.
Pairings: Tony and Ducky with a dash of Gibbs thrown in for good measure
Rating: T Warning this deals with child abuse
Disclaimer: I don't own them and don't profit from playing with them
A/N: This story was inspired by a very strange comment when Tony was recounting his last childhood Halloween experience to McGee in Witch Hunt in season 4. He explained that he had purloined one of his father's $3000 designer ski suits to make a space man costume. The remark that tweaked my antennae was that after his father found out "... I don't think that I sat down until Christmas... Good times Probie... Good times." Said in jest, the most commonly used phrase is couldn't sit down for a week. Given that he was jumpy and nervous during the episode and expressing hatred for the holiday, it made me wonder if the 'couldn't sit down until Christmas' comment might have been a Freudian slip. Hence this story.
Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo hated most holidays, fervently but Halloween was probably the very worst of all. As a former cop, he knew that it was a time when people seemed to become especially crazy and it had always been a particularly busy time for police departments across the country. Once he joined the police force, he had learnt that holidays in general, were days that were always fraught with pain and trouble for not just police departments, but all emergency service personnel. Holidays like Halloween, usually meant all hands on deck and time off was a rarity.
Family members were frequently injured, often needing medical aid or sometimes they required rescuing from their own folly. Car crashes for example, increased over the holiday periods, as bickering family members who usually avoided each other for most of the year, were forced together into small spaces such as cars. They were literally accidents waiting to happen. Incidence of domestic disputes and assaults always skyrocketed. As far as DiNozzo was concerned, holidays put the dis into dysfunctional families.
As a child, holidays always meant family time, that was until his mother died. Then his father seemed to vacillate between being able to barely acknowledge his existence, to wanting to make his life an unendurable hell. The last Halloween before being sent off to boarding school, had been the worst of all and even many years later, he still loathed this particular holiday with a passion that he found difficult to disguise. Halloween always seemed to be the harbinger of a return of his many childhood nightmares, which didn't help.
This year to add insult to injury, Tony found himself being transported to hospital by ambulance, with a gunshot wound that would mean that he spent what was left of Halloween, recovering from surgery in a hospital bed. Hopefully, the bullet currently lodged in his thigh hadn't done too much damage and he would be able to return to field duties quickly. He did wished however, that he could simply lock himself away from the world on Halloween and pretend that it never happened.
His team mates and colleagues, all knew of his hatred of this particular holiday but none of them had any idea how truly, deeply it affected him. Sure he had told them the infamous story about the robot costume and his father's designer ski suit. Yet no one had ever managed to break through the self-deprecation and bravado, that always accompanied his telling of the tale or the fact that he was economic with the full details. Everyone assumed that it had been a harmless prank by an exuberant little boy; that he had received a richly deserved spanking and had exaggerated about the severity of the correction. Perceptions, that he had been very careful, not to dispel.
The truth though, had been much darker and as the ambulance pulled into the bay of the ER, he couldn't help but remember that time so long ago when he was little and helpless. All alone in another ambulance, with strangers who exhibited more concern and compassion for his pain and fear, than his father had ever done. Senior in a fit of rage, had chased Tony around the first floor of their ostentatious mansion which had never felt like a home to the young boy, especially after his mother died. His father easily cornered him at the top of the Connemara marble staircase. Tony knew that crying always made his father extremely mad... er madder, especially when he had been drinking. Knowing it though couldn't change how scared he was, when he realised that his father didn't appreciate him using last season's ski wear to try and fit in, for once in his life. He had just wanted to be like all the other kids at school who all had doting parents to make costumes for them.
He had no one he could call upon, to make sure he had a Halloween costume. He knew way better than to ask his father; Tony knew he was far too busy to be bothered even if Senior didn't viewed trick or treating, as a waste of time and most definitely beneath the dignity of a DiNozzo. Even when his father acted like he despised him, to the rest of the world he always treated him like Little Lord Fauntleroy and discouraged his son from rubbing shoulders with the masses. So Tony had done what he had learnt how to do best; he took care of it himself.
He thought that because his father was obsessed with the latest fashions and designer labels, that he wouldn't care if Tony recycled something that he would probably never wear again. When he saw how mad his father was, he realised he had made a huge mistake and that things were going to get ugly. Tony knew he should just stand there and take his lumps, that it would be the smart thing to do. Yet he couldn't help crying, knowing what was to come and he knew that crying would make his father even angrier, if that was possible.
While his brain was telling him not to run, his body had other ideas and he found himself bolting as fast as he could, even knowing that his father would catch him in the end. Senior always did, even if he had to enlist the aid of the hired help to hunt him down and drag him back for correction. As he stood trapped and frozen at the top of the stairs, it was inevitable that his father, already fuelled by a potent mix of alcohol and a heady sense of power and entitlement, would extract a heavy toll on his unfortunate offspring. No doubt Senior's rage was nourished exponentially as he fed off his son's fear and the tears that had escalating into heaving silent sobs. His father's rage became incandescent.
Anthony DiNozzo Senior, could not abide tears in his offspring under any circumstances, not even when Tony's mother had died a some months earlier. To him, it was one of the outward manifestations of the much despised weakness that he saw, whenever he looked at his son. He was determined to ruthless crush any signs of weakness, in his only child. Senior stalked towards Tony and viciously backhanded him across the mouth with enough force, to send his small son flying through the air and down the marbled stairs. He landed at the bottom of the ostentatiously gaudy foyer, in a broken, agonising heap before the darkness mercifully claimed him. When Tony finally woke up in hospital following surgery, he was enclosed in a full body cast, doped to the eyeballs with pain medication and surrounded by strangers, all wanting answers to questions that he could never, ever give them
Even as a nine year old, he was well versed in the rules of the game and knew that he could never, reveal the truth about how he was hurt. As he got older, he learnt that taking up team sports that involved body contact, always provided him with a ready and believable alibi for explaining his frequent injuries. At nine years old though, he was still learning how to hide himself from those individuals, who sought to pry into his father's business. He told the suspicious doctors, nurses and the social worker who interrogated him, that he had been running around on the first floor at home and accidentally fallen down the stairs.
While the staff at the hospital, were sceptical that his injuries could be explained by a simply fall down the stairs, they were also intimidated by the fact that the small boy had been accompanied to hospital, not by a parent or guardian but his father's lawyer. Whether it was his inability or refusal to verbally accuse his father, or the threats and intimidation that were part and parcel of his father's power and influence, Tony was uncertain. Whatever the reason, it prevented anyone launching a police investigation into his injuries. Just like every other time before and after, the story of his injury was universally accepted, if not actually believed and it remained that way. Until that was,Tony started working at NCIS and came under the eagle eye of one caringly, suspicious and eccentric medical examiner.
Ducky had quickly discovered his extreme aversion to being taken to hospital. He then took it upon himself to seek out all of Tony's medical records, dating back to his childhood. The next time Tony had been hospitalised, Ducky had also organised to have a full set of X-rays taken and Tony knew that Ducky suspected something. He realised that many of his childhood injuries could be explained away by normal childhood mishaps, like falling out of trees and falling off bikes or skateboards. He was after all an athletic guy, so those excuses were highly believable but the Halloween injuries would not be so easily explained away.
Ducky was after all, a forensic specialist, used to determining how injuries occurred and he would know that a fractured pelvis, femur and a number of broken vertebrae would not be caused by a child simply falling downstairs. So, hoping that Ducky would never do the math and realise that the dates didn't add up, Tony told him that the injuries were caused by his mother crashing the car whilst driving drunk, with her son unrestrained in the car.
He really had been involved in a car accident, with his mother driving while drunk and he been injured, although it had happened the year before, when he was almost eight years old. He had already told Ducky that his mother had died from an accidental overdose of prescription painkillers, that she has taken while drinking. Ducky was therefore, not especially shocked when he told him that his mother had driven under the influence of alcohol. He usually didn't mention his mother's issues with alcohol or drugs but he had no choice, when Ducky insisted that he take some strong pain medication.
It was following a knife wound he incurred, not long after joining Gibbs' team at NCIS. Knowing that he needed a good reason why he refused to take pain meds, he had shared some of his mother's medical history. Although, it was partially true, he also refused to take painkillers because they also loosened his tongue and his inhibitions, in the same way that alcohol did. Being a highly secretive individual, he had been taught from birth that control was to be valued above all other qualities. It was something he had constantly aspired to be, always in control because he had been pathetically, desperate to gain his father's approval.
After many years, being brainwashed as a child in the mantra that he mustn't ever tell anyone that he was being hurt, even as an adult involved in law enforcement, those lessons were still so deeply ingrained. Add to that, his sheer terror that anyone should discover that he was a victim, that he had allowed himself to be hurt, that he had been weak; well, it affected every facet of his existence. He couldn't bear the thought that he might be subjected to scorn by his colleagues for not defending himself or even worse, that others would pity him for being the weakling that he saw when he looked in the mirror, yet managed to somehow hide from others. How could he convince people that he could protect them, when he couldn't save himself? So Tony maintained the secrets, that had been an integral part of his childhood. It had become as automatic to him, as breathing.
His nine year old self, had finally been released from the hospital after spending a lonely but peaceful couple of weeks being cared for by kindly strangers. He returned home, if one could call their residence that, to find his father off on an extended business trip somewhere. Meanwhile, he was left at home, with the household staff to care for him and a private tutor engaged by Senior, to oversee his studies while he continued to recuperate before being sent away to a fancy boarding school. Although Tony wasn't able to sit down due to the body cast, and could only stand or lie prone on a bed or sofa, he suspected that the reason he never returned to his old school, was much more pragmatic.
Tony thought that it would have caused, far too many serious and highly inconvenient questions to be asked by the staff, at his former school. The teachers were already suspicious about his constant parade of broken bones, cuts and bruises, which were way beyond what would be expected in a normal childhood. By withdrawing him from school until he was free of the body cast and then sending him off to boarding school, it was the easiest way for his father to avoid answering inconvenient questions, about the nature of his son's injuries and how he had come by them.
Next chapter, Tony slips up and someone from his past poses a threat to his privacy. It should be up soon.