Summary: The ending of episode 10x10 "You Better Watch Out" really rubbed me the wrong way. Simply put, Tony was not at fault in that episode. His father crossed the line, and he never apologized to Tony or even acknowledged that he'd done anything wrong. It's bothered me so much that I wrote this story to make up for it. It's set right after the episode ends. There are hints of Tiva.
Author's Note: This is my first NCIS story in four months. Although I still love reading other people's fanfics, I needed a break from writing for this show for a number of reasons, including Cote de Pablo's departure (which I know was a blow to all of us). I wish I could tell y'all that I'm still going to write for NCIS regularly, as I did for three years, but I simply don't know yet. Thank you for understanding.
For my own reference: 58th fanfiction, 33rd story for NCIS.
Tony is grateful when his father arranges to stay in a hotel for his last night in DC. He was nervous that even after the unspeakable fiasco in his bedroom, Senior would still expect to be welcome at Tony's apartment. But he isn't about to roll over for his dad again, not this time.
But Senior does ask to stop by his place one last time before he flies out – "I got you one more Christmas present," he says – and Tony reluctantly agrees. He answers his father's knock with a grimace on his face. He hasn't had time to buy a new bed yet, and his back still aches from sleeping on the couch. He makes a mental note to ask McGee to help him crack it again the next time he sees him.
Tony opens the door, but he doesn't move aside to let his dad in. It's going to be some damn time before he lets Senior into his apartment again – if he ever does. He made a complete mess of Tony's space, and the dirty dishes in the kitchen were the very least of it. But Senior doesn't seem to mind when his son doesn't let him in. He's standing the hall with a large shopping bag, and when Tony glances at it, he sees that it's actually several bags, each one smaller than the last and tucked inside it, like those weird Russian nesting dolls.
"What's with all the bags, Dad?" Tony asks, jerking his head towards them.
"Oh, they're insulation for your Christmas present," Senior explains. "I had to keep it warm." He reaches inside the nest of bags and pulls out a clear pastic bag, tightly sealed at the top and filled with water. Swimming around inside is a small green fish. Senior holds it out to Tony, as if expecting him to happy. "Well, how do you like him?" he asks.
I don't, Tony is tempted to answer, but he says instead, "Dad, you know I already have a fish."
But as usual, his father ignores his reluctance. He just grins broadly and exclaims, "Well, that's the whole point! I thought Kate might like some company. She must get tired of swimming around that bowl all by herself every day. So, I got her a boyfriend!"
He's still holding out the bag, and Tony feels obligated to take it, but he doesn't have to pretend to be happy with the gift. It obviously isn't as bad as when his dad slept with his creepy cougar of a neighbor in his bed, but it's along those lines. This fish is just one more thing that Senior brought into his apartment that Tony never wanted there.
"He's a male green cobra guppy fish," Senior goes on, not noticing his son's glare. "Now, the gal at the pet store said he just needs a freshwater bowl, fish food, and, uh... love."
Tony is still searching for a polite way to decline when Senior says, "Oh, almost forgot." He reaches into the depth of bags again and pulls out a small fish-tank decoration – a tiny, plastic pirate ship, designed to look like it's been ruined and sunk in battle. It reminds Tony of the pirate ship in Captain Blood, his favorite Errol Flynn movie, and he can't help smiling.
"See the holes blasted in the side?" his father asks, pointing. "They're big enough that he or Kate can swim inside when they need some space."
"Thanks, Dad," Tony answers, and as he says the words, he surprised to realize that he really means them.
Later, after he says goodbye to his father, Tony introduces the new fish into Kate's bowl and sets the miniature pirate ship in the gravel at the bottom. He's sure that his fish bowl will look too crowded now, but when he stands back to survey the effect, he's surprised. The bowl, which had sometimes seemed cold and empty before, with only Kate in it, now looks complete and even homey. It's the same feeling that he got when he returned home to find that Senior had covered his bare, white walls and big, empty floor spaces with Christmas decorations. I never knew it could look like this.
He carefully relocates the fish bowl to the end table beneath his wall lamp. It's much closer to the couch, where he sits down to read the newspaper. William and Kate, the British royals, beam up at him from the front page; they just announced that they'll be having their first baby next summer.
Tony flips to the entertainment section for the movie reviews, and he's halfway through a review of The Hobbit when he wonders if the new fish could be his dad's way of dropping another hint. Usually, Senior's hints are too glaringly obvious to even be called hints. They're more like anvils. "Junior, when are you gonna come to your senses and sweep this gorgeous creature off her feet?" he'd asked him last year.
This time, Senior was a bit more subtle, but the entire team had been there in the bullpen when he looked straight at Ziva and asked, "He's got room, doesn't he?" Gibbs had been there, of course, and he'd given Tony a steely, blue-eyed glare over his coffee cup that said Don't even think about it, as clearly as if his boss had spoken aloud.
Had Ziva gotten the same message out of that glare? She must have.
It was still hard to know how he felt about her, especially when his father and his father-figure obviously wanted such different things. Tony sighs and shifts through the paper, but his eyes wander back over to the fish bowl. Light from the lamp casts a silvery glow on the glass, and the two fish, with their wide, green and gold tails fanning through the water, circle around each other like two stars in orbit, or two people dancing. They actually look happy together – almost as happy as William and Kate on the front page. Tony would've never thought that fish even could look happy.
Hell, you've already got a Kate, Tony muses, and with that, he decides to name his new fish Will. It surprised him that Kate didn't seem to mind company and a change of decor in her fish bowl, the space that had been only hers for so long, but maybe sometimes you didn't know how much you'd wanted things to change until the changes were upon you.