Gibbs dialed his phone. "Jen," he said dryly. "You were bragging on my new relationship with my senior agent?" She laid out why she thought they were together and he blinked at why she had made that assumption. "No, he's only my senior agent, Jen. Really." His son giggled at him. "You, quit. He's not really your mother." He shook his head at her continued assertion it was fine with her as long as she didn't ask and he didn't tell her blatantly that it was a relationship. "It's not, Jen. It never has been." He shuddered at what she put out next. "No, it's not. It's staying not. Thank you." He hung up and covered his eyes with his free hand. Xander crawled into his lap and gave him a hug. "Thanks, kiddo. I needed that." He gave him a kiss on the head. "How about a nap? Daddy could use a nap." They laid down to watch the late cartoons on Nickelodeon. Xander hummed along with some of the songs. He decided Tony's migraine from a few months back was a reasonable thing. Tony came back. "Your phone's at the desk."
"I got it. Fornell called. She's hiding but he has a strong lead where. Also, you need to call him." He looked at him. "She told you?"
"Yes and then I talked to our new director, who decided you were good for me and the son. Even if I did let you play too much. She also said it showed so much trust when you said you had my six in the elevator. She assumed I was letting you have me," he said flatly.
"I've heard that one before," he admitted. "Half the men in the office who hate us for being good think you're my stress relief. We play kinky bondage games and I make you break and beg." Gibbs just stared at that. "I've told them time and again my stress relief in moderately kinky sex with women, boss. They don't want to listen because then you're just like them only better. Which they can't accept. With those thoughts you're gay and therefore in a special category of alien."
Gibbs shook his head and his son came back to pat him on it. "I know. They're wrong, but it's very nice of you to take care of me, Xander. Thank you. Lunch?"
"Works for me. Get something for him?"
"Of course." He sat down to hand out food, making Xander a happy boy for his salad with meat chunks. Tony smirked at the older man. "I'll eat the lettuce if he won't. I could use some roughage."
"I didn't need to know that either." He ate a bite. "Your mother's here?" Tony choked. "Marta called me to confirm that we're not actually a couple." He removed something from his son's hands, putting all the breakable things back onto the higher table so he couldn't get to them. "Thank you, son. I can't afford to buy them a new one of those." He sat down to eat again, pushing his son's food closer. Tony added some dressing off to the side, letting him have some messy fun too while he dunked. Gibbs looked at him. "Is that a good idea?"
"Yeah. He'll have fun and eat the lettuce. It's good for him." He grinned. "So, my mother's here somewhere?" Gibbs nodded, eating another bite. "Can I hide the whole time we're here?"
"Until she leaves. "Is she going to eat you?"
"Marta suggested I should have told her Xander was our son together when she called to nag me." Gibbs choked this time. "That's how I broke her sex fantasy about us." He ate another bite.
Gibbs pushed that thought to the back of his mind before he got sick from it. "Whatever. How did you introduce her to her husband but he wants to meet you?"
"He didn't connect the guy I was with the guy from her stories. He's a former frat brother. None of them knew I came from money and power."
"Oh." He nodded and finished his sandwich, taking a bite of his son's lettuce. Xander squealed and stuffed more in his mouth, chewing and then smirking when he swallowed. "Eat the rest before I do." His son continued to stuff his mouth. "Slow down."
Tony smirked at him. "You're good, boss."
"I try." He got up when someone knocked, letting Fornell in. "I was going to call you after we cleaned up the little guy."
"You got him to eat a salad?"
"Yeah, I stole a piece after Tony added dressing. He's very possessive of what's his."
"You should've seen him scowl at the women with kids who stopped to talk to me in the park," Tony said dryly, sipping his tea. Xander scowled at him again. "What? They were nice and mostly pretty." Xander pouted. "Hey, you could have a sibling some day," he offered. "A baby brother or sister."
"Pony!" he said firmly. "No!"
"Or maybe not," Fornell said dryly. "Hi, Xander." Xander beamed at him. "Are you being a good boy?" The boy pointed at the window and made squealy noises. "Yeah, that's a pretty view. Finish lunch while I talk to your daddy, okay?" Xander came over to drag him to the window, showing him what he had seen. "Huh, there's a very large limo downstairs and a bride getting out. Interesting."
Tony came over to look. "Unless she dyed her hair, that's not her."
"Good to know." He looked at him. "I didn't hear we had anyone that high profile here this weekend."
"Marta doesn't brag," he said with a shrug. He looked across the way. "Um, boss, forgive me if I'm wrong but is that someone on the next roof over with something pointed at this hotel?"
Fornell looked. "Could be a paparazzi."
"Maybe," Gibbs agreed. "Better to be safe than sorry, Fornell." He nodded and called it in. Some of his agents stormed up there a few minutes later and drug him off, holding up his gun and the camera. "Good call, DiNozzo. You're a big help, son." Xander beamed and went back to steal some of Tony's sandwich.
"Hey! I wanted some of that. Now I'll have to eat your salad." He snatched a bite and Xander went back to it, leaving Tony his sandwich until he was done, then he snatched the meat out of it and wandered off to look out the window again. Tony shook his head but finished his bread, using it to sop up the rest of the dressing from the salad. "I guess he was hungrier than I thought," he said dryly.
"Apparently." Fornell looked at him. "Keep the kid for a few?"
"Sure. Go for it." They went into the bedroom. Tony came over to help Xander watch the incoming wedding. "Please let my mother be here for that," he begged any God who might be listening. "Please?"
Xander patted him. "Momma?"
"Yeah, my momma, Xander. She's a mean old lady too." He gave him a cuddle. "Oooh, look, horsies." They stared as the groom got out of a horse-drawn carriage and walked inside. "I thought that was the bride's thing," he muttered. Xander grinned at him. "Some day you can ride in one of those," he agreed. "Maybe after you get married." He poked him on the stomach and they went back to watching the stuff going on below.
"Don't wish wives on my son, DiNozzo," Gibbs said from the bedroom doorway.
"Just one good one, boss," he said, looking at him. "You okay?"
"You have excellent instincts." Tony stared then his mouth fell open. "She decided to torch the boat. The fire department got it before it fully engulfed the bottom floor but it's mostly gone." He came over to sit with his son. "Thank you for having that one."
"Not a problem, boss. Are we missing anything precious from there?"
"Everything precious I had was in the car with us, in my safety deposit box, or in a fireproof filing cabinet and safe." Tony hugged him. "Thanks. Now get off."
"It's a time to be mushy and you can have my couch as long as you need it, boss. You know that." That got a silent nod. "You okay?"
"Grieving for the boat," he admitted.
"It happens." He looked at Fornell. "When?"
"Five this morning. How survival trained is she, DiNozzo?"
"She was a nurse but when I suggested we go to the park, she said she hated the outdoors. I'm not sure what to tell you. She has a sister in Richmond she's close to. You might check her."
"I'll do that," he agreed, making a note about that. "Anything else you can think of?"
"It depends. Why did she do that? I mean, is it part of what the director spread around?" he asked Gibbs, who had more experience profiling than he did.
Gibbs shrugged. "Could be," he admitted.
"What did your new director and his former girlfriend spread around?" Fornell asked Tony.
"That we're a very cute couple and Xander's our son instead of his son." Fornell blanched at that. "My former school friend Marta owns this place with her husband. She heard it from her so she's said it in public."
"Crap," he muttered. "That could be a reason. If she thinks Jethro is taking you from her, she'd react to that threat." He walked off shaking his head, calling that information in. Including that he didn't think it was true but others had heard that suggestion. It was reasonable, especially with how hands-on Tony was with another guy's kid. Not that he believed a hole-hound like DiNozzo would give up women. Ever. Though he had heard a nasty drag queen rumor about him....
Tony handed Xander over, then went to the bathroom to give father and son time alone. He had to grieve his house and things that were lost. Especially the boat.
Gibbs took a minute then called Kate. "She burned my house starting with the boat," he said patiently. "I want this woman found and presented to Fornell in handcuffs and without more than a slap on her. If there's any torture I get to do it," he said firmly. He listened. "How destroyed was his place? DiNozzo? She struck your place again!" He listened. "What was the furry thing?" He nodded at that. "Thanks for the update, Kate. No, he didn't. He was here to tell me about my house. Thanks." He hung up and Tony came back out. "The thing you found at home last night wasn't her, it was the cranky, delusional person in HR who you never hit on. She's since been arrested. The later trashing of your place, including some of your movie collection, and then the arson at my place was your ex."
Tony hung his head. "I'm sorry, boss. I have no idea what I did wrong! I didn't even hit on her!"
"Which fouled her ego," he said blandly. "She decided you were overlooking her. That she did meet up to your standards."
"She's nearly twenty years older than any woman I've ever dated," he pointed out. "I date pretty young things. Not middle aged mostly pretty things. Really! I even gave her a compliment on the weight she lost last year!"
"It's not your fault you've got a psychotic fanclub," he said calmly. "Any others I should know about?"
"Two back in Philly and Peoria. That's why I left." He went back to swear in the bathroom so Xander couldn't hear him.
Gibbs looked at his son. "You will never be allowed to date women like he did, Xander. I don't care what your ex thinks. You're not allowed. I'd welcome you being gay first." He kissed him on the head and his son smiled at him before going back to the window watching. "Huh. Horses. Who came in the carriage?" he called.
"Not a clue," Tony said as he came out. "Boss, would you mind really a whole lot if I started to date the Probie?"
"You'd kill each other and then I'd have to replace my hacking and computer tech," he said dryly. "Pick someone else, DiNozzo." Tony nodded and sat down, holding his head. "Local PD could probably use a call about the new wreck."
"I'll do it later, when I'm calmer."
"Sure. I get that. Want to take him down for ice cream in the restaurant?"
"That'll work. Get his shoes on while I put on some." They did that then headed downstairs. He saw a familiar back and groaned, hiding his face in Xander's hair. "This is not my year," he complained quietly.
Gibbs looked then nodded. "Apparently not." They walked around the older woman, glancing at her. Tony must take after his father. His eyes were the same as hers but nothing else it seemed. Except maybe his height.
"Anthony, I know you saw me," she snapped. He turned and she looked at the child in his arms. "He doesn't have the DiNozzo eyes?"
"He's Gibbs' son, mother. Are you here for the wedding we saw pulling in?"
"No, dear. I've heard some rumors about you." She smiled at the boy. "Hello, young man. I'm your grandmother." Xander burst out crying. "I'm sorry." Gibbs took him to calm him down. "He was charming looking."
"He's a very good and smart boy, mother. That's the one I watched while I was injured."
"So I heard," she admitted. "Is this a new thing?"
"Mother, he's my boss," he sighed. "What did you hear?"
"That you had a good and loving man on your arms, that you had adopted his family as your own. That he made you see some reality about life."
"Mom, he's my boss at NCIS," he said more firmly. "Mother, let me introduce Special Agent and Gunny Jethro Gibbs. Gibbs, this is my mother."
"Pleasure," he said bluntly. "We should take this out of the open."
"I'm not ashamed of my son being gay, Jethro."
"Mother, we're here because I've got two women stalking me. One of them killed things and put them in my home," Tony said bluntly. "One burned Gibbs' house." She gasped at that. "We need to take this out of plain view." He led her into the restaurant, giving Gibbs a 'sorry' look. They were seated. "Can the baby and I have ice cream? Chocolate for him, vanilla with strawberries for me? Water for both of us. Gibbs needs coffee, and ice cream?"
"Vanilla's fine," he agreed. "Pineapple sauce if you have it. If not, no topping." The waitress nodded. "Mrs. DiNozzo?"
"I'll have some tea, dear. Thank you." She nodded and walked off. She looked at the young boy on his father's lap. "May I hold him?"
"He's not always fond of women, mother," Tony said quietly.
"That would be a drawback of being in a gay relationship," she admitted.
"No, one of his nannies abandoned him," Gibbs told her.
"Oh. I'm sorry. Was she fired?"
"And arrested, unfortunately before we could shoot her," Tony agreed dryly. "So, you heard about our supposed relationship where?"
"Oh, well, at a party dear. Someone from around here was told by someone who knew." She smiled and patted his hand. "I don't mind and I now understand why Kitty wasn't right for you, Anthony." She gave him another pat and a smile. "If you had *told* us...."
"Mom, it was a long time ago and she was wrong for many reasons," he said bluntly. "Did Dad start to shout?"
"No, it's fashionable you know." She smiled. "It gives him something to complain about to his golfing buddies, how he won't have grandchildren to carry on the family legacy."
"I can still have kids, mother, but I'm not sure if I'm sterile since I did have to do some light radiation when I got the plague."
"Why wasn't I told?" she demanded, glaring at Gibbs.
"I called your house and his office, ma'am. No one ever called back. Which I think is a shame that you tossed away a good son. I wouldn't blame him for being angry at the moment."
She sniffled. "I'll take that up with his father's secretary. She will not get away with not telling me." Their orders were brought and she paid the check and a tip. "There you go, dear." She poured herself some tea. She watched Gibbs pour himself some coffee and the child drink from his glass of water. "We couldn't get Anthony to do that until he was one and a half," she said, smiling some.
"He likes his cup," Gibbs said, staying polite. He held up a spoon of his son's ice cream. "It's chocolate." His son dove closer to suck on the spoon. "Easy, kiddo. You can't feed yourself here. This is not the place to get messy."
"They make bibs for that," the waitress offered when she came back with a highchair and a bib with a wink. "My own did that now and then." Gibbs smiled and let Tony put him into the high chair. The bib was tied on by the waitress. "There you go." His ice cream got handed over with the shorter, fatter spoon. Xander dug in and happily sucked it all down, only dripping some and splashing a few other bites on the floor. They didn't have anyone seated nearby thankfully.
"Looks like he'll need a bath when we get upstairs," Gibbs said.
"He will," Tony agreed, smiling at him. "This time don't try to snorkel on us." He looked at his mother. A cold finger got stuck in his ear and he ducked. "Eww, Xander." The baby giggled. Tony did it to him and he quit. "Thanks." He wiped off his finger then his ear, balling up the napkin. "So you came to check on the rumors, mother?"
"I did, dear. As I said, it's more understood today than it was when you were younger." She smiled and patted his hand again. "I'm perfectly all right with it. Are you two living together?"
"No, he's over all the time," Gibbs said. "Mostly to help me with Xander. Unfortunately, due to these circumstances, my house got burned, his got trashed by the psychotic woman after him, and we're here in protective custody of the FBI."
"You and my son must be very important agents then, Jethro."
"I'm one of the senior agents at the local NCIS branch. Tony's my senior agent. We have the highest statistics due to your son's help."
"Really?" She blinked at him. "But surely that's still menial work."
"Oh, it is, but it's good work, mother. The more killers I can put away the better I feel. It's a good feeling to put someone away because they did something wrong." He ate a bite of his sundae.
"How long have you two been together?"
"Tony's been on my team now for nearly five years," Gibbs told her. "He's one of the longest lasting on my team because I have some very high standards."
She smiled at that. "I'm glad we could raise him to have such a promising work ethic, even though we would desire him to have a different career."
"It's this or Xander's nanny, mom." He stuffed his mouth again. He shot his boss a 'wtf' look and got back a small smirk. Oh, damn, Gibbs was going to eat his mother's soul instead of his ice cream. "This is really good ice cream, boss. Maybe we should get them to do Xander's cake and ice cream for his first birthday."
"Maybe," he agreed, taking a bite. His son beamed at him. "You're so messy," he sighed. Tony leaned over with a dampened napkin to clean his forehead and nose off. "That helps some." He shook his head. "Due to the current restrictions on the agency, we can't confirm or deny anything about a personal relationship, Mrs. DiNozzo."
"I understand, but I am his mother."
"And you heard it from our director, who we didn't tell," Tony told her.
"Oh, I see. Of course I understand then." She smiled at them then the happy baby, sipping her tea. She stroked a hand over his cheek, making him look at her. "You are an adorable young scamp. My Anthony, your Poppa Tony, used to spread his food everywhere as well. The nanny never could keep him clean at meal times." Xander blinked at her, then he ate another bite, getting most of it in his mouth. "That's a good boy. Do more of that so you eat more and wear less, dear." He ate another bite, looking at his father.
"That's Tony's mommy, Xander."
"Is that his name?"
"It's short for Alexander, but you know how full names are for punishment," Tony said blandly. He sipped some of his water, then dug back into his ice cream. "His birthday's next month, right, Gibbs?"
"It is," he agreed. "We're going to have the team over for dinner and do the traditional cake and ice cream." The waitress came back and he smiled at her. "Are we being too loud?"
"No, please," she said dryly. "He's not loud at all. He's being adorable." She smiled and handed over a few packages of wet wipes from the bar. "Works better than napkins, guys." She smiled at the boy, getting one back. "My daughter would hug you all day if you let her."
"He loves to cuddle but loves furry things best," Tony told her with a small grin. She grinned back and walked off again. He looked at Xander. "Eat, squirt." Xander slurped some of the melted milk, then picked up his bowl to drink it, Tony lunging to help him so it wouldn't spill all over the rugs. He checked it when Xander was done, breaking open the wet wipes to start the tedious cleaning process.
"Feed him some of yours, Anthony, he's still hungry. He's just a little boy," she chided.
"When I get him clean, mom. You can't have a kid that messy somewhere like this." She nodded that was true and he finished cleaning him then shared his own sundae with him, getting baby beams of joy and love. "Love you too, Xander. Now, behave? For another few minutes?" The baby babbled and grabbed one of Grandma's earrings to play with. She squealed and got free of him. "Sorry."
"No, they are tempting targets. You used to play with anything shiny that I wore," she admitted, taking off the other one, then smiled at him. "There, that's better. Now you can't grab the grandma." She patted him on the head. "You're adorable."
"Say thank you," Gibbs ordered, giving his son a look.
"Pony!" he squealed and beamed at her.
"Very close," she agreed. "Anthony used to call my kitty cat at your age."
Tony shoved a large bite of ice cream in his mouth then gave Xander more when he opened his mouth. "Boss, not hungry?"
"Here, I'll feed the poor thing," his mother promised, taking it to do that. "Did you go with a surrogate to have him?" she asked.
"No, someone in the military decided to use me to start a better race of soldiers," he said grimly. "They implanted his mother, who I never met, and who was underage when it happened. They found out through DNA testing."
"How on earth did they get her?"
"Her sister had been dating one of the commandos associated with the project," Tony told her. "We've captured most of them."
"Does she not want to see him?"
"She comes out as often as she can to see him," Gibbs told her. "She was out a few months ago."
"That's good then. I suppose at her age she didn't have much of a choice."
"All she wanted was him to be loved and protected," Gibbs assured her. That got him a smile and a pat on the hand. Tony scraped his bowl and ate the last bite. His mother held out one for him so he took it, slowly but he took it. She smiled at him. "We really should go back to our room, Mrs. DiNozzo. Not to cut the reunion short or anything but we don't know if she's close or not."
"Of course. I understand. What room are you in?" Tony showed her the key. "Then I'll try to pop around tonight, Anthony." She smiled at Xander. "You're so handsome." She finished her tea and left.
Gibbs slid over to finish his ice cream, making sure she was gone. "You good?"
"I'm going to throttle someone," he admitted, looking at his boss. "She *bragged* about it?"
"It makes her look progressive and tolerant," he said blandly. "It's political." Tony put his head down. "Let's finish up and go up there." He found the waitress. "Check?" She shook her head. "Nothing?" he mouthed. She shook her head. He put down money anyway, earning a smile. She had given excellent service and had kept Tony's mother from saying too much to them. They grabbed the baby and took him back upstairs. The few people in the lobby smiled at the few chocolate smears Tony had missed. "Ice cream break," he told Kate when they ran into her.
"I've had those." She got onto the elevator with them, going up to check their room. "I'm sitting guard."
"Sure," Tony agreed. "My mother promised she'd be over later."
"Is the bathroom soundproofed?"
"No but the basement is." He walked out, going to find somewhere he could scream in frustration. Someone came to check on him. "My mother's here," he explained. That got a nod and a smile and the security guard left him alone to finish screaming in peace. By the time he was done he was nearly hoarse but he didn't care. He stopped in the gift shop to get a soda and a juice for the baby then went back to the room, tapping to be let in. He handed Gibbs the juice and collapsed in a chair. "Any more horrible news, Kate?"
"We got the probies at the agency to box up all your stuff once they took the damaged stuff, Tony. It's all in storage over on East." She handed over a slip. "Pay me back this week."
"Thanks. Gibbs' stuff?"
"The same storage place. There wasn't much left. The upstairs was barely touched," she offered. "The living room sustained very little damage. Only one wall was on fire when the trucks got there. They put it all out from the back of the house since it was worse out there." That got a nod. "So we did manage to save most of the stuff in the living room and the upstairs bedrooms." Gibbs relaxed at that. "I'm sorry about the boat, Gibbs."
"Not your fault, Kate. Or DiNozzo's." He shook the juice and his son beamed at him, coming over to help him drink it. "You've been a black hole for food today, son."
"Means he's hitting another growth spurt, boss," Tony said tiredly. "Did he tell you about my mother?"
"I heard the rumors," she said dryly, looking at him. "So, how long have you two been seeing each other?"
"According to some sources the day I joined," Tony said blandly. "According to others, I went to him after I got the plague." He took another drink and looked at his boss. "This is going to ruin your rep and mine, Gibbs. Can we do anything about her?"
"The director," he said firmly. "It was bad enough with what Kate tried to pull."
"I apologized openly," she pointed out. "McGee googled your name and came up with one blog that mentioned that rumor. He did leave a note saying that it had been a malicious coworker who had been tired of hearing about your dating life. She amended her earlier entry to say it was a false rumor and took it down after a day." She looked at Gibbs again. "His mother thinks...." He nodded. "How did she hear?"
"The director apparently told a whole social gathering," he said blandly. She shuddered. "It made it back to her via mutual friends."
"I'm so sorry, Gibbs. Being in love with DiNozzo must be rotten."
"Kate, corner," Gibbs ordered, pointing at one. She glared at him. He glared back. She stomped that way and Xander 'ooohed' at her punishment. "You'll get that when you start to understand the concept of bad too, son," he promised.
"She's going to ask us about marriage, Gibbs," Tony said quietly.
"You played along," he reminded him.
"It helped! Besides, I didn't say anything."
"Yeah but you didn't protest either."
"Yeah but we can't due to the job."
Tony leaned his head back. "Can I have another migraine?"
"No. They gave you medicine for that."
"Which is probably in storage."
"Point. You still can't abandon us to your mother, DiNozzo."
"Fine, boss. Turnabout's fair play though. You can't abandon me either."
"Kate can stay."
"Then she'll think we're a threesome," he said flatly. "Or she's our surrogate for another grandchild."
"I have more class than that," Kate said sarcastically. Someone knocked and she went to check, looking at Tony. "Is your mother a brunette?"
"Tall, leggy, my type?" Tony asked. She grunted. "That's Marta, she owns the hotel." Kate let her in. "Hey, Marta, that's Kate."
"It's a pleasure to meet more of Anthony's teammates," she said, smiling and shaking her hand. "Is everything all right?" Tony looked at her. "I was told you ran into your mother," she admitted, coming over to give him a hug. "Are you all right?" He nodded, patting her on the back. "Good." She smiled at him. "I heard someone got adorable with his ice cream," she teased, finding Xander to tickle him. He giggled and swatted at her, running away. His father caught him. "Aww. He's so cute."
"Until he sucks on your neck," Kate admitted. "Thank you for protecting Gibbs and his son, and stuffing Tony in a closet that's large enough to be bragged about in travel magazines. It was probably better than his usual closet."
She smiled at her. "I adore Tony, dear. I went to school with him. He tormented me about my first bra, my first boy, my first pimple."
"Your first woman, your first hangover," Tony teased with a small grin. She smirked at him. "Your first..." She swatted him. "Fine, not time for that story yet?"
"NO!" She gave him a look and a smile. "Be a *good* boy, Tony."
"He's never good," Kate told her.
She looked at her, then at Tony. "You never told them about Madeline?" He shook his head. "Or the kitten that would only come down when you went up after her?"
"How you babysitting your grandmother?" He shook his head. "How you pounced the coach that was freaking out with a shotgun?"
"I've never heard of any of those," Kate admitted, coming closer.
Marta shook her head. "No wonder they all think you're sleeping with your boss."
"Gibbs has better taste."
Marta looked at her. "You *obviously* don't know Anthony then, dear. Anthony was...."
"Marta," Tony warned. "She's like a sibling. Please don't give her ammunition."
"Fine, I won't."
"You can tell me," Gibbs offered.
"No, she can't," Tony said firmly. "You'd use it to blackmail me into doing *more* of the mundane paperwork."
"You're my senior agent."
"Get Kate! Or Probie, he can type ninety words a minute!" He stood up. "Come on, Xander. Let's go for a walk so you don't look at me funny too."
The little boy smiled at him and tugged on Marta's skirt, smiling at her. "Go bye bye?"
"Soon, sweetie. Very soon."
He nodded and followed Tony back to the bathroom, squealing at what he found in there. He came toddling out a few minutes later. "Fair," he said, smiling at his father and handing over the PDA.
"Fair?" he asked, looking at the picture. He nearly blanched. He didn't know Tony caught that one day when Xander had run him so ragged he was passed out leaning against his chair in the living room with his hair messed up and his son had drawn on him with markers. "Yeah, I guess that's fair." He turned off the picture and took his son back to hold. "You can come back, DiNozzo. Kate's not allowed to pump her for information."
Tony opened the bedroom door, leaning in the doorway. Marta grinned at him and he crossed his arms over his chest so he could smirk back.
"Fair is fair," she agreed. "Still have that picture of me?"
"Both of them."
"You gave one to Greg."
"Yes but I kept the negative, Marta." She blushed at that. "No giving my team blackmail material until I'm gone."
"Not even the one about Arabelle's kitten?"
"That one's okay."
She smiled at the other two. "When we were about twelve, thirteen, somewhere around there, one of the other girls in our neighborhood got this *adorable* little cat. Just a tiny little thing. Barely weighed five pounds at full growth." She smiled at Xander, who was cooing. She sat down next to him. "Arabelle was, of course, gone most of the day at school and her mother loathed that cat. It had been a present from the second stepmommy's new husband. So she let the cat out every single day about ten minutes after her daughter had caught the bus. The cat wandered around the neighborhood for a few days but then decided his favorite place was in the neighbor's maple tree." Tony let out a snort at that. "A sugar maple. The problem was, she couldn't climb up after it and the cat couldn't or wouldn't come down. If anyone climbed up to rescue it, it'd claw the rescuer up and then run back up the tree, even more scared now. Until Tony hopped up there one day and petted him. Then he slowly brought him down and handed him back to mommy.
"From that day until her mother ran over that cat two years later Tony had to stop and get her cat every single day on the way home. He'd wake up when the bus stopped, start swishing his tail, meowing greetings to Tony. He'd move so he could catch him easier. Then he'd come back down, hand him to his mommy and head home. His mother complained for *months* about the dirt he was getting into. His mom's just a bit germphobic," she told Gibbs. "She might've done therapy for that by now but I doubt it. His father told him he was stupid and the girl was just too lazy to train her cat. Yelled at him for saving him and ruining his clothes. But he still did it. Every single day until she lost him. Then dear, sweet Tony held a funeral for the poor dear, and backhanded her mother when she came out to sneer and interrupt. He claimed he tripped and fell but we all saw him intentionally hit her. His father yelled even more that night and he yelled back then stomped off. Spent the night on my couch. But that's just one of the neat things about Tony. He rescues kitties and little boys named Xander." Xander beamed at that.
"He certainly does," Gibbs agreed, looking back at DiNozzo. "Why couldn't you handle that one cat then?"
"It didn't like me." He shrugged. "Besides, Probie needed to toughen up a bit more." He came over to smile and hug her. "No more sharing."
"Yes, Tony. So, what is she doing? All I know is that she was calling home by the phone logs."
"Apparently having a gay son is fashionable," he hissed. She nodded at that. "So she's probably bragging to Dad about that." He shrugged. "Not like I care."
"Good point." She stroked his cheek. "You should come over for dinner more often."
"I would but your husband gets jealous."
"Well, yes," she admitted. "You always were the real threat to him, Tony." She stood up and kissed him on the cheek. "Be a good boy. Let me know if I can help more."
"Just make sure she doesn't get in here. Did Fornell hand over the information file?"
"He did and we haven't seen her. He went over it with all the security guards." She smiled. "Did you have a good scream?"
"Yup. The guard seemed to understand."
"I'm sure he did." She smiled and kissed him again, still on the cheek, then left.
Tony looked up at the camera she had hidden in a corner. "It was on my cheek, Greg. Really." He sat down again and looked at his boss. "I used to climb trees."
"I heard." He smirked back. "Any other skills we should hear about?"
"Um...no." He grinned and took Xander back, letting him snuggle in his lap. "I will always come rescue you, just like I did her kitty, Xander." Xander gave him the most trusting look. "I promise I will." Xander nodded and snuggled against his chest, tired now. "Good boy, Xander. You rest. Do you want to nap in your crib?" Xander shook his head. "It'd be more comfy."
"Okay. You can sleep there. Let me put my feet up." He did that and got comfortable, putting a pillow behind his lower back. Xander nuzzled his cheek against Tony's shoulder and fell asleep that way. Tony yawned. It had been a stressful and emotional day. He let himself drift off as well. It was a good time for a nap. Maybe he'd miss his mother showing up.
Kate looked at Gibbs. "Are you okay with this?" she asked quietly. He shrugged. She nodded and let it go, going to watch their backs for now.
Gibbs watched Tony sleep with his son. They did look a lot like what he thought fathers and sons should do on Sunday afternoons. It was almost sweet. He took a picture of them then set his phone aside. He could download it later.
Gibbs opened the door when Tony's mother knocked, glancing at the still sleeping agent and son. He nodded at them and she smiled, cooing a bit. That woke Xander, who blinked at her and yawned, then held up his arms for his father to take him. Tony grunted in displeasure. Xander licked him on the cheek so he let him go. "We can talk while I change him," Gibbs ordered, leading her into the bedroom. He looked at his son. "Do you need a bath or just a change?" Xander wiggled his bottom half. "Sure." He went to get a wet cloth to clean him up. He knew he was messy. "So, how's home?"
"Good, Jethro. You... change your own diapers?" she asked, looking confused.
Gibbs nodded. "He doesn't have a nanny at the moment."
"Oh. I couldn't have lived without mine."
"I find he lets me clean him and he enjoys having me do it. He thinks Tony wipes too hard." He got to work cleaning him up and putting on a clean diaper. He changed his clothes too, they were a mess with ice cream. He looked in the bag and moaned. Then he called Kate. "It's me. Where are his clothes? I only packed an overnight bag for him, Kate. Actually, for both of us. Fine. Thanks. No, most of that wasn't fitting him anymore. We were going to give it back to charity. Thank you." He hung up and looked at his son, then at the dirty clothes. He had some that weren't *too* filthy. He put him back into his sleeper, getting a frown. "You need new clothes, son. We've got to go shopping."
"I know just the *perfect* place," she encouraged.
Gibbs looked at her. "We usually take him to some second hand shops and consignment shops. That way we can trade out what we have so other parents can find good clothes."
"That's fine, I'm sure he doesn't care at his age, but it does look better if he's in good, fitting things," she complained. She looked him over. "You could probably use some as well, dear."
"Mrs. DiNozzo, I wear this to work," he told her simply. "It's easier when I have to find out why someone killed someone else." Xander poked him on the chest. "What?" Xander made sucking faces. "You're hungry *again*?" Xander beamed at him. "Fine. Let's go wake up Tony."
"No, let him sleep. It's better if I get to know my son's fiance and his very adorable stepson." She patted Xander on the head. "Come along, Jethro, we'll take the baby shopping properly so he's got very sweet clothes. That way we can get a nice picture taken by someone good and sent up for the mantle. His grandfather wanted to see him." She led the way out.
Gibbs called Kate, who was downstairs with the security guards. "Apparently I'm leaving with Mrs. DiNozzo and Xander for a bit. Come watch DiNozzo nap." He hung up and picked up his son and the diaper bag, checking it. "We need more diapers too," he complained, grabbing a few from the pack. He walked out stuffing them into the bag one handed. He grabbed one of the keys and followed her to the elevator then down to her hired car. "He has some cute outfits, they're all in storage, Mrs. DiNozzo."
"Call me Mother, please, Jethro."
"Mother then," he said, mentally grimacing. Xander looked at him. "That's Tony's mommy, Xander. Remember, we had ice cream with her." Xander smiled at her and let her hitch him into the carseat Jethro got from their car.
"I never would've thought to put that in here. In my day the baby sat on the backward facing seat so he'd be fine if anything happened."
"His safety is one of my first concerns," Jethro told her. "He always uses his seat and it turns into a carrier for later on." She smiled at that. He checked the size in the sleeper. "You're in eighteen months clothes, son. I'm proud." Xander beamed at him. "Good boy." He smoothed down his hair. "We'll get you a real bath when we get back."
"He didn't have one earlier?"
"He decided to nap instead."
"Have you had his sugar checked?
"He wore himself out watching out the window," he told her. "Plus we think he's hitting a growth spurt. He'll get one later."
"Good. It's good that you take such good care of him."
"Pony!" Xander said, pointing at one.
Gibbs looked. "That's right, that's a horsey, Xander. Very good job!" Xander smiled at him. "Should we take you riding on your birthday? Would you like to go riding on a horsey?" Xander babbled and swatted/patted him. "Okay, we can do that."
"Tony does know how to ride," she offered. "He learned in school you know."
"I didn't, he never told me, but he's more than welcome to come with us. I don't think he's been since he moved to DC a few years back."
"That's such a shame," she sighed. "Well, we'll have to fix that." She smiled at him. "Now, do you have any pets yet?"
"He had a bunny but we had a problem with a temporary sitter and it," he said quietly.
"Oh, dear. Does he want a new one?"
"Probably but I'm wary of giving him a new rabbit and I'm not home all the time for something needier, like a dog." He looked at his son then at her. "He had wanted a miniature horse but we made him see some reality. He can have one of those when he's older and won't be stepped on."
"Of course. You must be careful about those things. Especially since dogs could bite."
"He likes to cuddle dogs. Even the sniffing ones we have around the office. He pounced the last one he saw."
"Aren't you worried he'll be bit? We didn't allow Anthony around dogs until he was nearly eight."
"No, I watch my son or someone else is watching my son. No matter what's going on." He pointed at a shop. "That's where we normally go."
"Yes, but that's so *common*," she complained. "For those lesser folk who don't make enough money, Jethro."
He looked at her. "Xander is a very common child, Mrs. DiNozzo. He'll always be one, even if he ends up with an extraordinary gift he'll still be living on my salary."
"Nonsense, he's the DiNozzo heir," she complained. "We're going where I'd shop for him." She patted Xander on the head. "He is still sleepy."
"Car rides do that to most children."
"I wondered why our nanny used to take Tony for car rides."
"The action and vibration of the car is soothing," he said, settling back into his seat. He decided he was going to get the root cause of this issue for making him go shopping with Tony's mother. Their director was toast when he saw her next time. He looked at the shop they pulled into. "I don't make enough in a month for a single outfit," he complained.
"Jethro, this is my only grandchild. I'll gladly outfit him so he has something suitable for his portrait." She got out and led him inside, smiling at the saleswoman. "This is my son's fiance and their son. He's recently had a fire you know," she said quietly. That got a nod. "He does like animals if that helps you decide. Whatever he needs, dear."
"Of course. This way, sir?" She smiled and led Gibbs off, looking at the boy in the carrier. "Do you know what size he's wearing?"
"These are eighteen months and they fit."
"So that if they're cut generously or the next size up?" she suggested. He nodded that would be fine. She noticed his unease and showed him one with zoo animals. "First time here?"
"We usually go to Linda's. Abby knows her."
"I've heard she's got a great store," she agreed happily. "At his age it's only the parents and grandparents who care what he looks like." Gibbs nodded at that. "Things to crawl around in? We do have some with extra knee protection."
"He's barely started to walk Friday."
"All right, then we'll see what we can do. He's not too pudgy either."
"He's not. Even though he has been a hoover today." That got a smile and the next size was gotten for most everything. "Have one?"
"Three," she offered with a small smile. "All girls." She glanced at the browsing mother then at him. "I loved Linda's," she admitted quietly. Gibbs nodded. She pulled down something. "This is unisex. Does he like horses?" The overalls had a large pretty pony on the front.
"He goes into fits of joy at horses," he admitted, putting that in the basket. Since she had offered and all...
"Jethro, that's for a little girl," Tony's mother complained a few minutes later.
"Actually it's for both sexes, ma'am, and if he likes horses he'll adore it. He can pair it with a solid colored t-shirt so it's suitable for play or other things with a better shirt." Xander started to wake up. "Let's let him decide." She held up the overalls and the boy squealed while grabbing it.
"Fine. Every child has odd things. My son used to have this adorable sailor suit."
"I heard," Gibbs agreed.
"You did? Did Anthony tell you, Jethro?"
He looked at her. "No, as part of his background check to join the agency we had to talk to some of his acquaintances and some of yours."
"Oh. You did that?"
"The FBI does those. I had a basic one done within an hour of meeting him. The full one took a few more days while we wrapped up the case I met him because of. Your son was one of the best poaches I've ever done."
"You don't like me, do you?"
"I think you need to make amends with your son before you spoil mine," he said bluntly. "Considering I haven't heard that your son talked to you in at least the last four years, except for the call recently, I think that should be a first step."
"I'm working on his father, Jethro," she assured him. "It'll take a few weeks but he'll come around." She smiled. "Spoiling your son today is just a small first step," she assured him. He nodded at that. "Please let me spoil him?"
"If you must." He looked at his son. "Tony's mother wants to spoil you, son. You mind?" Xander beamed at him then at her. "Go ahead." She and the salesgirl took off. "Is there somewhere I can change him?" he called a few minutes later.
"The bathroom's got a changing area," she promised, leading him to it. She smiled at him. "Thank you for not using one of the dressing areas."
"I don't do that without asking unless I don't like someone," he assured her. He took his son in there to change him. He stared down at him. "You're confused too, huh?" Xander nodded. "Yeah, me too. You back again?" The baby nodded. "That's Tony's mother. She's trying to move closer again." Xander held up his arms even though he was naked. "Let me diaper you first, Xander. Then you can have a hug." He finished cleaning him up and diapered him then gave him a hug before getting him dressed again. The boy cuddled him. "It'll be okay. You won't ever date women like Tony has and we'll be fine."
Xander kissed him then put his head down. "Sleepy."
"That's fine. We'll take a nap when we get home. Let her dress you for now." His son nodded and he saw the other memories fade again. He got him dressed and threw out the dirty things, then brought him back out. "Sorry, he needed a hug."
"All babies get very sleepy right before they get sick and right before a growth spurt," the saleswoman offered. "That was always a clue with my girls."
Gibbs smiled. "He's a pretty healthy baby so far. I'm a pretty healthy person. Tony's not but that's reasonable after he got a major illness." He looked at his son. "Remind me to tell Ducky to make the idiot get his flu shot this year, okay?" His son nodded. "That way he doesn't end up with pneumonia. Again."
"He did?" his mother asked.
"Yes, Mrs. DiNozzo. That other illness he had made his immune system a bit weaker. He's more prone to respiratory infections and the flu."
"They have shots against pneumonia and the flu," she pointed out.
"He didn't get around to getting them last year," he told her. "He was out for two weeks after a bout of the flu."
"Maybe he should retire. Being in an office means that colds and flus will pass around much more often."
Gibbs stared her down. "Tony retiring would kill him within the week," he said bluntly. "Tony's a very dedicated agent. He's the only one I've ever see who comes back after everyone's left to do *more* work. Especially since he doesn't claim it. Making him retire due to the *chance* he might get the flu would destroy his soul."
"I understand, Jethro. Now, I told you to call me Mother?"
"Yes, ma'am." She looked at him. "I'm a Marine, Mrs. DiNozzo. The only mother I know is the Drill Sergeant."
"Of course, dear." She took Xander, sniffing him. "Well, you don't smell sick. Did my Anthony ever tell you how sick he was when he was six?"
"No. He hadn't. I hadn't heard about many illnesses. His pediatrician was dead when they did the background so they couldn't get anything from his office to include in the report."
"Oh." She blinked then nodded. "He did get very sick. One of the poor girls in his school ended up with something. M...something."
"Mono?" the saleswoman asked.
"No, something with her spine."
"Meningitis?" Gibbs suggested.
She nodded. "That's it. Poor little Anthony had to have the tests twice because he was ill at the time. As soon as we heard and we noticed he was sniffling we stuck him in the best hospital in New York City. They were very good to him. It took three weeks because he caught another dose of sniffles and we told them to keep him until he was *well* that time. Just in case you know."
"I can see how that would worry you," he agreed. It also explained why DiNozzo hated the hospital now. "Was he hospitalized any other times?"
"When he had the chicken pox. They didn't think it was necessary but he had so many sores," she sighed, looking at Xander. "At least you won't go through that wretched disease since they have a vaccine now. Like polio."
"Actually, it only covers three of the five major strains," the saleswoman offered. "They can still catch a case from the vaccine as well but it'll be lighter. My daughter did that."
"Oh. And they're letting children have it?"
Gibbs looked at her. "The FDA said it was fine," he reminded her.
She snorted. "What do they know? It's all politics," she said bitterly. "They should hire doctors and actual researchers to do those things. Then no one would have drug allergies."
"Oh, someone still would," Gibbs told her. "They go for the greatest good . There's allergy warnings on all medicines, the same as those people with food allergies are looked at but it's only about five percent of the population."
"Are you going to have him tested?" she asked.
"No. The test is painful and unless he shows a sensitivity there's no reason for me to. If he does we can get the dozens of needles into his skin to see what he's allergic to. It doesn't often run in either family."
"Oh, good." She smiled at Xander, who was holding onto her necklace. "Do you like pearls?"
"It's a handhold because your hips are so tiny and trim," the salesgirl said with a smile. "How about this one, ma'am?"
"I do like that one," she agreed, smiling at the compliment. "I can almost fit into my original wedding gown as well."
"Congratulations. I never quite got back there after my children. My husband doesn't mind the padding though. Says there's more of me to cuddle."
"My husband visited his mistress until I slimmed down again," she sighed. "It was horrible how I had to have her sent away, twice." She walked off to get more things for her grandson, including things that he could wear in a few years so they could have pretty pictures of him.
Gibbs understood DiNozzo so much more now. As soon as they finished picking out things, he took Xander and the overalls with the pony and a solid t-shirt to go dress him in real clothes. It woke him back up. He was used to going to sleep in jammies but not real clothes so it helped him stay awake for a bit longer. His son smiled and petted the pony. "Yeah, that's a pony. It's a good pony, huh?" Xander nodded. "Good. Let me put on your shoes." He got them back onto his feet then carried him out. The old outfit went into the diaper bag and the new things were put into other bags. "Did we get him more sleepers? He won't sleep in anything but." She squealed and went to do that and get some longer t- shirts as well. They were rung up and put into bags as well, then she paid the nice young woman, letting her driver take the bags when she waved him inside. "Thank you for taking him shopping, Mother," he said; he could humor her until she went away again.
"But, Jethro, we're not *near* done, dear. You need clothes too."
"Most of mine were all right. My room was mostly untouched."
"Nonsense." She watched as the carrier was put back onto the base of the carseat and resecured. "Is that the type that comes with the stroller?"
"No. I'm using a backpack system for him. It's easier most of the time. Tony has a stroller for their walks in the park so people can admire him and he can flirt."
She giggled at that. "My poor son used to flirt so much when the nanny took him out to the park. There was almost no woman my Anthony didn't hit on. Especially the minister's wife. She was a charming lady but not of our kind you understand. He still loved and adored her. She was always baking cookies and gave them out freely to any child she met."
"She sounds kind."
"She was. Such a darling young woman until he changed parishes. A small scandal you understand but not too bad. Just a minorly flirtatious wife who hit on her husband."
"Why was that his problem?" Jethro asked. "She should've known better. My mother's church would've beaten that woman to death for flirting with a married minister."
She nodded. "It was thought best if he moved and she went to get help," she explained. "That's how it was when Anthony grew up. It was a more genteel time, Jethro."
"I understand that," he agreed. She smiled at that. They stopped at an upscale men's place. "No, I'm not going in there." She looked hurt. "I'd ruin the clothes within a week," he reminded her. "I still have to crawl around on the ground sometimes and we still deal with crime scenes. I routinely get dirty and bloody, Mrs. DiNozzo."
"Mother, dear. If you insist. Go to the other place, Henry." He nodded and put up the dividing wall, heading on again. "I know my Anthony dresses very well."
"He does but he's got to wear jeans now and then too," he told her. "Anymore he picks out clothes he knows he can get blood out of. Or that his dry cleaner can." She nodded at that, smiling a bit. "One of our recent ones was in a park," he told her. "One of the greater National Parks actually. Had to climb down a forty percent grade hill to get to them, and then back up when he found a bomb." She gaped in horror. "He made it up the hill but he was really dirty. It exploded and showered him with dirt and things about three-quarters of the way up. He saved his teammates by making them go first."
"Oh, my. I had no idea it was like an action movie."
"Now and then, on the bad days," he agreed. "Mostly it's like any other form of police work. Interviewing, investigating, doing paperwork." Xander laughed at something. "Yes, you've come in to help us do paperwork now and then, son. It was very helpful. McGee played his videogame a lot less time this time." He patted him on the head. "We'll go back to the hotel soon." His son made sucking motions. "We'll have dinner when we get back." She smiled at that. "Not in the restaurant. He'd throw food at others. We've been having takeout in our room. It's safer."
"I understand completely, dear. I'll have dinner sent up and come eat with my boys." She patted him on the cheek. "You're very good to my son." They got out and she let him have the baby again, taking him once they were inside. "He needs clothes, dear. He just had a fire and my son-in-law does need to look better."
He looked at the saleswoman. "I'm also a Federal Agent with NCIS."
"Investigative or crime scenes?" she asked.
She nodded and led him to the heartier things. Still dress pants but not as bad. "Do you know Tony DiNozzo? He shops with us now and then."
"I'm his team leader," he admitted.
"Oh, *you're* Gibbs then," she said with a smile. "Would you please tell him to call us? We've got an order in for him and have for the last week."
"Of course. We're in protective custody at the moment." She nodded, understanding that. "I basically need something like that only I'm less fashionable."
"He's told us about you so we could make sure he lived up to your expectations, Gibbs." She showed him something. "Now, this is actually machine washable and he brags he can get most every stain out of it." He felt it then nodded. She got him a few of those, some new jeans, then worked on the shirts. Simple, plain styles were best for him. He came out with a lot less stuff than the baby had. "Remember to have Tony call us."
"I will." He smiled. "Why don't you take Xander back to the car?" She nodded. He looked at the saleswoman. "Tony's being stalked by one of his exes. Did she mess up his bank account? She stole some we know." She nodded. "How much?"
"Sixty-three. Nothing too bad. The bank held it because they said there was fraud on his account."
"Yup and she tried to kill him. I'll send him down tonight."
"Thank you, Special Agent Gibbs, and please remember us. We love working with Tony."
"Sure." He smiled and grabbed his bags, walking out. He hitched the baby in better, then sat down again, pulling out his phone. "Kate, wake Tony up, tell him his ususal shop on eighth had a problem with his stalker." She did that and he took the phone. "You need to call your bank, they stopped a payment on you. There, yeah. Probably stopped them all due to what she did, DiNozzo. She said to have you call. Sure." He hung up. "Sorry."
"That's all right. You can't be too careful. She had access to his money?"
"No, she hacked into his account," he told her. "No one has access to your son's funds but him."
"Oh." She nodded and smiled. "We knew he wasn't very good with it."
"He's doing fine right now."
"Yes but he's horrible at investment and making more money for the family, Jethro."
He shrugged. "I've got someone to do that for me. That's why there's investment counselors."
"Oh. They have people to tell you where to invest?"
He nodded. "They'll even do it for you for a slightly larger fee. I've got one overseeing both my retirement accounts."
"You have two?"
"One from the Marines and one from NCIS."
"Oh. Well." She smiled. "That's interesting."
"They offered." She nodded and settled in again. He was feeling very odd. She hadn't asked him about himself at all. Then again she never talked to her own son so she was pumping him information on him. That made sense, even if she was a bit shallow. "How long did Tony have a nanny for?"
"Nearly twelve years," she said, smiling a bit. "He had five of them overall. We lost a few to sickness and he loathed one. Drove her completely insane wanting to go out and do sports and things." She shuddered. "Fairly nasty and common things that made him get dirty all too often. She was right to restrict him but his father said it'd toughen him up so we had to let him. She quit over the unhealthy nature of his after-school activities. The one after that was much too lax. She said he was eleven and should be allowed out with his friends for parties and things. Well, when we got rid of her for letting him go to slumber parties, we decided he was old enough for us to deal with it on our own. He wasn't so much of a baby." She smiled at Jethro. "I'm sure Xander will be similarly protected?"
"If he wants to play sports, all he has to do is ask. I played in a child football league until I was thirteen and then played baseball and wrestled in high school." She stared in horror. "Really."
"You weren't injured?"
"Once or twice but it was the nature of the game. It got me out of the house and around others. My mother thought it was good for me to be around others."
"Oh. I see. Well I suppose you and Anthony will have to discuss that later." He nodded. "I hope it won't cause too much stress, but a good wife, or husband, can always make a spouse see their way."
"True, mine did," Gibbs agreed.
"You've been married before?"
"Oh. Other men?"
"Women. All fairly cranky redheads. I had one before then but those three were pale imitations." Xander looked at him. "We'll talk about her later, son." His son beamed and went back to trying to untie his shoelaces.
"No, dear, you must wear shoes. They're better. You can't step on mud or dirt or bugs with them on," she chided, pulling his foot back down.
"Trying to figure out the knots is making him smarter," Gibbs told her.
"They have some very good daycares up in my area that help with brain and intelligence building, Jethro."
"We probably have a few down here but we work some long hours, Mrs. DiNozzo. What I want for him right now is to play. He'll learn plenty from that."
"Yes, but it's important to start early. They're so easy to teach languages and math at this age."
"He'll get plenty of that once he can speak in complete sentences," he assured her. "Tony's helping with that, so is our friend Abby and our teammate McGee."
"Did his parents name him that?"
"No, his first name's Tim. They're both geniuses in their own right and fields."
"Yes, but he could be learning a language, Jethro."
"He is, English. One of his favorite cartoons does teach him some limited Spanish as well," he admitted at her defeated look. "He is learning. Right now he's learning to speak better. He can't even say a whole simple sentence yet. Until he can, it's best if we concentrate on one language so he doesn't get confused."
"Did his doctor say that?"
"Oh, good." She brightened up at that. They pulled back into the hotel's parking garage and the driver got out with the bags. "Carry them to Jethro's room, Henry. I'll be right up."
"Yes, ma'am," he said politely. He let Jethro get the baby and his bags, following him. "Thank you, sir."
"Is your name Henry?" He shook his head. "Thanks."
"Welcome, sir. We get used to it. Sort of..." He cleared his throat. "Sorry, forgot myself."
"She's one of my teammate's mothers," he said dryly. "I'm a former Marine, son. It's like a call girl saying her name is whatever you want it to be?" The kid grinned, nodding at him. "I understand." He nodded down to the door. "Kate!" he snapped. The door opened before they got there. "Thanks. Tip the nice man too. He's been a packmule."
"Baby clothes don't weigh that much, sir." He took his tip with a nod of his hat. "Have a nice night, sirs." He left, going back down to the car to clean it up so it would be ready for her to leave in the morning.
Xander walked over and climbed into Tony's lap, waking him back up again. He looked at him. "Why do you look like Baby Gap?" He checked the t-shirt. "Never mind, she took you to a baby boutique, didn't she?" Gibbs nodded as he sat down with a groan. "You okay?"
"You should get cleaned up for dinner."
Tony put down the baby and went to clean up. He came out in a different outfit. "You let her railroad you, boss?"
"Some. She insisted I let her spoil Xander so they could have pictures." Tony sat down with a moan, holding his head. Xander gave him a kiss on the cheek. "Thank you, Xander. That's very helpful. Why don't you go show Kate your pony."
"Pony!" he squealed, running over to Kate, petting the pony. "Pony!"
"It's a very pretty pony, Xander. You look good in your pony." She smiled at him and patted him on the head. "Did you have a good shopping trip?"
"He was in his sleeper for most of it so he napped mostly," Gibbs told her. He looked at Tony, who had moaned again. "She's one determined woman, DiNozzo."
"She is," he agreed, looking at him. "What did she tell you?"
"The meningitis scare. The chicken pox issue. How you drove a nanny off because you wanted to go outside and play. How you used to suck up to the minister's wife for cookies."
"She was the sweetest and most motherly woman, Jethro, and a lot of us wanted him and his wife to stay and the one hitting on him to go. Is the same family as the kitten." That got a nod of understanding. Xander came back, still petting his pony. "That's a beautiful pony, Xander. Did you name him yet?" He straightened out his shirt for him. "There, less wrinkled for my mother."
"She insisted I call her Mother." Tony glared at him. He shrugged. "She wants pictures."
"That means a formal portrait," he noted dryly. "If you'd go pick them up from Sears, she could have one tonight." Gibbs nodded and called Abby, who went to do that. She wanted a copy anyway. "We had them taken last week. They liked him in his black shirt and pants outfit mostly but they also liked him in his blue shirt and black pants so you've got one of each of those and then the green outfit you liked so much as one large portrait, boss."
"Thanks, DiNozzo. Define large?"
"8X10. The others are 5X9."
"That's fine then. I thought you meant over the fireplace large."
"Those come later." He looked over when someone knocked on the door. He straightened Xander out again. "Go ahead, Kate." She checked then let the woman and the waiter in. "Hi, mother."
"Anthony. It's good of you to finally wake up. Jethro told me you had been dreadfully sick last year, baby." She kissed him on the head. "Aww, you didn't change him?"
"He can stay in that until he gets messy again," Jethro agreed. "By then it'll be time for bed." He got up to give her the chair.
"Put it here, dear. Since there's no table." He nodded and did that, accepting a tip from Tony. Then the waiter and his cart left. "There a proper dinner for my boys." She smiled at them. "Go ahead and eat."
Jethro opened them, finding Xander's dinner of rigatoni in tomato sauce. "Thank you, he can pick those up with his fingers." He sat Xander in front of the low coffee table. "You sit there and eat, son. Be a good boy and no throwing food tonight. Eat it all."
Tony stroked his hair and smiled. "Make daddy proud by cleaning the plate," he prompted. Xander picked up the first one to nibble, smiling at him. "Good boy!" He added some of the sprinkle cheese that had been left. "There, try that." Xander dunked his present one in some of the extra on his plate then nibbled. He liked that better so he ate another one. Tony looked at his plate then changed it with Jethro's. "Sorry, not in a steak mood," he explained. "I had beef for lunch."
"That's fine, dear," she assured him, taking her own plate to nibble once she had cut everything up and salted it to perfection. "When does he usually go down?"
"About eight," Jethro admitted. "Before then we'll both be giving him a bath. He likes to dive under the water," he explained. She smiled at that. He watched his son eat and stare at Kate. "Kate, can you and he go to the window to eat?"
"Sure." She came over to get the baby and his plate when he fussed, walking him over so they could look out the window and eat. He cooed and patted at the lights. "That's right, that's DC, Xander."
"Your whole team takes a very strong hand with him. It's a good thing he's got a feminine influence," Tony's mother said happily.
"He's got another mother in the unit," Tony assured her. "Abby actually took the medicine so she could breast-feed him, mom. It was an incredible gift," he said at her shocked look.
"It made sure he'd have a very healthy immune system," Gibbs agreed. "Plus she found research saying it was going to help with later socialization and learning capabilities."
"We should have done that with you then, Anthony."
"I was fine, mom. That would've meant you would've had to give up some of your social rounds since it's best when it comes from the mother or someone like her. Abby's the same blood type. She'll be here soon. She went to pick up the pictures I had made of him the other day."
"May I have one for the house?"
"Sure. There's duplicates," Tony assured her. She smiled at that. When someone knocked he got up, hand on his gun when he checked the door. "Boss, it's Fornell." He opened the door, getting the package. "You took it from Abby?"
"We escorted her." He looked around then let Abby inside, watching her hop on her new crutches. "Your ex ran into her car, DiNozzo."
Tony said something that made Xander and Gibbs both clap. "Thanks, sorry you had to hear that, Mother. Mother, this is Abby and FBI Deputy Director Fornell," he said, checking the hall, nodding at the agents out there. Then he shut the door and sat down with Abby between him and Gibbs. "Kate, let Xander go." She let him go. "Abby's here," he called. The boy quit staring at the lights below and squealed, coming over to hug her and climb into her lap, showing her the pony he was petting.
"Ooh, that's a beautiful pony, Xander!" she squealed, rubbing noses with him. "He's so pretty!" Xander beamed back and kissed her. "I love you too. Tony, I want one of the ones of him in black."
"I'll get copies made if there aren't enough," Gibbs said, putting down his plate to take the envelope from Tony. He looked at them and smiled. "He does look good in that blue shirt and the black outfits." She leaned her head on his shoulder to look. He counted and found some scissors on the table, cutting out one for her. She squealed and kissed him on the cheek then Tony. "Mrs. DiNozzo, do you want one of him in green, blue, or black?" he asked, letting her see them.
"Oh, he's adorable in the green one. That one please." He nodded, giving her one of them "Thank you, Jethro, and I believe I told you to call me Mother?"
"Sorry, Mother. Kate, want a baby picture? We've got some wallets and a 5X9 left of him in the green shirt. Two left of him in the blue, and a lot of him dressed like Abby." She came over to look and tapped one of the wallets so he cut one out and handed it over. He cut one for Fornell. "Give that to Taylor too, just in case."
"Sure." He put it into his own wallet. Gibbs handed him another one with a smirk. "Always good for identification."
"That's where one of the wallets is going," Tony agreed. "Cut me off one of those too please, Jethro?" That got a look. "I can't have a wallet sized one?"
"Sure." He handed it over to let him cut out what he wanted. He got the rest, including the 8X10 large picture of his son giving the camera his best wicked smirk. He kissed his son on the head. "You're very cute, son. Go back to eating and staring out the window with Kate." He wiggled down and ran that way, under his father's arms. He pounced Kate from behind and then crawled into her lap once she had squeaked prettily. "Any problems with McGee?" he asked Fornell.
"He's refusing to come out tonight until he switches off with Kate," Fornell told him. "I should put an agent in the hall, Jethro."
"Put one with security, Tobias. It'll be enough."
"Are you sure?"
"She comes in here I'm shooting her," Tony told him.
"Surely you wouldn't do her harm, son," his mother said.
Tony looked at her. "Mother, I've had to shoot others in the line of duty before. This is the same woman who tried to kill me, wrecked my apartment, burned Jethro's house, starting with the boat he was building, and then tried to kill Abby. Yes, I'll shoot her then go hug Xander until I'm no longer angry and wanting to shoot her a fourth or a fifth time." She looked stunned. "Most of them have been a me or them situation, mother, but this time she deserves it and the system broke where she was concerned. If she breaks in here, she'll be shot somewhere. I might be nice and make it a nice shot in the leg instead." He stuffed his mouth and looked at Abby. "How bad is your car?"
"Not too bad. It was a cab anyway." He nodded at that. "I only really sprained my ankle getting away when she got out of her car to come kill me."
"That's fine, Abby. Good job getting away," Gibbs praised, giving her a one-armed hug.
"Gibbs, can we make Tony not date for a while?" Kate called.
"I'm swearing off women anyway," Tony said dryly. He looked at Fornell. "I'm sure you've heard about the one in Peoria."
"I did. She committed suicide because you said she wasn't your type."
"She was eighteen and living in a fantasy world where I was some knight in shining armor to take her away from her family, Fornell."
"I heard. The one in Philly?"
"Needed to take her meds again. She stopped taking them. Once she did it was okay but I couldn't stand the looks." He ate another bite.
"You mean this has happened before?" Kate demanded, leaning back so she could see him. "How?"
"More like the lady in HR who got upset with me because I didn't hit on her, Kate. This ex of mine is the first real stalker. The one who committed suicide was eighteen and her parents were abusive. Sexually and physically. She saw me as a knight to rescue her because I reported him and arrested her father for beating her in the grocery store one night. She got fixated on that and killed herself because I told he she was too young and she needed to heal first. She said she'd never be good or pure enough for me in her note." She shuddered. "The one in Philly was a coworker who quit taking her anti-psychotics and got fixated on me. She was partnered with a dirty cop and thought I could get her away from him since I'm the only one who didn't know. Once she went back on her meds, it stopped and I helped her turn him into IAB." He ate another bite. "I'd never date anyone in Human Resources. They can screw up your paycheck, which she did, or make it so you have complaints in your file that can get you fired. I still think she was behind the whole 'you're dead' thing I got that one month, boss."
"She was," Fornell agreed. "It was asked and she admitted that was her doing as well." Xander came over and tugged on his hand, making him smile down at him. "Hi, Xander. That's a very pretty horse you're petting on your clothes." Xander beamed and went back to the window. "He's a smart boy, Jethro. Congratulations."
"Thanks, Tobias. You still can't borrow him to get your mother off your back about a sibling for your daughter Emily." He ate a bite and smirked while he chewed.
"Pity. She'd adore him and knit him afghans every year." He shrugged. "Abby called me when her cab was hit. We lost her in Crypt's territory."
Tony pulled out his phone and looked up a number. "Jose, Tony DiNozzo. Knotty there?" He nodded. "Tell him I'm calling in that favor he owes me. There's some psycho ex of mine who lost the FBI in Crypt territory. I want her found so I can shoot her. She endangered me, my boss, my boss's eleven month old son, she ran into Abby, yes, that Abby. Then she ran into Crypt territory. Have them call me, someone on the team, or Fornell. He's a Feeb. Thanks, man. Tell him it's canceled." He hung up and looked at Fornell. "I doubt the Crypts want to house her."
"We were trying to get their help. They weren't wanting to."
"You were trying to strong arm them and move in on their turf, Fornell. Think about it as invading their lawn with groundhogs."
"Point." He walked off, going to call his agent from the bedroom to tell him that. He came back twenty minutes later. "How does Abby know them?"
"I sat down to compare tattoos with them one night when I was getting my next to last one," Abby told him, smiling at him. "Is Gregor down there?" He nodded. "That's kinda cool. I thought he was doing time for murder."
"Well, apparently attempted murder only gives you a few weeks," Tony said bitterly, finishing his dinner. He looked at her. "You okay?"
"I'm fine, Tony." She gave him a hug. "It's just a sprained ankle and one of them very nicely shielded me and pulled his gun on her so she ran from him and the FBI."
"She said he protected her so I couldn't arrest him for pulling a gun," Fornell said.
Gibbs nodded. "That works for me. He wanted on anything else?"
"That's a local matter," he said dryly. Abby beamed at him. "It is. I can't get involved in those without a good reason." His phone rang and he answered it. "Fornell." He listened then nodded. "That works. Where is she and do we need a tactical team?" He looked shocked. "They can? Hey, if they want her that gone, we'll gladly let them get shot at to get her out of that bar and anyone else they'd like us to take in for them," he agreed. "As long as they have proof, I wouldn't care." He hung up. "They know where she is, your friend told them what was going on, DiNozzo. They don't like guys who threaten kids either." That got a nod. "So they'll get her out and hand her over."
"Probably no shots needing to be fired if they do," Tony agreed.
Gibbs smirked. "It's always better. Do I get to interrogate?"
"We'll let you come in tonight to see if you can discomfit her enough to make her stupid," Fornell agreed. That got a mean smirk. "By the way, she's still claiming your son as hers."
"Figures," Tony sighed. "Now all we've got to do is find somewhere to live."
"Timmy's making lists for you, Tony," Abby promised. "That's what we had been doing."
"I can rebuild," Gibbs reminded her.
"It'll take months, Gibbs," she said patiently. "You'll need a place to stay until then. Unless you're going to stay in Tony's spare room?" she teased.
"Did the director tell you too?" Tony asked dryly. She looked shocked. "Yeah, that's why my mother's here. She heard the rumors that I was in a stable and loving relationship with Gibbs and had adopted his son as ours."
Abby giggled. "That woman gets around," she said dryly. Gibbs nodded, finishing his dinner. She hugged Gibbs arm once his plate was down. "If you need to you can have my spare coffin, Gibbs."
"That's all right. I'd like to keep Xander from that fate for a while longer. He can be goth when he's older." She nodded and snuggled into his side. Fornell answered his phone again, then nodded. "Well, it's done with unless she gets out again."
"If she does I'm waiting and shooting her, then putting her back on the courthouse stairs with a note about justice being done," Abby said firmly.
"I'll lend you something," Gibbs assured her. He looked at his son, who was cuddled up in Kate's lap. "He asleep?" he called quietly.
"No. Watching traffic patterns and the lights," she called back. "Sucking his thumb."
"That's fine. It's getting nearer to his bedtime. Did he eat?"
"All but the last few pieces and I ate those." Abby hopped over to sit against her side and take Xander to hold and watch traffic with him. He squeaked when he was grabbed, then cooed at Abby and snuggled in to watch some more. "He's got a very artistic bent, Gibbs." Kate got up and came over with the plate. She looked at Tony's mother. "Done, ma'am, so I can call them to get them?" She nodded and handed over her plate. Kate piled them together by the door and called down there, getting the room service person back. She handed over the plates. "Thank you." The agent nodded and left again. She closed the door. "His badge shows through the white jacket, Fornell."
"I'll make sure he's trained better, Kate." He looked at Gibbs. "Next time put the boat in a shed, Jethro." That got a snort. "I'll let you know if we need you. Have a better night, people. Good night, Mrs. DiNozzo." He let himself out.
Kate looked at him. "I'll take Abby home and tell McGee we're on stand down," she said.
Tony got up to get Xander, making him smile at him. "Kiss Abby and Kate good night, Xander." He kissed Abby, a loud, wet kiss. Then he pulled on Kate until she leaned down and let him do the same. "Thanks, ladies." He kissed their non-wet cheeks, making them smile. He looked at Xander. "Want to hug Grandma goodnight before we start your bath?"
"That can wait, Anthony. I wish to talk to you."
"I'll get him started," Gibbs promised, getting up to get his son. He let him kiss 'grandma' on the cheek then took him back to the bathroom.
Tony sat down in Gibbs' spot, curling up some. "So why did you really come down, Mother? It's not like you'd normally give a damn if I was in a relationship or not."
"Your father's ill," she said quietly.
"Tell him I'm sorry to hear that. Is it curable?"
"It's his liver, son."
"Need a partial transplant? I'm not a good candidate with the plague, mother. They've banned me from even donating blood for the rest of my life." She nodded at that. "Wish I could help. What about Uncle Evan?"
"He's a match and they've done the minor transplant. He's back at work now. It's still not going to be forever." He nodded at that. "You don't care?"
"No one lives forever, mother. I've had that revelation a few times," he said quietly.
"We still wish you were in a better job, Anthony."
"I love what I do, mother. Anymore I could care less that you think it's menial, beneath me, and dangerous. It's what I want to do and I'm happy at NCIS. The team is my family. Xander's like my own son." She looked at him. "He is. He's probably as close as I'll ever come."
"Are you two planning on getting married?" she asked bluntly.
He shrugged. "Right now we're not that close, mother. It's a hard thing watching your family go into dangerous situations. I don't know how I'd react to my husband getting shot sometime. Or me getting shot and he'd have to react, as well as Xander." She nodded at that. "Right now we're very casual. We're friends."
"I understand. Your father and I started out that way, Anthony. We can still consider him our grandson?"
"I don't mind if Gibbs doesn't. Boss, you mind if she's his grandmother?"
"As long as she doesn't spoil him too much," he called back.
"See?" She smiled at that. "You're right, he's probably the only one you'll ever get." She nodded at that. "Tell dad I hope he's okay. Be well as well, mother."
"I will, Anthony. Walk me up to my room?"
"Sure. Be right back, Gibbs."
He stood up and helped her up like any good gentleman should, walking her up to the elevator then up to her suite. She smiled and handed him something. "That's from your father and I for his birthday."
"What is it?" He looked then looked at her. "Riding club?"
"He likes horses."
"He does but I haven't hunted since high school."
"You can take him for regular or trail riding, son. He'll enjoy it just as much. Plus maybe you can make sure he takes lessons. It does change your posture and it's good for a boy."
Tony nodded, putting it into his back pocket. "Sure, mom. Thank you. He'll love it." She smiled and kissed him on the cheek. "Have a good trip home."
"You as well, dear. Let us know where you move to." He nodded and left, leaving her alone. She called her husband. "Dear, it's Margaret. He's still denying it but he said it's mostly because the job is so dangerous. He's scared of getting that close and being hurt or getting hurt and making his spouse deal with it," she said quietly. She considered it then nodded. "Jethro is a very nice man. A former Marine." She listened to what her husband had found out with his own background check. It did make her proud. Her son had chosen a very strong, honorable man to be with. She smiled. "I have pictures of the baby as well, dear. Of course a good one. Anthony had it done. He's even in green so it'll go so well with the one of Anthony that we have on the mantle." She found it in her purse and looked at it.
"He is an adorable little boy. Eleven months. We got him a pair of overalls with a pony on it, I thought it a bit girlish, but he's been proudly showing it off and petting it all night," she said with a sweet smile. "No, Jethro is very against coddling his son but Anthony can win him around. A spouse always knows how, dear. That as well. Sex can be a great motivator in the early days of marriage." She smiled at his assurance it still was with him. "Then you'll go with my plan. Actually, Jethro said he has someone who deals with his retirement funds. I wasn't aware you could hire someone for that. Is that what Morgan does? Huh. Well, he has one for his retirement funds from the Marines and his current agency. I'm sure he could set Anthony up with his if he doesn't have one." She listened to him.
"Thomas, that is the only grandson we're getting," she said firmly. "By the way I'm firing your assistant. No, not because you're sleeping with her. I could care less unless she gets pregnant. You know that. She didn't tell us when our son had the plague a few years back, Thomas. Jethro said he called the house and your office. I want her gone by the time I get home." She smiled at his reassurance. "Thank you, dear. Make the next one a prettier girl anyway. That one was a bit of a cow. Always chewed with her mouth open. I'm sure she had skills that made up for it, Thomas. I don't care and I meant it." She relaxed again. "Of course I'm coming home tomorrow. No, Jethro said Anthony's more prone to getting sick now than when he was younger. Apparently last year he got the flu and pneumonia from it. He was off work for weeks from it. Yes, I do think he could use it. It would also encourage him to slow down and perhaps even retire. Though Jethro said he'd die emotionally if he did that."
She sighed in pleasure. "That would be fine, dear. No, he's banned from even giving blood, Thomas. He had the plague. I doubt they'd want that in the blood supply." She nodded. "It does make sense. He is ill. Even if it was his choice to go into the service industry he is our son. Our only son. Unless you want your Cousin Evan to have the house?" She nodded. "Exactly. Well, start off by giving him back what your mother gave him, dear. Let him show how well he does with that. Of course I'll be back tomorrow. Don't worry, dear. I'll be fine. I bought little Xander some very pretty clothes. He looks adorable and Jethro tried to complain so much about me spoiling him. Wouldn't even let me get him any good clothes," she complained. "No, he said very bluntly that I had to make up with our son before I could truly spoil my grandson. Which I have every intention of doing." She listened to him complain but give in. "Good, dear. Have everything ready for when I get in tomorrow, Thomas. Or fax it to me here if you must. That way I can sign it before I get on the plane since you're so paranoid about flying."
She rolled her eyes. "I'm sure I don't want to drive, dear. It'll take nearly all day to drive. It'll only take an hour and some to fly. It'll be *fine*, Thomas. If not, I've at least told my son I love him again. Now, have those papers sent to me here, dear. I'll sign them before I get on the plane. Thank you, Thomas." She hung up and leaned back, calling down to the front desk. "This is Mrs. DiNozzo in the gold suite. I'm expecting a fax in about an hour. If it comes later, do wake me up, dears. Thank you." She hung up and went to start her nighttime ritual preparation. She'd have to moisturize extra tonight and tomorrow morning because flying always dried out her skin and she couldn't look anything but her best. Her son had looked very nice earlier, even if it wasn't designer clothes. He had chosen things that made him look very pleasing to his boyfriend. He had her tastes obviously.
Tony got up when someone knocked on the door. "Hi, Marta. I'm moving tomorrow."
"I know, Tony, I got the earlier message," she said, looking serious. She walked over and turned on the tv, making him frown and come over to watch. He blinked a few times and sat down. "That was your mother's flight."
"Well, dad was always paranoid after some fortune teller told him he'd lose everything to a plane crash." He called the number on the bottom of the screen. "This is Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, NCIS. I think my mother was on the flight? Margaret DiNozzo. Long Island." He listened then nodded. "Thank you, I'll tell my father. Who do we make arrangements with?" He wrote that down. "Thank you, ma'am." He looked at Marta. "Thanks."
"Welcome, Tony." She kissed him on the cheek. "I'm so sorry," she whispered. He nodded and gave her a pat then she left.
Tony called his father's office. "Is Mr. DiNozzo in? Tell him it's Anthony. His son Anthony. Yes, he has a son, Penelope. Put my father on before I come up there and kill you. I'm in a violent mood. Penelope, my mother just died, put him on!" he snapped. He was transferred over. His father complained first thing. "Dad, you know how you didn't like flying? Turn on the news. Yes, father, now. Mother's plane crashed," he said quietly, watching the news. "Marta told me. It's all over the news. I do know who you contact. I've already called. They confirmed they've found her." He swallowed and waited while his father checked. "That's fine, father. I'll call them if you want." He listened. "I don't want it, father. It comes with strings, I don't want. Dad, I don't care. I'm sorry as hell that you're sick. Yes, mother told me. I'm still not going to join the firm or go to Wall Street. I'm staying at NCIS with Gibbs and all the family down here. I'm not leaving. Now, if you want I can start the arrangements for you or I can give you their name and number, father. Your choice. I know she was my mother. I had dinner with her last night." He held his head. "Dad."
Jethro took the phone. "Mr. DiNozzo, Jethro Gibbs. Yes, that Jethro. Right now's not the time to fight with your son. You have more important matters to attend to, both of you. Now, do you want us to make the arrangements to have your wife's body shipped home or do you want it? Everything else can come later. I'm sure you did, sir. I don't care. Right now we have to handle the immediate tragedy. Now, would you like your son to handle it or you would you like to? That's fine, I can arrange for him to have leave. If he wants me there. Thank you, sir. I'll have him do that. Anyplace in particular?" He nodded, making a note on the same sheet. "Thank you. I'll have that arranged today." He hung up. "He'll arrange things on that end if you can get her shipped home."
"Of course." He called the number to do that. "Hi, I'm Special Agent DiNozzo, my mother was on that plane." He got transferred. "Margaret DiNozzo. I'm Anthony, her son. My father is making arrangements at home but I know who's going to be picking her up at the other end. Please. Moretson's Funery. Long Island. Yes, that's my father's assistant. He said so. Thank you. Yes, let them know, they'll have all arrangements made by tonight. Thank you. How long? I have to arrange for leave." He nodded. "That's understandable. Thank you." He hung up and looked at his boss. "I'll probably need part of next week off, boss."
"I'll let the Director know."
"Did he ask if you were coming?"
"Yup. I told him if you needed me."
"Want to go to Long Island? At least you kinda liked my mother. The rest of the family is him and Uncle Evan, plus her garden club members and a few older ladies she went to school with. One of them's an honorary aunt by a former marriage but she lives on the West Coast and won't travel."
"If you want."
"Thanks, boss." He gave him a pat on the arm and called his father's office back. "Penelope. Anthony DiNozzo. They'll ship mother's body back in about three days. They have to do an autopsy first." He smirked at her sniffling admission she wouldn't be there. "Okay, is Father back from his meeting?" He was transferred. "Three days before they can transport her, father. Because it's mandatory they do an autopsy. Exactly. Do we know why? The news isn't being very forthcoming." He nodded. "That's fine. I'll be there. If he wants. I'm leaving it up to him since he's got to consider Xander." He smiled. "If you want, you'd have to ask him, father. Gibbs?" He handed over the phone. "My father."
He took it. "Yes?" He listened. Then he nodded slowly. "In that case if I have the leave time I will come, sir. Thank you for inviting me, Mr. DiNozzo. Yes, I did. I called the office number Tony had for you and the home number as well." He shrugged. "I did try a few times, sir. Yes, your son nearly died from it. They gave him a fifteen percent chance of living." He heard the shudder. "Exactly, sir. I'll be there. Thank you." He hung up. "I've got to arrange for both of us to have leave. Your father's decided you could use the shoulder to lean on."
"That's fine. I've got to look at the new place McGee found for me today too."
"That's this afternoon. Go do that and I'll have your leave arranged by then."
"Thanks, boss. It's a two bedroom so you can move in with the squirt for a while." That got a nod and he went to do that, weathering the pitied looks from the desk staff. "It's all right," he promised. That got a nod from one. "Gibbs is up there if anyone calls." He left, heading to drive around for a few minutes before going to meet with the landlord at this new place.
Tony walked back into the hotel room. "The first was crap. He didn't like me inviting you over to stay while your house was rebuilt. It's for singles," he said at the amused look. "They really didn't like Xander. But the second one was nicer. It's safer too. Fairly bland but it's got a gym in the building." That got a nod. "I've already signed the lease and everything; I've got the movers moving my stuff over tomorrow."
"That's fine. What about mine?"
"You can have your stuff moved but you should go through the house soon."
"I should," he agreed, looking at him. "You sure?" Tony nodded. "Then we'll try it for now. Hopefully it won't take that long to rebuild the house."
"At the very least you can use a few days of that time off to meet with contractors, boss."
"True. It needed a wiring and plumbing update anyway," he sighed, standing up. "You in for the day?"
"Yeah. He call back?"
"Didn't figure he would." He shrugged. "How's the kid?"
"Napping," he said with a small grin. "Don't wake him."
"Of course not. A sleeping child is a gift from the gods, or so I've heard," he said with a smirk. "How was the director?"
"I kept myself from wringing her neck," he admitted.
"Good, saves some for me." He sat down, going back to watching the news. He wanted to know what happened. They were promising a simulation of their last few minutes.
Gibbs watched. "Something hit them."
"Yeah but what is the real question." His phone rang. "DiNozzo." He smiled. "I saw, Abby. Anything I'm not seeing on CNN?" He nodded. "That's good. Thanks, dear. No, I'm okay. She did but I'm still okay. We weren't that close." He smiled at her concern. "I'm fine, Abby. I'll have to go up for the funeral but I'll be fine. He invited Gibbs." He hung up on her laughter. "She said they've already said it wasn't a large bird into the jets. It wasn't a small private plane either. She did say that there were hints from the pictures she had downloaded that there was extra things that shouldn't be there. She said something about a parachute, boss."
"Maybe. It just said they were in the process of coming down for landing in twenty minutes." That got a shoulder pat and Gibbs went to check on his son and read some more. "Boss, my computer's in my bag. Why don't you look up contractors," he called. "That way you see what they've done before."
"I know who I want to use, DiNozzo."
"I meet with them tomorrow."
"Sure. I'll watch him. We'll go learn our new spot."
"Good." He shut the bedroom door.
Tony watched the cameras pan across the area. "That is a parachute," he said. He frowned. "Or a hot air balloon." He called Abby back. "Am I seeing a *basket* on tv? A hot air balloon?" He shuddered. "I didn't think...." He just nodded at her hypothesis. "Okay, that's odd. Thanks, Abby. I've found a spot. Tell him I'm going with the second one. That one, yeah. Gibbs has an invitation to move in if he needs it while he's rebuilding. He meets with one tomorrow. I don't know, ask him, Abby. Sure. Thanks." He hung up. "Gibbs, hot air balloon," he called, bringing him out. He pointed at the basket that was on the edge of the screen. "There's the basket and the parachute is apparently the balloon part. Abby thinks some of the balloon got sucked into a jet or the wind currents fouled with the balloon's gas tank and it exploded on contact with the plane."
"A hot air balloon? People still use those?"
"They hold races and things at some major fairs." They looked at each other. "Only my mother could go out in such a unique accident." Gibbs smirked at that. "Really. Someone at NTSA has got to be throwing fits because I don't think ballooners have to be licensed or anything."
Gibbs called Fornell. "Tony's mother was on the plane that crashed. Is that really a hot air balloon?" He nodded at Tony. "You're right, someone's throwing an awesome fit in the halls according to someone on scene. I'll tell him, Fornell. His father did invite me. I never told her we were, Fornell. I told her we weren't."
"At the end of the night she was so happy I burst it by telling her that we couldn't really marry due to the stress of the job." Gibbs looked at him. "If I married you I couldn't stand to watch you get shot. Same for you. She understood that and pared you back to a boyfriend instead of a fiance."
"Thanks, DiNozzo." He listened. "Yeah, that's what he said, why?" He shuddered. "Tell her to quit." He hung up. "The director has publically expressed her grief to you, her agent who lost his mother, and the others who lost their relatives to the horrible accident." Tony hung his head. "At least she didn't mention me."
"Yet," he agreed. His phone rang. "Speaking of..." He flipped it open. "Gibbs." He looked confused. "I was invited up to help DiNozzo, Director....." He stared, then he opened his mouth but apparently she hung up. "Your father strong-armed her. We both have a week of grief leave."
Tony moaned and held his head. "Boss, I think I need the migraine medicine." He looked at him. "I'm not playing, Gibbs," he said at the amused look. He got up and went to lay on the bed. But he knew. It felt the same. Either that or he was having a stroke.
After an hour of Tony being unable to do anything but lay there with his eyes closed he called Kate. "Where's his migraine stuff? Either that or he's having a stroke. Yeah. We'll both be gone. His father strong-armed the director so I'd have time too. We're here. We're moving tomorrow. Thanks, Kate." He hung up and went back to watching the simulation. No one had picked up that was a balloon yet. Amazing. Kate knocked a few minutes later and used their spare key to get in. "You took the other key?"
"Of course I did." She handed it back. "He okay?"
"Migraine. DiNozzo, meds are here," he called. Tony wandered out, his eyes mostly squinted shut, hands over his ears. He took it, shook out one, took it dry, then wandered back to bed.
She shook her head. "That's a bad one. Remember, last time they had to sedate him, Gibbs. Can I help?"
"No. Not unless you want to help move stuff."
"No thanks. I supervised last time. This time it's McGee's job or Abby's. She's scary today for some reason."
Gibbs smirked at that. "As opposed to her normal scary self?"
"Yup." She walked off, going back to the office. Marta stopped her in the lobby. "It looks like a hot air balloon may have hit the plane," she offered. "Tony's got a migraine and is in bed."
"I can understand that. Are they going to be okay?"
"They'll be fine and his father wanted Gibbs to come up for the funeral as well."
"He doesn't know?"
"Last night they were trying to dissuade her but she was just as stubborn as Tony was."
"She got papers faxed last night to change her will."
"Did she include Xander?"
Marta shrugged. "I don't know. They didn't snoop that far. Just that it was a revised copy of her will by the cover sheet."
"Oh." She nodded at that. "You might wanna warn Gibbs then."
"I will. You have a better day."
Kate grinned. "I am. The probies moving Tony tomorrow are getting supervised by McGee or Abby. I did it the last time." That got a smile. "You have a good run of luck with this place, ma'am, and thank you for stuffing Tony in a closet somewhere."
"They were delightful to have and we now know how to set up some rooms for people with children." Kate walked off laughing. She left a message for Gibbs and then went back to her office.
Tony walked up to where his father was standing, shaking his hand. "You look good for having a partial liver, father."
"You look tired."
"I had a migraine the last two days."
"I'm sorry. An aneurism?"
"No. Just a migraine. I have medicine for it."
"Good. Modern medicine is a great thing or I'd have died two years ago." He nodded politely at the older man walking up behind his son. "A friend of her garden club?"
Tony looked. "That's Gibbs, dad. Xander's being watched by Abby, who came up for the day. They're in the car."
"Oh, I see. Thank you, Anthony. Nice to meet you as well, Jethro. She said some nice things about you," he said, shaking his hand.
"I'm sorry for your loss, Mr. DiNozzo."
"Call me Father, Jethro." He walked them into the funeral home. "It's a small, quiet, private ceremony. She wouldn't have wanted it to be more of a spectacle than it already is."
Tony looked at him. "Simulations say that a hot air balloon flew into the path of the plane; part of the balloon got sucked into the engine by a few inches. Just enough to bang the gas tank against the side of the plane and let it explode, which blew a hole," he said quietly. "It was over within a minute and a half, father. She didn't suffer."
"Good," he sighed, pleased with that. "Is that the official version?"
"It's the preliminary based on estimates of what was found at the scene. The official version won't be out for over a year," Tony told him. That got a nod. "I asked some of my contacts in DC to give me some information."
"Thank you, son. Come, sit." They walked up to the front bench and sat down. They stared at the tasteful casket, Gibbs ramrod stiff in his seat. Tony was trying to look relaxed, he could tell. "It's fine, son. She was nearly seventy years old," he said quietly. Tony nodded at that. "It'll be fine."
"I know it will, dad. It's just freakish timing."
"Exactly." He looked at him. "Thank you for handling the people at that office."
"It's nothing, dad. They're used to it." That got a nod. The minister stepped forward and he smiled. "He came back?" he whispered. His father smirked and nodded. "Good." They settled in to listen to him once the music started. It was a beautiful service, but short. It highlighted the many things she had done for the community and her family. Then they went to the grave-side service. It was also short but Abby brought Xander out. He fussed a bit so Tony took him. Xander turned away from the casket so Gibbs took him and let him hide in his shoulder. Abby stood behind him to give Xander someone to stare at, stroking his forehead and cheek to keep him calm. At the end, they went back to their car. "Are we doing a wake?" he asked.
"No. We've said not to." That got a nod from Gibbs. "He could've stayed in the car."
"He wanted his dad," Abby told him. She took Xander back but he clung. "Okay, you can have Daddy or Tony," she promised, smiling and patting him on the head. "Gibbs, I'm heading back to the airport. I've got to report tomorrow. I'll take one of the waiting cabs. Let me know if you're going to be late, I'll cook the night you get home." She kissed Xander on the head. "Be good, little man. Remember I love you. Nothing will ever change that." Xander gave her a smile. "I'll be fine, you know that I'll be fine. I'm very strong and I'll be fine." He put his head down again. Gibbs and Tony both kissed her on the cheek and Tony gave her a hug too. She smiled and nodded at Tony's father. "He looks a lot like you. I'm sorry for your loss, sir." She turned and headed to get her overnight bag from the car and take one of the waiting cabs back to the airport.
"That was Abby, dad. She's like a sister to me," Tony told him.
"That's fine. I'm sure you know the way home?"
"We can stay at a hotel, Mr. DiNozzo," Gibbs offered.
"Nonsense. It'll be too quiet. Come home, Anthony, and drag them with you. Even if he does break the same vases you used to." He headed for his car.
Tony looked at Gibbs. "He'll have us flogged if we try to refuse." Gibbs let out a small laugh. "I'm not kidding," he said flatly.
"Fine." They went to their rental and headed to Tony's childhood home. Gibbs looked at it. It was a very large house. Very impressive. Not quite a mansion.
"The estate's in Wales," he said dryly.
"I heard that when I did your background." Tony glared at him. "I did. And the one in Italy."
"That's Uncle Evan's." He parked behind his father's car and got out, letting Xander go with his father since he wanted him more. They walked inside without knocking, even though he felt like he should. A maid started to scream and he glared. "Shut up! I grew up here, woman!" She settled down and stared at him. "How new are you?"
"Three years," his father's butler said from the stairs. "Master Anthony. Is this your fiance?"
"Boss and friend," he corrected. "Leroy Jethro Gibbs, this is Hawkes, my father's butler, and this is Xander, his son."
"Ah. The Misses had a lot to say about that one," he praised, smiling at the boy. He grinned back. "We'll make sure it's safe for you to roam, little one."
"He's only been walking a few weeks but he's been doing stairs for longer," Gibbs warned.
"That's fine. Master Anthony trekked up and down the stairs many times a day. Every day. We had to replace the runner on the stairs six times by the time he was ten." Tony grinned and nodded. "Your suite is set up, Anthony."
"Your father would skin me and take my retirement account."
"Does he think...." Hawkes nodded. "Why?"
"It's very clear to some of us," he said patiently. "Your things?"
"I'll get them from the trunk when I need a break," Tony told him. That got a look and the older man held out a hand. He sighed and put the keys into them. "Thank you, Hawkes."
"Welcome, Master Anthony. Also, your mother had some things set into your closets that she thought you might like over the last few years. She was rather hoping you'd storm the castle and kill the old king I believe."
Gibbs shook his head. "He's not that sort of knight."
"Yes, but his mother had a whimsical bent now and then, sir," Hawkes said.
"I remember. She took Xander and I shopping since we had a fire."
"Ah. I've done that many times," he agreed. "Let me get your things, gentlemen. Go take off your jackets. Your father's in his study seeing if anything happened." They nodded and Tony led the way up to his suite. He looked at the maid. "That is Master Anthony and their only grandchild. We will make sure he doesn't get hurt."
"Of course, Hawkes, sir," she agreed, going to tell the housekeeper.
Tony looked around his room. "Hey, no candelabra," he said happily. He walked over to the closet and opened it, standing there in awe. "My mother had good tastes."
"Is that Armani?"
"And then some," he agreed, taking one out to look at it. "Huh. This is in your size, boss." He held it up for him to see. Hawkes walked in with their overnight bags. "When did she plan this one?"
"Last night, sir. She had it ordered and sent over. She intended to mail it to him."
Tony just nodded and put it back. "Thank you."
"You're welcome. Your father's staring at the decanter again."
"I'm going." He took off his jacket and hung it up, then looked at Xander and got him out of his jacket too, taking him downstairs. Might as well play on the delusions until he could break it more gently. He let Xander knock on the door then walked in. "Don't you dare destroy the borrowed liver too," he said grimly. "After all, you still don't have an heir to take over the business, father."
"I do. He's a brilliant young man. MBA from Harvard and Yale for his undergrad," he said proudly.
"Did you adopt him?"
"No, son. I don't like the man personally. Especially since he's colored, but I do appreciate that he knows what he's doing and he runs the business nearly as good as I do. When I got sick he took over after the one I chose screwed up so royally that the SEC showed up in my hospital room. They're the ones who told me he had taken over and was fixing the issue." He sipped his ginger ale. "Let him down. They're just things, Anthony." He let Xander down, watching as he went to touch a leather couch. "Yes, that is Italian leather, little one. I got that from my mother." The baby beamed and patted it, running a hand along it as he went to look out the windows. When he didn't find anything going on he tried to climb into the chimney but Tony stopped him, much to his father's amusement. "Let him go. He can't get that far up."
"He'll be a mess and we'll never get him clean," he complained. He put Xander in a chair, letting him stare at the wall of pictures and books. "There, look at the pictures." Xander got down and climbed up in a chair that was closer so he could see better. "You all right?" he asked quietly.
"No. Nor will I be. Did you know she changed her will?"
"Marta didn't tell me she did that."
His father finished off his ginger ale and refilled his glass. "Want some? It's all I'm allowed to have."
"No thanks. I had a bottle of water on the way to the cemetery." Gibbs walked in. "Baby pictures."
"I haven't seen any of yours," he agreed.
"His baby book is the blue album next to the one of him in the green uniform, Jethro."
"Thank you." He grabbed it and sat down with his son. "This was Tony as a baby," he said quietly. Xander stared at it then at Tony, who nodded. Xander went back to staring at the baby, then at his father. "Yeah, that's Tony. He was your age once." He turned the page. From the first one on it was all professionally taken pictures. His newborn one. Every year but his sixth year was in there. Professional prom picture. Professional graduation picture. Not one of him getting his diploma but one of him afterward with it. Nothing after that one. His son made him turn back a few pages, back to the one labeled 'Anthony, age Fourteen'. It was a good picture of him. He looked a bit scrawny but still strong and proud. Sort of like how he was standing now. It was clear he didn't like what was going on. "Tony?" He looked at him. He gave him a look and Tony came over. "Where was that?"
"Um, right after the championship game for my school. We won. Mother hustled me out of uniform, cleaned me up, and had a professional come take my picture." He looked at him, saying a silent 'thanks' then he went back to his father. "I don't want it."
"Use it to make sure that son of yours is given every opportunity, Anthony."
"Dad, we're friends."
"Bullshit, son. Really. I heard you moved him in."
"His house is being rebuilt. We're not that serious that way, dad."
"Bull, son. Don't try to lie to me. It's not like I care anymore. The same as this house, they're just things. Things with price tags."
Tony looked at him. "I figured that out when I was sixteen, dad, and you laughed at me."
"I was stupid, son."
His father stared him down. "I can still paddle you."
"I'd like to see you try," he said dryly. His father burst out laughing. He shook his head. "Give it to charity, help others."
"I am, son. I'm helping my grandson grow up to the be man you wanted to be."
"I am the man I wanted to be, father. I'm very happy at NCIS."
"This way you could hire him a great nanny."
"We can do that on our salary."
"Quit being so stubborn!" his father yelled. "It's yours. Whether or not you like it, she made it all yours!" He panted, staring at his son.
"If you die today, mother will kick your ass all the way to hell," he reminded him.
"The same one who saw the crash said I'd lose everything important to me right afterward and then I'd die, son. I've already cheated death for two years. Evan died a few months back."
"From the surgery?"
"No. His mistress stabbed him and he got an infection in the wound," he said dryly. "I told him to lay off the peasant girls but he did not listen. You get that from him." He stared at his son, sitting down again. "I don't care if you don't like it. I don't care if you live in the house, sell the house, whatever. Give the servants a good severance package. Give Hawkes his retirement fund. Give Macy hers."
"Of course. You're talking like you know it's days from now."
"By what she said, why wait? Deathbed orders are so trite and often used out of panic, son. You know how I'd do things. Do them that way." He smirked at him. "You'll handle it. Also." He dug out an envelope, then looked at it for a bit then handed it over. "Your grandmother left that for you." Tony sat down hard, looking at it then at him. "I've had it in trust for you. That's where you've got that allowance from, son," he said quietly. "It's time it goes back to you. I'm sure he can help you with that."
"I don't know what to say." He stared at his father. "Why now?"
"Your mother said you've changed. You have some sense now."
"We're talking about the woman who spent nearly half a million dollars on shoes in one year and she says I'm suddenly *responsible*?" His father nodded. "How was I irresponsible before?"
"You were wasting it on frivolous things."
"That made me happy and content. That's not frivolous."
"If you say so. I still say comic books aren't worthwhile reading."
Gibbs looked at him. "It's something every normal boy goes through," he said dryly. The other man glared at him. He glared back. The older man slumped down. "I'll make sure he spends it on worthwhile things, like replacing the wardrobe that was lost due to his psychotic ex-girlfriend." He looked at his son again. "Go hug Tony." Xander slid down, toddling over to hug him.
Tony gave him the envelope to gum on. His father rolled his eyes. He pulled his son into his lap, giving him a hug. "I'll make sure you go to a great school with that. Even if your daddy disagrees." He looked at his father. "Thank you for finally giving that to me. I still don't want the rest."
His father shrugged. "Too late. It was all your mother's money, son. My money was mostly that trust held for you and the business. Even this house was your mother's people." He sat up again. "You might want to keep him from drooling on the check in there, son, before the ink runs. Can't be good for a boy." Gibbs took it and put it in his back pocket, then took his son, putting back the baby book. They left them alone. His father looked at him. "He's a strong man. I haven't met many people who could stare me down."
"He's a Marine, father. He's stared down worse than you." His father nodded, accepting that. "Any other shocks that I should go scream in the orchard about?"
"No," he admitted. "She signed an updated will that night. She had it faxed to the hotel. I'm sure you'll let me continue to live here?" Tony nodded slowly. "Any changes you want to make?"
"Put back up my swing," he said, standing up. "I'm going to go rest before dinner." He walked out, finding Gibbs unmaking a bed for him. "Thanks, boss," he said quietly, taking Xander and kicking off his shoes, laying down with him to cuddle. Gibbs tucked them both in and left the envelope on the desk, then he left them alone to look at the grounds.
The maid came in. "He should be in his own bed," she chided. "He could suffocate."
"Get out," he said firmly. "Hawkes!" he yelled. The butler came back and drug her off. "Thank you."
"We have the heirloom family crib pulled down, Master Anthony."
Tony looked at him. "He can nap later; I need a cuddle." That got an understanding nod. "We should talk later."
"Of course, sir." He drug the maid off, chastising her. She shouldn't nag the family. They knew what they were doing.
Tony kissed the back of Xander's head. "Let me cuddle, okay? Then we'll talk about great schools for you." He yawned and let the quiet baby soothe him into sleep.
Gibbs ran into his father at dusk. "This is a beautiful estate."
"Do you want to live here?"
He looked at him. "No," he said honestly. "I can't stand to have this much land without trees. I'm more a nature person."
"There's a beautiful orchard, Jethro."
"I saw. It's very beautiful, but it's still too sculpted for my tastes, Mr. DiNozzo. I like my trees a bit more wild and less fancifully trimmed," he said, pointing at a nearby bush that was trimmed into a unicorn.
"That was his mother. She always wanted to be a fairy princess," he sighed. "You can let them go wild when it's yours. I wouldn't mind in the least."
"We have time before that becomes a necessary decision but when it does I'll help him through the difficult times." That got a nod and a small smile. "Any more shocks? So I know when to hand over my son for cuddle duty?"
"In bed being your son's teddybear."
"That could suffocate him."
"I doubt it. The sheets are too thin for that and he's not that young."
"Oh. You really don't protect your child that way?"
"He's climbed in with both of us before when he's had nightmares. We've had a few incidences with caregivers while we were at work."
"I see. They were punished?"
"As stiffly as I could make the system do it," he agreed.
"Good." He patted him on the shoulder. "You'll do my son good. We tried very hard to protect him."
"Good. I hope your son turns out all right even though you're not that cautious, Jethro."
"I played Pee Wee football until I was thirteen, Mr. DiNozzo. Kids are supposed to get dirty, messy, scraped and banged up, and have fun. That's the joy of being a child," he said plainly. He nodded. "There's no way I'm going to overprotect my son to the point where he needs drugs."
"I nearly let them talk me into giving Anthony medicine for his attention problem but then the pediatrician stepped in to stop it and pointed out he was bored."
"We have that problem at work now and then. It's usually solved fairly easily by making him do my paperwork." That got a laugh. "It is." He shrugged. "Is there anything I should know? I wasn't listening."
"I thank you for that. He's had a bit of a shock. My wife changed her will and this was all hers."
"She split it among you?"
"No, she left it to him and her only grandchild." He smiled. "Thank you for lightening up her last few days, Jethro, and mine." He walked back inside, going back to his study to make sure everything was in order. He had a sneaking suspicion his son wasn't as involved with Jethro as his mother had thought but it was clear that they did care for each other deeply and that boy was the only grandchild he was getting. He pulled out the forms that had mirrored his wife's and looked them over. Then he corrected one thing before calling the family attorney. "Phil, it's me. You left in that stupid marriage clause." He smiled. "Well, no but he and his boyfriend are here and they'll never allow it in their lifetime. You know how strong the Church is in some things." He nodded. "Fax me over new copies without that. Did you find little Alexander's birth certificate?" He listened to what he said. "That's what she said, yes. That's fine. They obviously wanted the best of the best to breed, no matter what," he sighed.
"It's a shame, he's a fine, strong man. Good for my son too. He's settled down. Took the baby up to cuddle in bed when I told him about the will and things. No, not like that," he complained. "My son's not like that. He's his teddybear. It's unbelievably cute I would assume. Thank you." He hung up and leaned his head back. "There's too many perverts in this world. No wonder my son wanted to work on eradicating them. I wish him luck." The fax machine in the corner started to spit out pages and he got up to get them, reading them over. He found one questionable clause but he didn't care. The business would go on. The one getting it there would see to that. Making him pick someone that he'd have approved of wasn't really an issue. He found a nice clause in case of other grandchildren. That was nice but probably not going to happen. If so he doubted his son would discriminate against the original one for not being his by birth. He came to the last page and nodded, signing it. Then he faxed it back. He put it on the blotter in front of him and smiled, relaxing again.
That's how the butler found him a few hours later. Already cold and smiling.
Tony walked back into work the first day back, nodding at the director. "There's going to be a probate hearing in a few days. I'll take that as Gibbs' time on and take Xander with me, Director," he offered quietly.
"I understand. How are you holding up?"
"Well enough. It's not like either of them really knew what to do with me. My mother thought dirt was created by aliens so therefore was going to eat me. My father decided I had no sense and was stupid for caring about others." He shrugged. "We'll make sure Xander knows better."
"Good." She patted him on the arm. "Is Jethro coming in today?"
"Ducky needed the day off and he demanded late last night to have the baby today. His mother wanted to see him."
"Is that wise?" she asked, looking concerned.
Gibbs came in. "What's going on?"
"Telling her about the probate hearing and Ducky having Xander, boss."
"His mother thinks he's her grandchild by Ducky and I," he told her. "It makes her last few years happy to think that so I don't mind." That got a smile from her. "He'll take Xander with him to the probate hearings so I'll be on that week."
"That's fine. I'm sure if you need him he can consult from up there." Tony nodded. "What are you doing with the house?"
"Right now it's going to stay empty. The staff is staying to clean up and make it ready in case I decide to sell it. That way they're getting paid and don't have to find a new job. It's a tough time right now for that. Besides, not like I want to live there." He shrugged and headed off. "I'm going to check my email, boss. Director, my check was wrong again. I got a whole dollar fifty."
"I'll check into it, DiNozzo." She looked at him. "Are you all right?"
"I'm fine, Jen. They both thought we were together. His father wanted us to live up there. It's a nice estate but too touchy and planned for my tastes." Tony let out a swear and he heard something crash. "What was that?" he called without having to look.
"Um, boss, Tony needs a new monitor," McGee called from his desk. "He's swearing in Italian too. I don't know why."
"She struck again. She's petitioning the court to get her fair share since she claimed we were married, boss," Tony called. "I'll replace the monitor, director."
"Please do that." She looked at him. "Just shoot her this time, Jethro."
"That's his fun." He went back down there. "You okay?"
"A few pieces of glass hit my hand," he admitted, holding a paper napkin from his drawer on it. "I'm fine, boss. Can I shoot her?"
"Thank you. I've apparently got court in about two hours." He looked at him. "I'll fill out the requisition from the laptop or pick it up on the way back." He walked off, heading down to his car. He peeled out, not happy with the world. He found her crossing a street at the courthouse and thought about running her over but that meant it'd be over too soon. He parked and carefully got out, heading inside. His ID was shown so he got to keep his gun. He looked at it then at the woman strolling up the hall. "No, keep it," he ordered, handing it over. "I will shoot her."
"She will be," he promised, heading to the proper courtroom. He nodded at the judge since he was at his bench. "Sir, I just learned about this today. I've been out of town at both parent's funerals."
"I can grant a continuance so you have the chance to get a lawyer."
"Sir, I can assure you there's an issue here that won't require a lawyer. It requires a straight jacket."
"I'm sorry for your loss, pookie," she said.
He turned and punched her, then smiled. "I feel better. That's for destroying my movie collection. That's also for burning Gibbs' house."
"You left me for him!"
"I wasn't yours for more than two dates until I got some ass, and then I went after about fifty other women after you. And no, Gibbs is just my boss. I'm his *nanny*." She stared at him in horror, scooting back. "There's an open warrant for her arrest," Tony said to the bailiff. "Can you please look that up?" He produced his ID. "I know Fornell found new charges of her trying to hack into my bank account again after he arrested her the first time." The judge coughed. Tony came over to the computer to log in once the bailiff had found that one and printed it off. He pulled up all the files and printed the summary pages, handing them over. "A bit atypical, Your Honor, but I'm fairly qualified for this part."
"Special Agent Anthony DiNozzo, NCIS."
"I see." He looked over the former charges then at her. "This is a continuation of her issues?" Tony nodded. Two more agents walked in. "You can keep her in here while I hear this," he ordered.
"That's fine, sir. Afterwards we have orders to tie weights around her ankles and toss her in the Potomac."
"Would you?" the judge asked.
"She burned one agent's house. She tore up Agent DiNozzo's. She injured him severely, shot at him during the first one and then broke into his hospital room to kill him while he was healing. She shot at another officer out of NCIS for going to help him. She's endangered public safety numerous times. She tried to claim Agent Gibbs' son as hers and Agent DiNozzo's even though he's Gibbs' nanny most of the time, and then she's decided to start attacking us, sir, for protecting that team from her. Not to mention the six counts of hacking and other federal charges."
"I see. That first one was reduced from attempted murder to stalking in the first?" he asked the agents.
"The judge threw out the shooting part since the gun she used was never found even though there were bullets present. She said she couldn't be certain they weren't from an earlier event or assault," the other answered. That got a nod from him. "She was given home confinement then went after Agent DiNozzo again, trying to run him off the road. When he pulled into a police station because he had Agent Gibbs' son in the car with him after a doctor's appointment, she claimed that Alexander Gibbs was her son with him to the officers. She had violated home confinement regulations and they put her in jail for all of three weeks. Then she was released as time served and put on probation, which she broke within two days, Your Honor, by trashing Agent DiNozzo's apartment and burning Agent Gibbs' house. Then she stalked them around the city and tried to get into the hotel where they were being hidden. When she couldn't she went after another NCIS agent, their lab tech Abby Sciuto. We rescued her because a Crypt stepped in to help her since she was on foot running away from the woman after she had crashed into her cab. We had managed to catch her once but some idiot judge let her have bail. She hacked into his accounts to pay the bail and then left. She's since hacked in again and heard about this issue, then filed false claims with your court."
"Like I said, someone needs a straight jacket and if it's me, I'll gladly go take the nice pills that make me take a long nap," Tony told him. "I'm going to shoot her. I gave the security guards my gun so I wouldn't shoot her in here, Your Honor. My boss gave me permission to shoot her as well."
"It sounds like a heartfelt wish. Let's see her proof. She's claiming she married him?"
"I have it in my bag," she huffed.
The first agent got it out and looked it over. "Ma'am, Virginia's marriage licenses aren't that color or printed on plain paper," he noted, handing that to bailiff. He handed over the tape as well. "I'd like to see how she faked that."
"Photoshop probably," Tony offered. "I've been married once and widowed after eighteen days," he said dryly. She glared at him. "It sure as hell wasn't her since I was seventeen at the time."
"Half of DC thinks he's in a relationship with his boss," the second agent offered.
Tony nodded. "Including my parents. Thanks for spreading that further."
"Sorry, Agent DiNozzo."
"That's all right. Is Ducky okay?"
"She chased him with a broom earlier claiming he had brought in fairy sprites then Xander cooed at her and she settled down to hug the supposed grandchild."
"Thanks." He looked at the judge. "Can we dump her in the river for you, Your Honor? I'll tie the weights," he offered with a small smile.
"Let me watch the tape please." He went to do that. He came back ten minutes later. "She may be able to hack but she has a bad hand at photoshopping the pictures onto the body. They don't match colors, tones, or size in some shots." He looked at them. "I'm going to dismiss this one as long as she doesn't get bail this time."
"Sir, she's going to go before a Federal judge," the second agent assured him. "She's not going to get bail. She might go to a Club Fed prison as they're called but she won't get bail."
"Thank you, God!" Tony yelled. The judge smiled at that. "If she does I'm not going to hold back. One of us on the team will kill her," he promised. "I will swear it in blood that she'll die if she gets out and comes near me again." That got a nod and the agents drug her off. He looked at the judge. "Thank you for being tolerant of the strangeness."
"I knew there was something wrong with this case," he admitted. "You didn't know until this morning?" He shook his head. "Very well then. Thank you for attending, Agent DiNozzo."
"Not a problem, Your Honor. Have a better and less exciting day." He walked out, going to get his gun. He stood outside to check it over, staring at her while he slapped the clip in. She slumped down in the car they stuffed her in. Then he headed for his own.
"It was watched, Agent DiNozzo. No bombs or anything," one of them called.
Tony smiled. "Thanks, guys. Tell Fornell I owe him a coffee." That got a nod and they left with her. He went back to work, stopping to get Gibbs and himself a coffee. He handed it over. "She's been taken into Federal custody this time, boss, and they said she hacked my accounts again."
"She did," McGee agreed. "Your letter of authority for Abby let her check and they found more hits from her. The bank has fixed it and paid all the outstanding checks on your account."
"Thank you. Anything else I should know?"
"The judge over the will's probate is an old golfing buddy of your father?"
Tony nodded. "That happens in small communities. I'm going to get a new monitor, boss. McGee, I need to know what I'm getting." He printed a sheet and handed it over. "Thank you. Did you order it?" He nodded. "Decent. Which store?"
"Okay." He headed that way, going to get the good monitor. They even carried it out to his car. While there he found the laptop he wanted, with everything he wanted but the DVD player. He found a clerk. "I want that but I want DVD capabilities and it's got to mesh and work within the federal system since I'm an agent."
He looked at him. "Don't you have buying programs?"
"Oh." He nodded, going to pick out what he wanted. That was the machine but they'd need to upgrade to the DVD player and burner, new harddrive, and more memory. He looked at him once it was ordered and paid for. "Two days, sir."
"Thank you." He took his card back and headed back to the office, pulling through to get a snack too. He looked at the probies by the elevator. "Guys, got something to carry?" he called. They moaned and shook their heads. "Good, come carry my new monitor." They came to get the box and head up to his floor. McGee came over to switch his for Tony's new one, smiling at him. "Fine, McGee. Thank you." He was even nice enough to hook it up. Tony sat down to nibble and get back to his email. "Boss, my new laptop is on order."
"Good, the director said she couldn't quite be that generous if we were going to fix your salary."
"It happens, boss. Did she?"
"Keep hitting your email. She said she'd send a note when it was fixed."
"Thanks, boss." He ate another fry, going through more spam and inter-office memos. He came to one and snorted. "Hey, boss, did you know we had a new dress code?"
"I did and I've already yelled at her. Ignore it."
"Thanks, boss." He deleted that one. It didn't really apply to him anyway unless he came in wearing eyeliner some day soon. That was a wicked thought and he looked over at his boss, then at Kate. "Do we have any undercovers going on?"
"No." She looked at him. "Is Ducky doing okay with Xander?"
"According to the agents who showed up to arrest her, his mother chased him and the baby around with a broom for a few minutes for being fairy sprites, then Xander cooed and cuddled so she's back in grandma mode."
"Oh, good." She nodded and went back to work, shifting her shirt.
"Yes, Kate, I saw the hickey earlier," Gibbs assured her. "Did my son use you as the pacifier again?"
"No," she said weakly.
"Don't look at me, boss. I was sucking on someone else's neck last night," McGee said dryly.
"Xander got my arm," Tony offered.
"We need to get him a new crib."
"He can have the heirloom one from home, boss."
"No thanks. That thing weighs a ton."
"It is a baby jail," he agreed.
"Was the girl with the kitten there?" McGee teased.
Tony looked over and nodded. "Yeah, if there's pictures she's the one in the fuschia and black hat. She married a stupid bastard who wanted to suck her dry and make her have multiple babies. Her mother ran over him too. Was the first nice thing she did." He got back to work. Then he looked at them. "Do we have a case since I'm going to be doing this for days?" Gibbs shook his head. "Damn." He went back to his browsing.
"Your turn to get lunch, Tony."
"I locked it all away in an investment account, Kate."
"Crap. I tried, McGee. No lobster today."
"He's allergic to shellfish," Gibbs reminded her. "DiNozzo, how many of those emails were from her?"
"Six so far, boss. I'm on page thirteen of twenty two." He checked some more to delete then he undid that one and read one. He snorted. "Huh. She's pregnant. Interesting." He deleted that one and went on. After he was done narrowing it down he went back to reading. He found the new one from the director and clicked to open it, finding her saying it was fixed and how much his paycheck should be last time and this time. He sent back a simple 'thank you' and got back to his email. "Hey, boss. Since when can't men wear cologne?"
"There's a person with severe allergies in the building," Kate told him.
"What about scented soaps?"
"Not a clue," she admitted. "Gibbs?"
"Haven't heard anything about it." He lifted his head. "Paulette, come here for a minute please?" he called. She came jogging over. "DiNozzo had a question about the no cologne rule. Scented soaps since most are?"
"It's usually worn out by the time you get here," she said. "He'll tell us if anyone's bothering him. He's one of the interrogation techs."
"That's fine," he agreed. "Any particular brand that sets him off worse than most since DiNozzo and I didn't know?"
"I only use a scented body wash, boss,"
"Really? I thought you used aftershave."
"Scent free. It doesn't irritate my skin." He clicked on another new one. "Huh, death threat from the former head of HR." Paulette glared at him. He motioned her closer and let her see. "She's mad because I never hit on her."
"Really? We thought you dumped her." Tony shook his head. "She's mad because she's one of the eight women in the building you haven't hit on?" He nodded. "I'll go fix that crap, Tony. Don't worry about it. I know he reacts to Drakkar."
"That's fine. I can change scents." She nodded at that. "She did tell you about the switching and sharing things?"
"She did and I'll send up time cards," she promised. "Just try to keep the overtime down, guys, please?" They all nodded. "Thanks. Oh, the other one on the dress code, about men being in ties? We've already taken that one off."
"I told her to leave Abby alone too," Gibbs agreed.
"Good." She walked off.
"Hey, boss, the good news is Old Spice makes soaps and other things," he offered. "That way you won't miss your aftershave too much."
"I'll look into that tonight, DiNozzo."
"Sure, boss." He saw his hand creep over to the phone. "Ducky was taking him for his last set of boosters," he reminded him. "Plus the ones he missed."
"Good." He let his hand fall since they should be in the doctor's office at the moment. He'd call in a half-hour instead. He finished going through his email and watched Tony read his. "Girls?" he asked dryly.
"No, boss. Legal crap out the butt." He answered another one. "Probie, the blinking light is what?"
"Her spying on you."
"Oh, thanks." He went back to typing the answer to that email about the probate. Then he went on, deleting the invitation to dinner. And the next one that was an invitation to dinner. "Someone look up Harriet Pierce?"
"New cleaning lady," Kate said. "Young and kinda pretty, Tony."
"I'm tired of women, Kate. I'm going to shoot the next one." He deleted the ones from her but copied the address from the last one and wrote out a nice note saying that he was presently with someone but that he appreciated that she liked him that way and he hoped they could still work together. He'd had to write a few of those over the years. The went back to it and looked up when he heard footsteps behind him on the stairs. "I was being nice."
"You were," the director agreed. "Thank you. You told the judge you were going to shoot her?"
"Yup. Fornell's boys said they had orders to drown her in the Potomac." He shrugged and answered the new one from the lawyers. He squeezed his eyes shut then answered him as politely as he could. No, he didn't want to challenge the will. He didn't participate in banking. He was a federal agent in an investigative agency. He didn't know the first thing about banking and he let others balance his checkbook for him. It was as polite as he could come. Then he went back to the email. He got one back from his new admirer saying she understood and to keep her in mind. That she had heard the rumors he was bi and that was fine with her, she'd even be his beard. He sent that one to Gibbs and went on with it.
Gibbs looked at him. "What do you want me to tell her?" he asked.
"I don't care, boss." He answered another one to HR, then got back to the new one from the lawyer. That was answered easily enough and he went on. "Anyone want an estate on Long Island?" he called. "I'm selling my parents' house most likely. Let me know if you want it."
"Sure," someone called back from a few rows over. "No baby?"
"Ducky," Gibbs called back, losing the fight and calling him. "How is he?" He smiled. "He did okay with the shots? Did she smother him or just hold him?" He nodded. "That's fine, Ducky. Thank you." He hung up. "We'll have lunch with him, Xander, and Ducky's mother."
"Sure," McGee agreed. "She's a pisser, boss."
"She was before she got sick, McGee. The woman used to embarrass Morrow all the time by hitting on him."
"And you, boss," Tony reminded him.
"I can put your name on that corner as well," he said patiently. "Or tell her you'd love to have her as a beard."
"No thanks. I'll behave for a few more."
The director laughed. "I'm sure you'll try, Agent DiNozzo. Did you get the new dress code statement?"
He looked at her. "Director, I can't wear heels in the field. It hampers me any time I have to climb to get to the body or do the crime scene and they don't really help your back any. It's been proven that wearing heels can throw your back out of alignment and lead to later back problems. Besides, they make my feet swell after an hour or so and then I'd be unable to perform my duties for a few more hours until they go down."
"I don't think I meant you for the heels, DiNozzo."
He grinned at her. "Are you sure, Director? Because the only way you get me into a germ catching and passing tie is when Gibbs buries me. Oh, boss, I'm not taking the flu shot. That's how I got sick *last* year. Pneumonia I might take, flu no way in hell."
"That's how you got the flu that gave you pneumonia?" Kate demanded. He nodded. "Crap. Bad batch?"
"Not a clue. Still not taking it. I like breathing and I don't think Xander needs the flu as well."
"Why would you need to?" the director asked.
"He had the plague, it got sent to us," Kate said matter-of-factly. "He came within minutes of dying with it. Then he came back to work a week too early because NCIS only gave him two weeks to recover and Gibbs told him not to."
She looked at Tony. "It got mailed here?" He nodded. "Do we have that on record?"
"Look up Y. pestis," he said with a shrug. "Boss?"
"It's in the security manual. That and to not touch your blood, even now, because they don't know if there's any dormant or if they can make an antidote out of it. There's also a note not to sneeze near you, DiNozzo."
"Thanks, boss. Love you guys too. And hey, I only *nearly* got blown up my first day back."
"You did," he agreed. He threw a balled up paper at him. "Shut up."
"Yes, boss. Sorry didn't want to remind you of the asshole Ari."
"Good." He shook his head and looked at the stunned director. "Yes, he did have it. It got sent here in a kiss-sealed envelope."
"SWAK," Kate agreed.
The director went to look that up, then called HR. "We only give two weeks of paid leave if you have the plague?" She listened to the excuse of the doctor said so. "Uh-huh. Let's do a round of flu and pneumonia shots for everyone but DiNozzo. He said he got the flu from last year's. Thank you." She hung up and called Jethro's desk. "Everyone's getting the flu and pneumonia shots this year. He can opt out of the flu one." His thank you made her warm and tingly. "You're welcome. I don't want it running through the office anyway, Jethro. Last year we lost nearly six hundred man hours from it. Have a better day of desk duty." She hung up and checked on what Tony was doing. She shook her head at the blog he was reading. Then she saw his name mentioned and read closer. Apparently the woman on it was saying how his coworkers were so mean to spread vicious rumors about him. That she was sure he wasn't HIV positive and that he'd never been, and that she had clean test results and a copy of his now too. She copied that entry and sent it to Jethro with a 'do you know about this?' message. Even she heard Kate complaining as she was put back in the corner. It was an interesting punishment for a full grown agent but Jethro was a father now.
Tony looked up as Xander tugged on his father's hand before they could leave. "I'll go warm up the car, boss." The FBI agent subbing for them as a nanny was moping and had taken the day off to let Xander soothe the ache of his oncoming divorce.
Xander tugged on his father's hand again. "Kiss."
Gibbs picked him up to kiss him on the cheek. "There." His son shook his head. "Not good enough?"
"Kiss mommy!" he said with a bright grin.
"Son, I'm not going to kiss Tony. I'm not sleeping with Tony. But thank you for sticking up for my right to be straight, son." Xander cackled and got down to go hug his buddy. He walked out shaking his head. "DiNozzo, those rumors have warped my son," he announced.
"He wanted you to hug me?"
"Ah. Well... I'm not exactly your type, boss." Gibbs snorted and glared at him. "It'd only be casual between us and we'd be together for the son."
"Too true," he agreed. He got in to drive. "He stopped me to tell me to kiss you. I can't decide if he's brilliant or demented."
"He's a mad genius, boss. We're going to be late." Gibbs put the key into the ignition and they backed out of the parking space, heading for the office. "Are we getting him the miniature horse for his birthday like you promised?"
"She's been sold and they don't have any more. But your mother did arrange for riding stuff, right?"
"Yeah, at a local hunt club. I was almost worried. I haven't been on a hunt since high school."
"We'll go together. He'll love it."
"Sure, boss. I arranged it for the day after his birthday. Kate'll be in charge." That got a nod. "Even if I get called in you two can still go. I told them it was a special treat for the kid."
"Good. Thanks. You got taught riding at school?"
"Yeah it was a gym elective that got me out of the building. It was that or soccer and mother freaked."
"I heard how they overprotected you. I'm surprised you're not germphobic."
"I lived in a frathouse, boss. I got over it pretty fast the first time I walked into the bathroom and the guy yanking off in there shot off in shock and hit me."
"Sorry. It happens. He figured out how to lock a door and I learned to knock. Served us right."
That got a smirk. "Good to know. Anything else I should know?"
"Not yet, boss. Take a left. There's a wreck up ahead."
"I see it."
"Boss, they've got guns," he said.
"Crap." He called it in and they headed that way to help. Like they were supposed to. So much for an uneventful day at the office.
Epilogues: various cute points through the years.
2 years old.
Xander slid into Tony's lap and grinned at him. "Love you."
"Love you too, Xander, what's up?"
"You live with us?"
"I am for this week. I'm having my place painted."
"Ooh." He nodded. "Smelly like diapers."
"Yup. That's why I'm sleeping on the couch." He gave him a hug and a kiss on the head. "Good boy."
"Fank you." He wiggled down and went to see his father. "Nanny coming?"
"In a few hours. Then we've got to go check on a ship, Xander. So I'll be back late tonight. Okay?" He smiled and stroked over his head. "You've been a good boy today. Get a cookie from the fridge." His son squealed and did that, taking two since his father gave him a tolerant look. Then he went back to Tony to have him turn on the tv and let him watch cartoons. He was still liking the bilingual ones. It was good for him he guessed.
Later that night, Tony stormed into the office. "Director!" She looked at him. "Xander," he said. She moaned, sounding horrified. "We have a nanny but I make him can't tell him."
"You tell him that his daddy got a booboo on the job. That he's in the hospital like you were the last time and in a few days he can see him, but not until he's better. That should give us some time," she ordered. He nodded, going to do that. "I need you here."
"He needs me there. The nanny doesn't know and I don't want anyone else to tell him. I'm coming back here. Probably with him." That got a nod and they went their separate ways. He hurried back to the house, calling Kate. "It's me, I'm running to reassure Xander. I'll be back in a few minutes. Have something for me when I walk in." He turned off the phone and hit the lights, going faster than he probably should but he was angry. He parked and turned off the lights, heading inside. "Chad?" He looked over. "Is he down?" That got a nod. "Gibbs got hurt on the bust," he said quietly, walking inside. "He's in ICU due to a head injury."
"Bad rap. He be okay?"
"We think so. I've got to get back but I'm bringing you and Xander with me tonight, just in case." That got a nod. He went upstairs to get the baby up and dressed. Once he had him dressed and he was more awake he looked at Xander, seeing the uncertainty. "Xander, on the thing we had to do tonight..."
"Yes, that thing. Daddy got a booboo while we were doing that. He's in the hospital, like I was last time." Xander stared at him and he could see the past memories now. "He'll be okay," he promised. "I'm not taking any chances and you guys are going to be at the station with us until we hear something. All right?" He nodded and hugged him. "He'll be fine, little guy. I promise he will and I'm still here." Xander nodded, giving him a squeeze. "Good boy. Now, let's go to NCIS with Chad." He walked him down the stairs, letting him cling until they got out to the car. Then Chad put him in the seat and climbed in. "I'll let you guys have the conference room. Then my place if you have to."
"I thought it was being painted."
"It is. It was done today. It should be dry." That got a nod. "We'll have to see." They headed back to the station the same way. He didn't have the time to waste. He walked them in and signed them in, taking them to the conference room off their unit. "There, stay in here, Xander. There's a book you left last time." He pointed and Xander nodded, going to get it. "Try to put him back to sleep." Tony took off his jacket. "Here, use this. I'll be back in a while, Xander. Once I hear something." That got a trusting look and a smile. "Try to go back to sleep. It'll make the time go faster." He walked out, letting Chad handle it. "What do we have?" he demanded.
"Not much yet," Kate said. "Still running down what went wrong. Abby's just gotten back and is doing a simulation right now, Tony. How's Xander taking it?"
"Okay so far. He's in the break room with Chad. Probie?" He looked over. "Anything?"
"Something about the names. I'm going over those again." That got a nod. "Abby should have the simulation done in about an hour, Tony, and we've got everyone in quarantine at the docks."
"Good. Let me know immediately when we even have a hint, people." He glanced toward the break room then went back into agent mode. He had to be stronger at the moment.
A few days later Xander looked up when his father came storming in, smiling at him. "Bad day?"
"A very bad day." He looked at him. "How would you like to see Mexico?"
Xander shook his head. "No."
"No?" he asked, looking amused. "I wasn't looking for permission, son."
Xander carefully got up and got a knife he wasn't supposed to touch, handing it to his father. "Wrists," he said in explanation then went back to his looking in the catalog Chad had left on the table.
"Have I mentioned those memory spurts annoy me?" he asked sarcastically.
Xander looked at him. "Mexico near Dawn?" he asked then he smiled.
"Aw, crap, that is the west coast of Mexico," he agreed. "It can't be that close." Xander nodded. "How do you know?" He pointed at the map on the fridge that Tony and Chad had put up to teach him about the country. It had parts of Mexico on it. He groaned. "It'll be fine, son."
"Wrist, daddy. Wrist." He went back to his looking.
Xander looked up at him. "Plugs?"
"No, I won't need earplugs." Xander nodded that he would. "No, I won't." Xander nodded again. "We're going to Mexico."
Xander started to scream and cry. Throwing a fit as only a two-year-old could.
Gibbs held his head, moaning. "It's not that bad!"
Tony walked in. "Hey!" he called. Xander went down to sniffles and pitiful looks. "If he takes you away I'm filling for custody, Xander. Abby and I will steal you back." He smacked Gibbs on the head. "That's for leaving me the fucking team, Gibbs." He hit him again. "That's for being a bastard!"
"They didn't listen...."
"And?" Tony interrupted. "They don't listen to me either! Hell, Kate certainly won't so no one else will! Abby doesn't even listen to me! If you leave I'm quitting and leaving it to Kate. Let her terrorize the two new Probies she'll have to train." He glared at him. "I don't command. Get over it!" he yelled. "You're a fucking senior agent, Gibbs! If they don't listen to you, then tell someone else who can do something about them! You quitting is like Xander throwing a fit!"
"You done?" he asked.
"Yes, I fucking well quit. Come on, Xander. We're going to have ice cream."
"We're going to Mexico."
Tony turned and glared at him, making him back up. "Xander is as close as I'm ever coming to a son, Gibbs. You take him and I will hire someone black ops to steal him back. Besides, taking him where there's an active guerilla war and death cult going on not more than fifty miles away is damn stupid! Not to mention demons like him. According to Willow and Dawn, that's their vacation spot!" Gibbs shifted at that. "Now, tell someone who can do something. You stomping off like my mother in a snit doesn't help them or let their families know what happened. You telling someone does. I'd tell someone since you quit."
"You actually quit?" he asked.
"Hell yes! I don't want to command and lead! Are you stupid?" He took Xander and walked off. "We're going for ice cream. If you try to stop me I'm shooting you in the thigh until you've regained sense." He slammed the front door.
"He's my son!" he yelled. He'd go after them but he knew Tony would protect him and bring him back in an hour or so. He huffed and considered it then decided he did have a point. He had to let others know what had happened. He called his former CO to start that paperwork as well. Then he called a reporter he knew to sit down and talk with her. At least he only had small memory gaps now. He could handle this for a while. Then he'd beat DiNozzo until he was black and blue. By the time he got done telling her what had happened it was dark. He looked outside, sighing in displeasure. His son was out there somewhere. He called Tony's cellphone. "Where is my son?" he asked into his voicemail. He hung up and went back to watching. Tony came back about an hour later and he walked outside. "Where did you take him?"
"Ice cream and then a movie." He glared at him. "See sense yet?" He got Xander out and held him up. "Kiss daddy and we'll go watch more movies at my place, Xander."
"He's my son," he said firmly. "Not yours."
Tony shifted Xander, looking at him. "Really? I'd say right about now I could get palimony, Gibbs."
"You were his nanny!"
"I'm the one who took care of him and still does. You didn't even think about him when you did that. Or the fact that he loves it here and you've got help here. If you take him to Mexico, who's going to watch him when you want an afternoon off, boss? Or when you've got a migraine too? Or even when you're both sick. You won't have Chad, you won't have Abby, you won't have Kate and McGee, you won't have me. You'd be stuck by yourself and what's-his-name, your former boss. I don't think he'd get along well with kids. Someone told him you had a son and he choked." Gibbs moaned at that. "So make a decision fast, boss. Are you going to leave him where he's got love and support or are you going to run?"
"I still have memory gaps."
"No shit, really?" he asked sarcastically. "I didn't realize that earlier," he said. "Not like you said my name properly." Gibbs leaned against the hood. "I can help you with that, boss, but you've still gotta stay around." Xander petted his father, making him smile. "That's right, he needs petted and loved, Xander. His booboo's making him do stupid stuff. He needs to think and not react. This isn't how you plan." He handed over the baby and paced in front of him. "I will help you, Gibbs. Everything you need I can do."
"We were together?"
"Massive rumors to the contrary, no."
"Oh." He nodded at that. "Didn't think I had switched teams."
"Kiss him," Xander said with a smile.
"How about I kiss you, Xander." He kissed him on the forehead. "Why do you smell like cigars?"
"I ran into Fornell and he was having one in congratulations. He told me to stab you to give you the time to think. I offered him my gun but he said he had sniper who could do that." Gibbs glared at him. "Not thinking, boss. It's a bad thing. Now, would you and Xander both like to come over and watch movies? We can do that. That way you have time to consider some things in private and without him having to watch you do it."
"He got out one of the carving knives and suggested I slit my wrists when I said we were going to Mexico."
Tony nodded. "Might as well, boss. The only thing you'd get down there is VD from easy chicks and tequila poisoning."
"No, that's *your* vacation, DiNozzo, not mine."
"Not really. I'm still not seeing women."
Gibbs frowned and stared at him. "You went on a date last month, didn't you?"
"Two months ago and it was a nice guy named Harley."
Gibbs blinked. "You were serious about switching sides?"
"Hell yes. That way I can still have sex but I don't have to deal with stupid stalkers." They both looked as a car pulled up. "The director, boss." He looked at him. "I'll help but I'm not going to Mexico. Sand gives me a rash. We can even go to the estate. Not like I care."
"Not from what I remember."
"Not that one. I haven't been to the one in Italy yet." He smiled at the director. "I came to check on him."
"That's good. I think someone should considering he called a reporter. How could you, Jethro?"
"He saw nineteen men die for a stupid reason," Tony told her. "How could he not? The truth is always better than whatever lie someone was going to tell their families. Their families deserve better and he was a Marine too so he knows what they deserve. So don't start on him." She backed away. "Thank you." He looked at him. "Wales, Italy? The new house out in the woods?"
"New house?" Tony nodded. "Where?"
"Up north." He grinned. "I'll show you if you want. Full woods. Has to run on a generator."
Gibbs considered it and looked at his son. "What about him?"
"I handled him with broken ribs while he couldn't do more than burp, coo, and dirty diapers, Gibbs. I can handle him wanting to know about the woods and so can you."
"Point." He stood up. "Want to go there, Xander?" Xander smiled at that. "You sure, DiNozzo?"
"I'll have to go back to work sometime," he offered dryly.
"I don't want a command position," he said, glaring at her. He did not like how she hung all over Gibbs. "Besides, he's going so I'm going. Remember, we're a team, Director." He handed over his ID and gun. "There. We've got to pack for a short trip. Or a not so short trip." She still stared so he walked over and kissed Gibbs, making her sigh in misery and stomp off. He pulled back and waved with a smile. "I'll take good care of my family, Director. This frees us from the rules now."
"You'd better keep him safe, DiNozzo, or I will hunt you down and make your last few hours miserable!" she yelled as she stomped. She got into her car, slamming the door, and drove off.
Gibbs waited until they were alone to smack Tony on the head. "Asshole."
"Yes, I have one of those. Someone even showed me what it was for, boss, but I don't expect that from you. Solved your stalker problems too, huh?" He smiled at Xander, picking him up to cuddle. "Want to go to Vermont, baby? See some trees, watch them do neat stuff like turn colors?" Xander nodded and beamed. He looked at Gibbs. "Pack for both of you. We can be at my place tonight so I can put some things on automatic and deal with the retirement fund issues. You'll have to fill out a few forms too."
"I've got an investment guy, I'm supposing."
"His name's Joe. We can do that on the way out of town. What about your mandatory service, Gibbs?"
"I've already called to start my withdrawal due to catastrophic injury. My CO said he'd get me honorably discharged."
"Good. Then we'll arrange things tomorrow morning, fly up tomorrow afternoon, and then we'll be there by nightfall. I've only been up there once, when I set it up."
"Sure. Sounds nice. How many bedrooms?"
"Three, boss. It's a real house but it's in the middle of nowhere. He's got a real bed." Xander beamed at that. "That's right, a big boy bed." He smiled at Gibbs. "Agreed?"
"Fine. We'll go up there and try it out. If it doesn't work, I'll go to Mexico. What about our desks?"
"I told Probie to pack them up for us." He saw the look. "McGee, boss."
"Oh, him." He nodded. "Let me pack."
"Sure, Xander and I will be here figuring out what we want to watch."
"Good. Stay there. Do not take off again." The implied 'or I'll hunt you down and kill you' was understood.
"You're being rational, I won't. As long as you stay thinking instead of reacting, boss."
That got a nod and he went to pack things for each of them. He paused, then looked outside; Tony and his son were both smiling and laughing with each other. His son didn't seem too concerned anymore. Tony was keeping him calm. It was a good thing. Now if only he remembered if they were together or not. If not, he'd smack him harder for the kiss earlier.
Gibbs looked up at the a-frame house, then at him. "You weren't kidding. A full house in the middle of nowhere. Generator?"
"I stopped to get extra gas when I got groceries, Gibbs. Inside." He handed over the keys and Gibbs nodded, going inside with the kid. He found the two bottom bedrooms and the one with the twin bed got his son deposited on it. He wiggled him out of his clothes and covered him up, letting him sleep that way for now. Then he went to help Tony carry things in. "Gas?"
"Small shed off the back porch."
Gibbs carried them inside and through the house to the small shed off the back porch. He closed the door and stared. There was a deer looking at him. He slowly sat down and watched it for a few minutes. The deer finally walked off, going back to grazing.
Tony came out and sat beside him, handing him a beer. "The last guy was feeding him. Within weeks we should have him coming up to us again if we're careful about it." He took a drink. "We'll be here as long as you need, Gibbs. I can probably stand six months of doing not a whole lot before my head starts to hurt again." He took another drink and got smacked once he had swallowed. He looked at him.
"It got her off your back, boss." He went back to watching the woods. "The nearest neighbor's ten miles away that way," he said pointing. "And the village is back five miles. We can go back for more groceries tomorrow and stuff to do laundry. I don't have any detergent here but we do have an old ringer washer and a line." He took another long drink, finishing the bottle. "I'll be upstairs if you want to talk. If not, don't take off tonight. Let Xander get settled in and take a long walk tomorrow while we go for supplies if you want."
"That might be good. You'll watch him?"
Tony looked at him. "I've watched over your son since the day you brought him home, Gibbs. I've changed just as many diapers as you. I've been there for every single major step in his life. I've helped with the traumas and the happies. You're not getting rid of me. Come up if you need to talk. Don't stay up too late. Xander will be up about thirty seconds after dawn." He stood up and dusted off. "If you don't remember a lot about Xander, he doesn't like it if you smell like alcohol around him or if you have a temper near him," he said quietly.
"I remember." He looked up. "The assault with Ari."
Tony nodded. "Good. It's a good step, Gibbs. You'll get the rest soon." He patted him on the shoulder and went inside to finish putting up the groceries, then headed up to his room. He had to come back down to start the generator for the hot water heater, making Gibbs laugh. "No way in hell am I taking a cold shower. I'm not a masochist." He went back upstairs to take off his shirt and take the time to warm up the water. It still wasn't that warm but it was warm enough to shower and then run a bath. He heard Gibbs come in and go to the fridge, then go back outside. Hopefully he was having food with his beer. He was a real grouch when he had a hangover. He heard the stairs creak and looked out of the bathroom, seeing the little boy. "Hi, Xander." He came in to hug him. "Too excited to sleep?" He nodded and tried to climb in. "Get me a towel and let Daddy get you naked." Xander handed over a towel then ran toward the stairs. "On your six, young man. You know not to run down the stairs."
Xander sat down obediently on the top stair and slid down on his butt. He ran into his father at the bottom. "Bath!" he said happily. "Naked!" He tried to get the undershirt off. "Naked now!"
"I've got a towel over my lap, boss."
"He does this often?"
"He likes to snorkel. Fair warning for his next one."
"Sure." He walked his son upstairs and got him naked, then let him climb in once he had seen that Tony had covered his *entire* lap. "Do I do that?"
"Not a clue but when he was younger we took him into the shower in this little plastic stomach pack. He loved it." He let the boy settle in. "Turn on the hot water for me? I can manage off but not on with my toes." Gibbs turned it back on. "Thanks, boss."
"Quit calling me that."
"Suck it up, Gibbs. I've called you less polite names in the past."
"To my face?"
"I plead the fifth until you remember," he said with an annoying smile. Gibbs groaned and turned on cold.
"Hey! Chilly!" Xander complained.
His father changed it back. "Sorry, son." He looked at Tony, who just smiled sweetly. "Does everyone think you're my fifth wife?"
"All but some of the other agents who believe I make you break and relax. They believe it's the only reason you've got a great solve rate."
"We," he agreed. He smiled. "You'll get there, boss. Don't force it or it'll never come and you'll end up remembering Xander's Barney fetish for a few months."
"Large purple dinosaur, Gibbs."
He suddenly shuddered. "Bad. Very, very bad."
"Kate joked that he was the forerunner to a new terrorist attack. Softening us up and getting our kids on their side."
"I remember why." He walked off shaking his head. "Not too long, DiNozzo."
"Kissies," Xander called.
"I'm not kissing him again, Xander."
"Meany." Then he giggled when Tony tickled him. "Quit!"
"Fine. Enough water?" Xander shook his head. "We can't have too much more or it'll run back out." He turned it off when it hit the bottom of the emergency valve, getting a pout. "Sorry. You can have a bath in here tomorrow night if your dad wants."
"'Kay." He snuggled in to get comfortable, one arm going across Tony's chest. "Love you."
"Love you too, squirt. You rest and we'll put you back in bed when I get out." Xander nodded and settled in, comforted for now. "He's fine. He'll be fine and back to your normal daddy in a few days." He gave him a cuddle, making him feel better. Gibbs came back an hour later and he looked at him. He checked Xander then looked at him. "You scared him," he said quietly.
"I scared me."
"Good. Then now you can start thinking instead of reacting."
He nodded. "I can. It was a good point." He settled in facing the tub. "I should still beat your ass for taking him that way."
"You needed the shock and he needed the comfort, Gibbs. It did both and got him out of the way of you throwing mental fits. You were about to take him away from everything and everyone he's ever known and loved by taking him somewhere that's got a dirty little civil war close by and a lot of deaths. Including a death cult nearby. Not to mention things like the hellhound."
"Can it get up here?"
Tony smiled. "I had a priest come up to bless the house and a mile around."
"Thanks. I saw him the other day I think."
"No think about it, Gibbs. You saw him under the porch watching Xander play. Do you remember why?" He nodded. "Good. That'll keep him safer."
"You've been his mother."
"So, Harley a nice guy?"
"Decent. First date, probably won't go further. I called him before I left but I only got his machine. He thought the job was going to get in the way."
"It does," Gibbs agreed. He took another drink of his soda. "I switched."
"Thanks." He checked Xander again, smiling at him then at his father. "He's a great little guy, Gibbs. He's made us both make a lot of changes. Some very good changes."
"What happened to the house? It's different."
"My psycho ex."
"Why did she ...." He saw them then shook his head. "She thought we were together?"
"Half of DC thinks we're together, Gibbs. The director let it be known that she believed we were together and everyone believed her. Everyone from Fornell on down. Did you bring me one?" Gibbs took another drink then handed it over. "Thanks."
"Keep it, I don't know where your mouth's been."
"Nowhere in months," he said grimly, drinking the rest of the soda. He tossed the bottle in the nearby trash and Xander wiggled and turned his head and chest the other way, smiling in his sleep. "He's a special kid, Gibbs. I'll help you for him."
"What about your career?"
"I don't want to lead, Gibbs. I never wanted to lead. I don't need those headaches on top of my usual ones."
"You should get that checked."
"They said it's all the concussions I've had and all the head smacks."
"Did they help or hurt?"
"Depends on the day," Tony quipped. Xander's feet moved and he caught the towel. "Quit trying to make me naked in front of your father, young man. All he has to do is ask," he whispered. Xander quit moving and made cooing noises, then curled up with his thumb in his mouth.
"Let me have him," Gibbs ordered. Tony handed him over. "Where did we put the diapers?"
"In the car. Put him on the toilet for now. Grab them and come back." Gibbs did that, letting his son rest on the edge of the sink. Then he went down the stairs at a jog. Tony watched him, smiling when Xander went in his sleep, waking up at the odd sensation. "Good boy, Xander! Very good boy to go potty like a big boy!" he praised. "I'd give you a treat but I don't have one." Xander looked so confused. "You went potty like daddy does." He looked down, moving his little penis out of the way to look, then he looked at Tony. "Yes, you did what you do in the diapers in the potty. That's what big boys like me and daddy do. That's very good. I'm very proud of you." Xander smiled shyly. "Good job. Daddy, come tell him how good it was." Gibbs came up the stairs with the diaper. "He went potty."
"I heard. Good job, son." Xander smiled at him. "Very good job. Let's get you cleaned up and diapered for tonight then we'll work on that again tomorrow." Xander nodded, holding up his arms. His father took him and some of the diaper wipes to clean and rediaper him, putting his own t-shirt on him. Xander smiled. "Let's put you back in bed."
"I can fix that," he promised. He carried him down the stairs and put him back into bed, opening the curtains a few inches. "How's that?" His son nodded and curled up on his side, sucking his thumb. "Good boy, Xander. Daddy's very proud of you." He stroked over his head and Xander smiled, falling asleep like that. "I'm going to go beat Uncle Tony for kissing me. You be a good boy," he whispered. He left, closing the door most of the way, then he headed back upstairs. Tony grabbed the towel off the bar and covered himself again. "I've got one too, DiNozzo, and I've seen it in the shower before." He settled back into his spot. "We were together how long as a team?"
"Five years, boss."
Gibbs nodded at that. "I was married three times after Shannon?"
"Probably trying to get that back. I saw the after-effects of the last one and the divorce. I started two days after she clubbed you in the head." That got a small smile. "You married spitfires. One of them still calls on your anniversary to bitch you out. It never worked. All redheads. No other kids, but they were all like you were reaching for something you couldn't get anymore. Or at least that's what Ducky said. Apparently he's made a few pointed hints that you should've stopped with the women a while ago and went gay."
"If I was trying to recreate what I used to have it wasn't a true choice."
"Probably not. And hey, none of them burned your house or trashed mine."
"True. Psycho ex?"
"A really bad week, boss. My stalker. The lady in HR who I never flirted with. The director deciding we could share a spot and switch off baby care duties?"
"I remember that one." He thought back. "The woman in HR. She was kind of chubby? Brunette?" Tony nodded. "I remember her doing ...something."
"Screwed with my pay and records. Put a dead puppy in my house."
"What's that about a rabbit?"
"Stand-in for the nanny we had at the time. We had to be in court, he had to be in court for an FBI case since he was one of them. We met with his sister-in-law and her new husband. They seemed pretty nice. Unfortunately they took his pet rabbit and put it into a pot of boiling water alive and put Xander into the rabbit's cage since they decided he was being bad for being a normal toddler. He had cried and screamed at them to leave his friend alone. Fortunately the cops got there first and called me. I sped over, calling you while I drove, and you abandoned an investigation to handle it. They were both arrested for endangerment of a child and animal cruelty. They took a deal and lost their license to handle children. Plus they were put onto a Child Protective Services watch list in a few states."
"We didn't get to hurt them?"
"Oh, I took a swing. By the time you got there they were in the back of a squad car and I had Xander. It took us an hour to clean him up and that's when the director made her decision to mommy track us."
He nodded. "I remember the long cleaning session. We weren't getting it with a bath so we turned on the spigot, setting him under it because it had better water pressure than the shower head." Tony nodded and smiled. "He hasn't had a pet since then?"
"We asked but he didn't want more than a miniature horse. Your son is horse-mad."
"There's worse animals to want, like a cow." Tony nodded at that. He sat up straighter. "I met your mother."
"Yup, because the director's decision that we were really together got back to her. Which is how I afford this place."
"We were in a hotel. Something about a stalker."
"Mine, that's when your house got partially burned," he agreed.
"She took us shopping?" He shook his head quickly. "No matter how much we protested politely she thought we were engaged or something."
"Yup. Then she told dad and changed her will right before she died."
"A crash? Plane crash?" Tony nodded. "Who do I remember balloons?"
"A hot air balloon got tangled with it and that made it crash."
"Not your fault. The pilot of the balloon had passed out from a heart condition. He died in the crash too. My father invited you up for the funeral."
"I remember him telling me how they turned you germphobic and overprotected you to the point where you weren't allowed to play outside." Tony nodded. "We had a talk about how I wasn't going to do that to Xander. That playing was part of being a kid." Tony nodded again. "He died the night of the funeral?"
"In his office," Tony agreed. "After amending his will. The cops looked at us for a few days...."
"But they found out it was natural causes," Gibbs agreed. "We went to his funeral then came home where we... Hold on. There was another stalker?"
"Same bitch, boss."
"She said she was entitled to it because you two had married?" Tony nodded. "But the FBI got her during the trial?"
"I found out and had them called."
"Oh. Okay." He considered him and Tony flipped onto his side so he could look back. "Is that comfortable?" Tony nodded, patting the padded back. "That's not a real tub."
"Bull, boss. It's a great tub. I love this tub. It's a comfy tub. I can sleep in this tub and I'm sure your son will love it too. I told him he could use it tomorrow night if he wanted."
"Sure. Thanks. Where's the other one?"
"Other side of the kitchen. The door that looks like the pantry. It's a full bathroom but only has a shower."
"Even better. Now what?"
"Now, you think, you regain your memories. I've got to get some groceries tomorrow. We'll be good. You'll walk and think, teach Xander about trees and the woods. Then we'll figure out what's happening from there. I've got offers to go work for Fornell. You could stay retired if you want. You'll be bored within months but it'll be fine."
"What about preschool?"
"You decided to hold it off a year. He's doing good on his own, doesn't have too many socialization problems, and we're all teaching him things." He swallowed. "Do you remember Ducky's mom?"
"She's still screaming that Xander's her grandson so we'll have to call Ducky to tell him we went on vacation so he can explain it to her."
"Because we go over on Sundays." Tony nodded. "That's fine, I can do that tomorrow."
"Sure." He smiled gently. "Go rest, Gibbs. It's been a long day. Your son will be up nanoseconds after the sun comes up and will demand to go exploring."
"Sure. Don't drown in there." He got up and headed down to the other room. The bed was comfortable and easy to sleep on. He got up to open a window, then went back to bed. He was asleep pretty fast, he was still healing after all.
Tony looked out the door when he heard a car a few days later, getting up to smile at the older man and woman coming in. "Ducky and his mother are here, Gibbs."
Gibbs came in off the back porch and Xander went pelting out to hug his unofficial grandmother. He followed more slowly. "On vacation, Ducky?"
"Mother did insist," he said plainly. He smiled at her and Xander. "Let's go inside, Mother. I'm sure Anthony has some tea started." She nodded and let the little boy lead her inside. "This is a beautiful house."
"It is. I can think here," he agreed, clapping him on the arm. "Come on. We've got food and things too." They found Tony puttering in the kitchen and went to help him. "What can I do?"
"Put the stuff in the blue tub on crackers." Gibbs nodded, getting it out of the fridge and a knife. "Put it in a sandwich bag and cut off a corner, Gibbs." He snorted but did that. He didn't even break a cracker that way. "Pays to have the housekeeper raise you," he teased. He got some cookies down and put them onto a plate, putting it onto the tray. He checked the water, it was nearly boiling. "Start some hot water and warm the pot, boss." He moved the food out of the way and did that, then handed it over when it was warm to the touch. Tony poured it out the spout, then poured the boiling water in and measured in tea leaves. It got put onto the tray with a strainer. "Cups are in the cabinet by the plates." He carried out the tray. "Hi, Mrs. Mallard, welcome to my home."
"I though Jethro and Ducky lived here," she said, looking at her son.
"No but I do let them use it whenever they want," he promised, smiling at her. "I just put in the leaves so it needs to steep but please, help yourself. Jethro is bringing cups." He handed Xander a cookie, getting a smile. "Good boy, go tell Grandma Ducky about the rabbits you saw in the woods."
"Baby bunnies," he agreed, crawling up next to her to cuddle into her side. Gibbs brought out cups.
"I can use the mugs, Jethro."
"I know, but she can't. One was a bit dusty so I had to wash it out, Mrs. Mallard."
"I understand, Jethro. Thank you for the kindness." She patted him on the hand. "Didn't I say to call me Mother? If not, do so."
"Of course, Mother." He sat down in the chair, looking at Ducky. "How are things?"
"Frantic. Kate's told the new agent that she wold turn her into bait chunks if she asked another question."
"Which is why I don't want command," Tony agreed happily. He checked the tea. "It's fairly weak, but how do you take your tea, Mrs. Mallard?"
"Let it steep a few more minutes, Anthony. She likes fairly strong tastes," Ducky offered. He got one of the crackers and nibbled then smiled at it. "Those are good."
"The local store has a wonderful cook who does some deli stuff," Gibbs offered. "She made that. Though, Tony's a really good cook. We definitely won't starve or be eating MRE's out here."
"It comes from my mother letting the housekeeper raise me," Tony said dryly. "I grew up in the kitchen going 'what's that' for years."
Gibbs looked at him. "At least the overprotection didn't get you there."
"It did, I only go to watch until I was fifteen." He checked the tea then properly poured it. "Milk, sugar, Mrs. Mallard?" He handed the first one to Ducky once he had put in a sugar cube.
"Milk please." He added some first then poured hers, making her smile. "Perfectly done, even if you did serve him first."
"He looked like he needed a drink," he said with a small smile. "Xander's trying to tickle him."
She smiled at those two. "My baby boy is such a good father," she agreed. "He looks happy and content."
"He is most of the time," Gibbs agreed. "Every now and then he turns into a toddler and causes hell and havoc."
She smiled. "Even my Donald did that," she assured him, patting Ducky's knee. Xander stared at her. "Donald, your daddy Don, used to be quite the scamp for getting into trouble. Once he managed to get nearly a whole two miles away following the neighbor's dog home. They called because he was in the dog's house helping him eat dinner." Xander giggled at that because Ducky groaned. "They thought he was very adorable but a bit troublesome. They suggested he get a leash." Xander grinned at that. "Do you need one of those?"
"They make baby leashes now," Tony assured her. "It comes with a chest harness and a leash on the back." She smiled at that. "We used one of those in the mall the other day."
"You had my son on a leash?" Gibbs asked.
"It helped. He wanted to run and pounce people, Gibbs. He still maxed out the leash and pulled me through the mall to the candy store."
"How much chocolate did you feed him before then?"
"None. Only a diet soda." He shrugged. "It worked. I got my walk for the day. Even better than a jog."
Gibbs looked at him. "I'll have to remember that." He looked at his son. "You weren't behaving that day?" Xander smiled and shook his head. "Why not?"
"That's why we went. They had the Budweiser team there. He crawled all over those horses, boss."
Jethro nodded. "I'm sure he did. We were going to go riding for this birthday too."
"There's a place about six towns over where you can rent a horse for a trail ride," Tony told him. That got a smile. Xander beamed at him. "If you're good I'll even let him have the car for the day." Xander squealed and got up to hug him then talk to his grandma about the horsies he liked. They all smiled at his enthusiasm and how Ducky's mother seemed to shed years around the young boy.
Xander woke up to a noise, sliding out of bed to look. He opened his door and stared in awe. "Reindeer," he said in hushed awe. The white tailed deer shifted to look at him. "Shh, Reindeer. Pretty reindeer. Santa?" he called. "You lost one!" He snuck closer, letting the deer sniff him. He stopped a few feet away, tipping his head to look at it. Then he reached out and let it sniff his hand. He moved closer. The deer shifted. "Shh, reindeer. It's all right. Santa will come back sometime soon. He's got to realize he lost you." He stroked the deer's nose, smiling at his daddy, who had the video camera. "Reindeer, daddy. Santa lost him."
"I guess he did. DiNozzo?" he called quietly. Tony peeked down the stairs. "We have a lost reindeer."
"I can see that," he said, looking over the white tailed deer. He knew you couldn't tell a two-year-old they were wrong, it'd cause a fit worse than a teenage girl being told she was wrong about something. "I guess Santa must stash some of the extras down here so they don't get jealous because only eight can pull the sleigh." He came down slowly and carefully, sitting on the stairs. "Xander, go ahead and get some of the lettuce from the fridge?" He went that way, slower than usual, and came back with the unopened bag. The other one was nearly empty and only the best should be fed to reindeer. He opened it and let the baby have a handful. "Let him eat it." Xander came back and let the deer sniff the lettuce. The deer nibbled it from him, letting the boy pet him. Gibbs kept videotaping. Xander came back to get more lettuce for his friend, who ate that too, making him smile at his father since he was closer. "Is that a buck, Jethro?"
"So he's a young one, right?"
"Probably lost his mother." He looked at Xander. "Son, he's not that old of a deer."
"Reindeer," his son corrected as pompously as a two-year-old could.
"Xander, if he was a big boy reindeer, he'd have antlers. Remember seeing the antlers on the pictures?" Xander got more lettuce, nodding at him. "Since he doesn't have any, he's just a baby. His mommy's probably looking for him so he can go back to the special place where they hide and wait for him to grow up. That way he can have his turn when he's bigger." Xander grinned at that. "So lead a trail of lettuce to the door and open up the back door so he can go back to his mommy and safety. You can put out lettuce to see if he'll come back in a few days, once he's rested and his mommy's sure he's all right." Xander came over to spread the lettuce back to the sliding door and opened it further. The deer nibbled and went out the door, sliding into the woods again. Tony closed the door and looked at Xander. "Good job!" Xander beamed and danced around. "We should write Abby and McGee and Grandma Ducky about the visit."
"We can record it," he agreed. "I'll get a new tape for the recorder." He winked. "Now, go back to bed and say a good night to the family of deers."
"Reindeers," he said, frowning at him.
"Of course they were." Xander smiled and ran back to his room, calling out a good night to the reindeer and Santa.
Gibbs turned off the tape, smiling at him. "Did you leave the door open?"
"No. Did you?" They looked at each other then went to check the house for intruders. Nothing was missing or out of place, no one was hiding in the closets. Tony looked at Gibbs. "Maybe Santa did come to check on the white tailed deer."
"Maybe," he decided, heading back to bed, putting the precious videotape into his bag. That way he wouldn't lose it and he could copy it for Ducky. He heard Tony go back upstairs and settled in to smile at the memory and get some of his own sleep.
Ducky looked at the package that had been delivered, smiling at it. It had to be a videotape and it was from a familiar town in Vermont. He went to Abby's lab. "Did you get something from Jethro?"
"No, why?" she said with a pout. He popped in the tape. She put it on the main screen and squealed, pointing at the picture of her boy staring at the deer. They both laughed at his helpful nature. His assertion it was a reindeer made them both smile.
"Could you copy that for me, Abigail? Mother would love that one."
"Sure, Ducky. Blank tapes are in the cabinet. Let me get Kate and McGee down here so they can see." She called McGee's cellphone, smiling at his hushed speech. "Ducky got sent the *cutest* tape of Xander and a deer. Yeah, go ahead, she could use some happiness from how she's been acting." She hung up and came over to set up the machine to copy it. The director came in after them. "Give me one second and I'll replay it. Ducky wanted me to copy it for his mom." She set it up and rewound the first one, then played it and recorded at the same time.
Kate went 'awww'. McGee smiled. The director stared. But even she had to giggle at the assertion it was a reindeer that Santa had lost. "That is adorable," Kate agreed, shaking he head. "I'd like a copy too, Abby."
"Sure. Apparently we're getting a tape soon."
"It's on my desk, I was wondering who sent me a cassette tape from Vermont."
"Go get it!" Abby ordered. He nodded and went to do that, coming back with it and their probational officer. "Hey, Probie." She ran the tape, rewinding it, listening to the babble about the deer and the woods and the horsies Tony had promised were nearby so he could go riding on his birthday. It went on for nearly an hour of Xander babbling to them about everything, making them all happier. It finally clicked off and she checked the other side. It was an instruction to McGee to check Tony's apartment, that his rent hadn't been taken out of his bank account and his landlord wouldn't answer the phone. Since McGee had limited authority to pay Tony's bills, he could do that and make the bank pay it on time. Then Gibbs saying they were all fine. He was better now. They all heard that he was happier and more content. Then Xander's voice came back babbling about lunch and having 'sgetti' and 'nuts', making Ducky laugh. They said goodbye and the tape ended. "Awww. I miss them!"
"I know you do but they'll be back sometime soon," Ducky soothed, patting her on the back.
The director cleared her throat. "It's good that they're all right. I wondered where they went."
"Tony bought a house in Vermont after the funerals," Kate told her.
"It is a beautiful place," Ducky agreed. "Very calm and peaceful. Mother enjoyed herself immensely when we went up to visit them." He smiled at Abby. "They'll be back sometime soon. You know Anthony will be missing movies."
"True," she agreed, smiling at that. "It's better than Mexico."
"It is," Kate agreed. She looked at her team. "Okay, now that we've had the stress break, let's get back to the case." They nodded, going back up there. "I'll brief you later, Director." She headed after them.
She smiled at them. "May I have a copy of the audio tape, Abby?"
"Sure," she said happily. She got to work making all the copies that they would all want. Including a copy of both for the FBI agent who used to watch Xander now and then.
Gibbs looked at Tony later that night at dinner. "Since when did you start to date guys?"
"Seventh grade but I keep it very rare."
"Oh. I never knew that, right?" Tony shook his head. Gibbs ate a bite and chewed. "Why not?"
"Because I didn't want to hear Kate pick on me about it."
"Oh. So you didn't think I'd mind?"
"I didn't know if you'd mind or not but I definitely didn't want to hear Kate go on about it so I didn't tell any of you. Though McGee did catch me out once. I told him it was a frat brother and he just nodded and headed to get his order." He ate a bite and looked at Xander, who was staring at them. "What?"
"Some year we'll have to help you date too," Tony agreed with a smile. The boy beamed back. "You will not be allowed to date evil and vain women."
"'Kay," he agreed happily. "Anny?"
"No, son, not Anya either," Gibbs said firmly. "Eat your dinner." He made a face. "Eat it anyway or no dessert."
"I made dessert?" Tony asked.
"Oh. I thought you ate all those."
"I hiked out and got more."
"We need to get more gas for the generator."
"We can go after he eats. We'll let him pick out his own dessert at Cumberland Farms."
"It is a nice convenience store," Tony agreed. He scraped his plate and looked around then at Xander, who was picking at it. "Stuff your mouth, take really big bites, and it'll be done faster than if you pick at it." Xander stuffed his mouth and grimaced as he chewed but he did eat all the spinach. "Good boy." He got him cleaned up then down. "Go find your shoes." He went to hunt them down. One kept wandering off on him. He looked at Gibbs. "If you're coming with us you have to eat yours too." Gibbs finished his dinner, shaking his head at that. Tony took the plates into the sink, then came out to grab his own shoes. They drove off the grounds and as soon as they passed the holy ground line the hellhound puppy was in the back seat sniffling at Xander and licking him, barking playfully. "Quit." The dog growled at him. Tony pulled over onto the side of the road and swatted back at it, making it yelp and disappear. He put up the cross he had in his pocket and started the car again. "Ah, I feel better now since that thing needs a bath." Xander sniffled. "You can get a better friend, Xander."
"There's probably going to be a drug dog retired this year. It'd be a good companion for him," Gibbs agreed. "Very protective." That got an awed look from his son. "Yes, one of the dogs on patrol. Would you like us to get one of them?" Xander nodded and bounced. "Sit still. I still don't think that booster seat's very good."
"That's how they all are, boss. It's only so he's tall enough for the seat belt to work."
"Oh." They pulled into the convenience store and Tony got out to fill the gas cans, making the person inside smile and wave. He grinned and waved back. Gibbs got Xander out and took him inside to pick out his own dessert, the hellhound puppy following along sniffing everything.
"Your dog, Gibbs?"
"No, he likes to appear and follow Xander around," he admitted, glaring at it. "My son." The dog growled. He glared back and it yelped then disappeared. "He's sorry."
"Should we maybe get the baby baptized?" the cashier asked.
"Been thinking about that. I've got to call Dawn to see if she did." Xander looked up at him and nodded. "How do you know?"
"Was before," he said handing over the roll of gum he had been playing with, which meant he'd get that for tomorrow. His father gave him a look. "Pwease?" he asked with a sweet, innocent smile. "I'll be good boy on walk."
"I'm sure you will be." He put both on the counter and Tony came in to pay for the gas. "Maybe you should think about letting it run on a different fuel source," he offered.
"I'd have to change the engine and find somewhere to put up solar panels. Or just change the engine and put in a big, ugly tank for the propane, boss. Though it's starting to be an idea." The clerk smiled. "We've got generator power. Speaking of, it's going down tonight for a rest." That got nods and they went back to have the last of the ice cream that was tucked in the back of the freezer once Xander had his bath and was in bed. "What were you two talking about?"
"Baptizing him again to make the hellhound go away."
"I'll call Willow in the morning."
"Not a problem, Gibbs." They finished their ice cream then Tony went to take a bath, Gibbs got a shower, and the generator got turned off for the night. They went to bed to sleep or read to the oil lamp he had up there.
Director Sheppard looked at her copies of the tapes, then at McGee when he came in. "Tell me where they are?"
"Oh." He looked it up online and let her see it. "They've got it listed as general delivery, Director, but that's a small town. I'm sure about everyone there can direct you." She nodded, taking down the town's name and how to get there. "Is there a problem with a case?"
"No, I want Gibbs back."
"That would keep Kate's amazing PMS away," he agreed dryly. The director gave him a heated look. "That's why she says she's so cranky. That's her excuse. It used to be once a quarter or so but it's been permanent recently."
"That's fine then. I do hope you're not spreading that around?"
"Ma'am, the last time we worked with Alexandria LEO they came bearing hershey bars for her." He left, going back to his desk. "She's going to go Gibbs hunting."
"Thank you, God," she said, looking up. "Get them both back. You tell worse jokes than he did." Their probie made a quiet noise. "Don't worry, you'll probably still be here," Kate assured her. She got back to work. "McGee, do you have anything for me?"
"No, Kate, my chocolate stash is still empty," he quipped. "But on the case I have something. I'm still running it down."
"Thank you." She shook her head but got back to work.
Director Sheppard retreated to her office shaking her own head. Kate was struggling as a team leader. She definitely needed Gibbs back.
Jen followed the imprecise directions out to the house, parking so she could look at the house. "This is nice," she decided. She got out and walked up to the door, knocking politely. Gibbs opened it and stared at her. "Good, I don't have to find a bloodhound to find you." She walked inside. Xander spit at her. "Hello to you too, Xander. Where's Tony?"
"Kitchen. Tony, it's Sheppard."
"Yay. If I come back I want a pay raise."
"I want Gibbs back, not you, Agent DiNozzo," she called. "He retired, you quit."
"No, I quit," Gibbs told her. "We both filled out the paperwork the next day as well." He sat down and patted his lap for his son to climb into it. Xander did that and let him put on his shoes. "There. Break those in so we can go on a hike later." Xander got up to walk around in his new shoes Tony had ordered. He didn't know you could order shoes and clothes that way. "Why would I want to come back?"
"Kate's struggling, Jethro. McGee said that Alexandria LEO came bearing chocolate the last time they had to work with her."
"Kate does have PMS that makes her homicidal," Tony quipped from the kitchen.
"That rumor has spread far and wide now," the director said dryly. She looked at Jethro. "NCIS could use you back, Jethro. You can take control of your team again."
"I don't want to go somewhere they won't listen to me."
"They didn't listen to me either," she protested. Xander came over to stare at her. "Hi, Xander. I'm Auntie Jen. Do you remember me?" He spit and walked off again. "I would've thought he'd have better manners by now."
"He does," Tony agreed. He came out and looked at Xander. "Apologize."
"Torry," he said, then he smiled at Tony. "Milk?"
"Milk's fine." Tony handed him one of the little jugs they had picked up at the store, letting him handle it. Xander followed the milk. "Apologize for real now, Xander. You know better than to spit."
"Torry spit," he said, grabbing the milk to drink, grinning at his father. "Birfday?"
"I know your birthday is coming up. Behave or no horsies." Xander pouted. "You have to behave. That's a treat, son." Xander nodded and went back to wandering around to break in his shoes.
"At least you have him well in hand, Jethro. Please come back."
"If I come back, DiNozzo comes back."
"Then who would watch your son?"
"The preschool he'll be starting when we come back." She looked stunned. "Plus Chad is still available. I emailed him the other day."
"Oh. I see. You still couldn't work together, Jethro. We can't allow people in a relationship on the same team. I mean it's fine when you two are working up here at your house."
"Tony's house," he corrected. "We're still not together, Jen. He did that to get you off our backs. We've never been together. I didn't even know DiNozzo was bi until after I quit." Her face fell. "You spreading around that assumption created a lot of problems for us."
"And one good thing," Tony said as he came out with the dish towel over his shoulder. "I wouldn't care to go back or to split like we did last time, Gibbs," he offered. "Chad's graduating in another year. We'll have it worked out by then."
"True." He looked at her. "You get one you get both."
"If I must," she sighed. "First thing Monday?"
"Tuesday. The train runs on Monday and doesn't get in until around ten at night. Xander can't fly," he said when she opened her mouth. "His ear's bothering him."
"Oh. I see." She nodded. "That would be fine. I can give them weekend call off and Monday as well." She smiled. "Thank you for being reasonable, DiNozzo."
He shrugged. "He's got all his memories back, Xander and he can go horsey riding this weekend since it's his birthday, and we'll have time to pack. I know most of my stuff ended up in storage since Probie couldn't get the landlord to accept a payment on my behalf."
"You've kept in touch?"
"Yes, my house is wired for wireless internet," Tony agreed dryly. He found a remote and clicked it on, turning the tv to a familiar picture, which made Xander squeal and come over to pat Abby's enlarged head.
"Hi, Xander! How are you?" Abby cooed. "You're so big! Gibbs, I had better be getting a visit," she demanded. "Or else I'm flying up to Vermont."
"We're coming back. We'll start on Tuesday, Abby," he said patiently.
"You can't tell Kate or anyone," Tony ordered. "It's a surprise since she's now passed Gibbs' crankiness levels."
"Sure. That works for me." She smiled at him. "Pretty soon I'll get Xander cuddles again," she said happily. The baby beamed at her. "I got your reindeer tape, young man, and it was too cute for words."
"We never did figure how it got in here," Tony admitted. "Watch out for the fireworks," he said with a wink. He looked at Xander. "You'll see her right after the horseys and the train ride, Xander. Say bye bye for a few days."
"Bye, Abby," Xander said, blowing kisses and grinning maniacally. The picture was canceled so he looked at his daddy. "See Abby?"
"Yup. We're going to go riding tomorrow, a day early, then we're going to get ready to go back home." Xander ran over to hug him. "Good boy. Let's go for our walk. We'll see you Tuesday, Director."
"Thank you, Jethro. You as well, DiNozzo."
"Have a better weekend, ma'am." She nodded and walked out. He went to turn on his computer and find a place to live, finding an email. "Hey, Gibbs, Abby didn't tell us something." He came back off the back yard. "Either someone we know is pregnant, or...." They shared a look and he turned it to the camera McGee had set on his monitor. "Geez, man, move that back some. I can see that huge zit on your nose and in your eyebrows, Probie."
McGee looked at him. "Kate's growling," he replied, grinning at him. "What's wrong?"
"I have a sonogram picture in my email?"
"Yeah, it's Claudia. She slept with one of the guards and is claiming it's yours. No matter how many times we rerun the DNA comparison, the jail reruns the DNA comparison, it's still yours according to her."
"Did the guard step forward?" Gibbs asked.
"No. That would be prisoner rape. He'd be in a matching cell. We know who it is but he's denying it and saying she got it off him some other way. Since she's so demented they're saying that's fine. She's in solitary and they're planning on handing the baby to social services when it's born. They've already found a couple who wants to adopt it no matter what."
"Good," Tony agreed, smiling at him. "I wish the adoptive couple the best of luck." That got a smile. Kate moved in behind him, scowling at them. "Hmm, someone's got wrinkles, Kate. Do we need to get Xander to tickle you? Xander, it's Uncle Tim and Auntie Kate." He came running back in. "See?"
"Auntie Kitty!" he squealed, hugging the tv, making her smile at him. It almost looked like an unused expression. "Wow, big head, Unclie Tim!"
"It's the camera, I need to move it back," he said with a wink. "Are you guys coming for a visit?"
"Sometime soon, within a month," Tony said with a wink of his own. "Where is my stored crap?"
"Same rental place."
"Cool. Now all I need is a new apartment."
"There's a great new complex opening up," Kate told him. "Just your sort. Buxom young women, pool, fitness center."
"I quit dating women after the Claudia thing, Kate." She gave him a horrified look. He nodded. Gibbs nodded. Xander giggled and nodded. "See? Harley was a guy." She wobbled and McGee had to catch her before she passed out. "I'll look online tonight and email you suggestions so you can tell me if you know it's a hole or not."
"Sure, Tony. Talk with you later. Bye, Xander. See you soon."
"'Kay." He giggled and waved. "Good boy!" Tony turned off the connection but not before they heard him ask, "Auntie Kitty have baby?"
"I hope not but that would explain why she's been so cranky," Gibbs admitted. "We're going on our walk. Don't wait lunch."
"Won't." He waved as Xander ran for the door again. "Explain daycare and preschool to him, Gibbs."
"I was planning on it." He followed his hyper little boy. They were going to see if they could find that deer again. He definitely didn't want Xander up here during hunting season. He wasn't going to be happy to know that people ate deer. Or rabbits.
Tony settled in on the couch to find himself an apartment. Or maybe a house. He was tired of having to move his crap around. If he kept watching Xander it would let him create a room for him. He got a suggestion from Fornell, so the director was blabbing already. Good to know. He sent back that he was dating men now thanks to Claudia. That got a different suggestion and the picture of a small house. "That does look nice," he agreed, looking it over. "I wonder how bad the utilities are." He still tried to live within his allowance from his trust and any future paycheck. He sent a letter of inquiry to the realtor, getting back one fairly quickly. It was still for sale. Pretty cheap, didn't look worse than his utilities in his last apartment. He sent the address to McGee, who looked it up on the satellite system and sent him a current picture of it. He said he'd drive by it at lunch. He sent back a thank you and got down to look at the apartment building Fornell had suggested. It was nice. Very sturdy. Nearer to the office. He could almost walk so it wasn't in that good of a neighborhood. But it was a nice building. It was a good backup plan. If he had to he was sure he could stay on Gibbs' couch for a night. He'd have to remind him to have his utilities turned back on before they headed back.
Tony looked over his new house, then down at the kid beside him. "What do you think? Want the attic for your room or one down here?"
Gibbs looked at him. "He's getting his own room?"
"For the nights we need to put him here, yeah." He looked at him. "Or aren't we still sharing a position, boss?"
"We are according to the director. I haven't heard back from Chad yet." He came in to look at everything. "Needs painted."
"We can do that some weekend. Xander can help while you take one of the weekend call cases." The boy beamed at him. "Come on, let's go explore!" They went all over the house. Xander decided he didn't like the attic room. It only had a ladder and he didn't like to climb them yet. But there was a great small room at the back of the house that he claimed as his. He even put his backpack down in there and grinned at his father, laying down on the rug to sleep with it as his pillow.
"Let me get you some blankets, son." He went to find Tony had pulled out his old sleeping bag, taking it. "Thanks."
"Welcome, boss." He grinned. "You can have the one next to him if you want."
"That'll work." He went to set his son up for the night, making him a happy boy in his sleeping bag. They tried all the utilities, they all worked, even the cable. Tony called out for food, finding their usual chinese place had went out of business but the other one they liked hadn't. That got delivered while Gibbs cabbed out to his house to check on it and get his car. He came back to find dinner laid out around the table. "The kid not eating?"
"Fast asleep. He'll wake us up about ten by being hungry but he did eat on the train."
"True." He sat down to dig into his own dinner. "My car's outside now so we don't have to worry. I found a message on my machine from Chad. He'll come here at seven in the morning to stay with Xander. This is closer to the campus for him anyway." That got a nod. "You sure you want us over all the time?"
"I'm not used to no noise, Gibbs."
"Good point. Thanks, Tony."
"Welcome, Jethro. I started the hot water tank while you were gone so we'll have hot showers for a change." That got a smile. The generator hadn't gotten the hot water very hot up there. "I need to find a better power solution up there. Especially with the price of gas."
"You do, but you'll have time to research it. I didn't want him up there during hunting season anyway." He ate another bite and felt something slid against his leg, smiling down at his son. "Decided to get up to eat?"
"Too twiet, daddy."
"Come eat with us then we'll turn on some noise, Xander." Tony found him a plate and fork too, letting him have some of his chicken and broccoli. Xander beamed and dug in. He loved Chinese food as a treat. "Good boy." He looked at Gibbs. "Does that room have a bed?"
"Your spare's in there."
"Cool. I'll figure out the rest this week. Fornell said the offer to work with him was still open if I needed it." He ate another bite, getting a nod. "She told everyone."
"I know. She's got a big mouth. It makes me wonder how she keeps secrets." He stuffed his mouth, watching his son. "You still need a bath before Chad gets here in the morning."
"Preschool?" he asked, blinking his big, brown eyes at his daddy.
"We'll start looking at them later this week and pick one we like," Tony told him. "For a few days, Chad's going to watch you again. That okay?" Xander nodded and ate a piece of broccoli with his fingers. He couldn't stab the thing for anything. "You good to sleep in there tonight? Is it too bright or too dark?" Xander shook his head. "Good." That got a smile and Xander finished up, waiting on his daddy to finish up his plate, swinging his feet to kick the chair while he waited. Jethro took him up to put him to bed after his bath, even letting him have one of his undershirts to wear for the night. He came back down. "He down again? There's some left."
"Thanks. We need to get more clothes for him."
"I know. Fortunately the place came with a washer and dryer but we can go do that soon enough." That got a nod. "Alarm clock?"
"Works for me." Gibbs finished his dinner while Tony cleaned up the small mess and they went to put the only alarm clock in the hallway for tonight. It'd wake all three of them up in time.
McGee walked in first the next morning, pausing when he saw Tony at the empty desk. "Oh, thank God."
"What did you do to my desk?" he demanded.
"Kate," he said bitterly. "Gibbs?" Tony pointed at the head guy desk and McGee smirked at that. "Thank you." He gave him a perfunctory hug and went to sit down.
Kate walked in and stared at the person at her desk. "Tony?"
"Of course I'm here, Kate. You terrorized more people than Gibbs did." He gave her a look. "Chad has Xander."
"Are you taking over?"
"No." She sat down, turning on her computer.
Gibbs came walking in and pulled her up out of his seat, sending her walking off with a small shove, then he sat down and logged into his email. "They had to give me a new account. Was yours still open, DiNozzo?"
"Yeah, boss, I logged into mine every few days," he said dryly. "That's how I kept Abby informed.
"Better than I did."
Kate gaped at them. "So it goes back to where it was?" she demanded. Both men nodded, smiling at her. "You didn't warm me, McGee?"
"I didn't know, Kate," he promised, holding up a hand to try to remain unsmacked. "Really. I didn't know. They were here when I got in. Where's the probie?"
"Throwing up with Abby in the bathroom." She looked at them, pouting. "So where do I sit?"
"We'll figure that out," Tony assured her. She nodded, going to take the probie's desk until she came wandering in. "Good morning, Probie." She started and squeaked, stuttering at him. "Yes, we're back, you're still here. Get over it."
"Um, yes, sir," she squeaked.
"Don't call Gibbs sir," he warned. "He hates it. It's Gibbs, hey you, bastard, whatever you need to call him to get his attention but sir."
"Yes, Agent DiNozzo."
"Now try Tony," he prompted patiently.
"Tony," she said more firmly.
"Better. Within a year we'll have you just like McGee, only scared of his shadow and Gibbs."
"You called me a bastard?" Gibbs asked.
"Never to your face, boss, but yeah. Then again, wasn't that Fornell's pet name for you?" he taunted. Gibbs nodded at that, then shook his head. "Do we have a case, people? If not, McGee, find her a desk."
"Already started the form, Tony. Good to have you guys back." Kate smacked him on the head. "Ow! What was that for?"
"For sucking up to them."
"I brought you maple candy, Kate. It's in my bag." She came over to get it, letting the probie have her desk back. He looked at the layout of their row then at Gibbs. "Want them to shove theirs farther apart?"
"It's probably the only way to put in a third desk." He looked at Kate, who got two other probies to help move the furniture and McGee to move the necessary wires and split off where it was needed for now. A desk got brought in by maintenance and a chair when Kate scowled. Then she took McGee's desk and kicked him to the new one.
"We done?" Gibbs asked an hour later. Everyone nodded, smiling at him. "Good. We're open for cases as of now."
"Are you two splitting?" Kate asked. Gibbs nodded. "How is Xander?"
"Fine. They're going over paint colors and what I need to get for his room tonight," Tony told her. "At home he's still got the nursery setup so Gibbs needs to buy him a real bed too."
"I was going to go with one of those adjustable ones."
"I was going to get him a daybed, boss," Tony told him. That got a look. "The ones that look like couches?"
"I don't like those."
"They're pretty safe and if he starts to wander we can easily barricade him again."
"Point but it's still a couch, DiNozzo. Get him a real bed."
"Sure. Race car bed?"
"They make beds shaped like cars?"
"Yeah." He came over to type in a site on his computer, letting him see. "I gave Chad that this morning." He went back to his seat. "I'd suggest the horse one but it looks really girly."
"It does. It's cream and pink. Fortunately my son says pink gives him a headache still." He looked at the available options. "What's wrong with a simple, plain bed?"
"This way they can have themed rooms, Gibbs," Tony told him. "Like a fantasy bedroom."
"He'll be fine with a plain, usual bedroom. Nothing like what your mother would do, DiNozzo."
"No, boss, I'm not going to put him in a gilt Louis XIV bed with candelabra spread around the room," he said patiently. "I don't want him to have the same nightmares I used to about gold tassels coming to eat him."
Gibbs shuddered. "I'm glad she redid yours like your father's study."
"She probably did his study at the same time. She used to do that to him regularly. He complained for hours that he could never find anything after he had to be gone for a weekend or longer." He typed in something and sent him an IM with a site link. "Look at that. That's what I was thinking."
Gibbs clicked on the link then looked at him. "I doubt my son needs to live in the Arabian Nights, DiNozzo!"
"It's got horses and he loves horses. I was going to do a forest thing on the walls instead of the desert thing though." He sent another link. "Combine those two."
"So it's like camping in the middle of a forest watching a herd of horses?" Tony nodded. "He might like that but it's still too much. That's what posters are for."
"I thought they were for movies and bands," Tony said, looking a bit confused.
"No you can find some with horses," Kate assured him.
"Oh. Okay." He nodded. "I'm letting him help Chad pick it out later. I just wanted something to bring to him in case he picked something really horrible."
Gibbs called Chad. "Try to make him get something simple and normal, Chad. Yeah, that's what we've got to do tonight. We'll try to or else we're camping over there again tonight. Sure. Hi, Xander." He listened to his son babble about the pretty bedrooms and all the colors and how he liked the desert thing. He looked at DiNozzo, then balled something up and threw it at him. "Sure, we'll talk about that later tonight. Okay?" He smiled. "No, I still don't want you playing with the hellhound dog, Xander. We'll work on getting you a real dog. How about that?" He smiled and nodded. "Sure. Be a good boy. We'll be home on time tonight I hope. Be good for Chad." He hung up on his son's kissing and hanging up on him. "He likes the desert one."
"It's got nice colors."
"How hard are those to hang?"
Tony nodded. "Really. Wallpaper, boss. Besides, my house will probably be the special treat place to sleep or on really long overnight cases. That'll make him feel better."
"True. We'll talk about it tonight." Tony nodded and got back to work. The director came down and he looked at her. "Yes, we're back."
"I thought you two were splitting hours."
"We thought it'd be best for today if we both showed up," he said dryly.
"Oh. Well I hadn't planned on that in the budget. Having you both here costs us a lot of money." She looked at the new desk then at him. "You're keeping it that way?"
"For now," Tony agreed, looking at her. "It works so far, Director. The nanny is doing very well today for us. We might even be able to have separate jobs again for most of the time."
She grimaced. "I really can't do that this year. Splitting I can do, Agent DiNozzo."
"We can work that out later," Gibbs promised. "We're waiting to see who's needed for the first case." She smiled again. "Anything else, Director?"
"When is the welcome home party?"
"After we decorate," Gibbs told her. "I've got to redo Xander's bedroom at my house."
"I need to paint and do Xander's bedroom. Unless you guys want to come paint as part of the party," Tony offered. They all shrugged. "Then that'll work. I'll pick up paint this weekend and if we're off it'll be this weekend? Saturday morning? Abby can watch cartoons with him." That got a smile and some nods. "Boss?"
"Works for me," he agreed. "You can have our couch that night so you can escape the fumes." Tony nodded and got back to work on his email. "Any new word on the baby that's not yours?"
"Not yet. There was an email of apology. They weren't sure how she got into the email program since she's locked out of it supposedly."
McGee moaned. "I saw that one. She mirrored it to Gibbs', which got sent to Kate by computer services. I'm hoping the new family is nice."
"I'm hoping so too. Every kid deserves a good family," Tony said with a small smile. "Director, did you want to help us paint this weekend?"
"No, that's all right. Jethro, will you need help decorating? I've just redone my townhouse."
"No, that's fine. All I need to do is change out Xander's bed and maybe put up a few posters he likes. He'll tell me what he likes tonight when we go bed shopping."
"That's fine then. As soon as I can make room I'll give you both separate part time jobs again, gentlemen." She walked off.
Tony waited until she was safely back in her office to look at Gibbs. "Boss, need some lysol?" he asked, tossing over his spray bottle. He sprayed himself to get away from the drool she had let out. His desk phone rang and he answered it. "DiNozzo." He listened, then smiled. "That would be a perfect time. Thank you for accepting him. Of course! Thank you, Officer Paul, and I hope your next one will be just as good. Of course he will. He loves dogs. We'll be at NCIS today and if you call we can rush home to introduce them or you can come down and watch him today and let them meet today in the park or something and then we'll do the switch tomorrow morning. Sure. Thanks, man. Have a good day." He hung up and looked at the curious Gibbs. "There's a police dog, drug sniffing and guard trained, that just came open in my former home town. He's nine, expected to live at least another five years. A lab mix." That got a smile. "He's being retired because his shoulder got a bit messed up during a traffic stop and chase. He's perfectly healthy but he can't chase down criminals every day. He agreed that he could now and then if we needed him to and he adores the idea of him going to your son and you, boss."
"That's a great third birthday present, DiNozzo. He's going to squeal for days."
"I know." He grinned at him. "He's a Percy dog and his handler said he'd gladly teach you all the commands and all that plus hand over his favorite toys. He's getting a new one once he's got Percy settled with you."
"Even better." He smiled at that. "Abby will bounce all over him too."
"Probably, boss," McGee agreed. "Is he a black lab or a blond lab?"
"Black. He's a lab and some sort of lesser sheppard mix." That got a smile. "He's been in the news. You should be able to find a picture of him." McGee went to look that up and he looked at Kate. "You're not allergic to dogs, right?" She shook her head. "Good. Probie? You?"
"Good. What is your name?"
"Okay." He looked at Gibbs again. "Plus a drug sniffing dog will let us know if there's something hinkey around Xander."
"It would. That's a very good idea," he agreed. It had been needed in the past. His phone rang and Xander said there was someone staring at them in the park. "Does he have a dog?" Xander said 'yes'. "Ask him if that's Percy. If so, that's your new dog. Uncle Tony got him for you." His son squealed and dropped Chad's cellphone to run over and ask the nice guy in the uniform if that was his doggy. He listened to Chad. "Yeah, DiNozzo arranged for us to adopt one that was retiring. If that's Percy, that's his dog. Exactly. Thanks, Chad." He hung up. "He's squealing so loud you can hear him from a hundred feet away." Tony smiled at that. "I'm hoping that's his dog."
"It is. He was in the park and found Xander."
"What happened to them being online?"
"They're online in the park, Gibbs. That's what wireless routers are for." He smirked and got back to work. He sent something to Kate. "Is that what that report was supposed to be?"
She opened it and sighed, nodding. "I hadn't spell checked it yet."
"Welcome, Kate. Stand down and calm down, it'll be fine."
"You sure of that?" Tony looked at her and she nodded, smiling at him. "Thanks. McGee tells terrible jokes."
"Works for me," he teased.
"Yeah but yours are still better than his." She got to work on the reports she had backlogged.
He and Gibbs shared a look, just waiting for the first case to come in. It had been a nice vacation but really. Enough was enough.
To part 4: