Two times during Tony’s career with NCIS, Anthony DiNozzo Sr. had swooped into his son’s life. Gibbs hadn’t liked the results either time. Even before becoming Tony's lover Gibbs had known that most, if not all, of Tony’s insecurities stemmed from his relationship with his father. All of them came to the forefront when Senior was around. After two post-Senior instances of having to bolster Tony’s self esteem even more than normal, Gibbs had promised himself that there wouldn’t be a third. Not having to do with DiNozzo Sr., anyway.
Gibbs made his plans and waited for Tony’s dad to make another appearance. Like a bad penny, the man was certain to show up again, Gibbs was certain of it. It was only a few weeks later that Gibbs’ gut was once again proven right.
Anthony DiNozzo Sr. walked into NCIS like he owned the place. To Gibbs’ disgust, the agents who’d met him before flocked around him like groupies. Many of them were agents who wouldn’t give Tony the time of day. Luckily, Tony was on an assignment with Ziva and not in the office at the moment.
“You’re coming with me,” Gibbs cut through the crowd assembled around Senior like a shark swam through a school of fish. He grabbed the older man’s elbow and skillfully steered him towards the door.
“Gonna go on a coffee run,” Gibbs said over his shoulder to an open-mouthed McGee.
DiNozzo Sr. waited until they were outside before he responded. “I’m very flattered, Jethro, but unlike my son, I don’t play on your team.”
Gibbs let the other man go and watched while Senior made a show of smoothing the fabric of his suit coat. The material looked expensive and the suit appeared to be new; Gibbs wondered who DiNozzo had scammed out of the funds to buy it.
“Why are you here?” Gibbs asked bluntly. He folded his arms across his chest and stared at DiNozzo Sr. steadily.
“I just came to visit Junior,” Senior said quickly. Too quickly for Gibbs’ taste.
Even from his limited experience with the man, Gibbs knew that DiNozzo Sr. could outtalk Tony and, unlike with Tony, it wouldn’t be nearly as entertaining. Gibbs didn’t give him a chance.
“Not gonna happen,” Gibbs stated firmly. “You don’t get to twist him up into knots anymore.”
DiNozzo’s eyebrows shot up. “I was under the impression that Junior was a grown man. I believe it’s his decision as to whether he sees me or not.”
“Not anymore,” Gibbs took pleasure in telling him. “Tony gave that authority to me and I think you’ve got some things to learn before you’re allowed back into his life.”
Senior picked an imaginary piece of lint off of his suit coat. “Oh, we’ll see what Junior says about that. I’ll just wait for him at his apartment, since he doesn’t appear to be at the office at the moment anyway.”
Gibbs didn’t hate Anthony DiNozzo Sr.; he rather enjoyed watching the man at work if that work didn’t involve Tony. This, however, did and Gibbs was having none of it.
“Not. Gonna. Happen.” Gibbs leaned in until he was nose to nose with Tony’s father. “He doesn’t live there anymore, he lives with me and while I don’t lock my door, I do keep my gun handy.”
DiNozzo Sr. gulped. “I really do need to speak to Anthony; it’ll only take a few minutes.”
“If you need money, the answer is no,” Gibbs backed down a little, but remained implacable. “He already took a loan out of his 401K for you; I’m not letting you dig him in any deeper.”
“You won’t believe this, but I really do want to improve my relationship with my son.” Tony’s father deflated and, for a moment, looked every day of his age and then some. “It’s just that I’m not bouncing back as quickly as I usually do,” he admitted to Gibbs. “I’ve run out of resources; Junior’s my last hope.”
Gibbs smiled, but it was a shark’s smile. “For Tony’s sake, I’m going to give you one last chance. Blow this, though, and you’re done.”
“Agreed,” DiNozzo Sr.’s face lit up. “I wasn’t going to ask you for a loan, but since we’d be family if the laws allowed you to marry Tony, I guess it’s. . . .”
“We are family,” Gibbs conceded, but with a hint of growl in his voice. “And I’m not giving you a loan, I’m doing better. I’m giving you the opportunity to redeem yourself.”
DiNozzo opened his mouth to protest, but a glare from Gibbs shut him up.
“And a chance to learn how to relate to your only child,” Gibbs finished. He dug the small notebook he kept in his pocket to take case notes with and jotted down some directions for DiNozzo. When he was done, he tore the sheet off and handed to Senior. “Go here, I’ll call ahead so you’ll be expected.”
Tony’s dad looked at the paper. “How will I get there, I don’t have a car?”
Gibbs shrugged. “I don’t care. Take the bus or rent a car. Just get yourself there or don’t ever bother to show up here again.”
Without waiting to see what the response would be, Gibbs turned around and went back inside. He half expected DiNozzo Sr. to follow him, protesting, but nothing happened. Perhaps Tony’s dad was made of sterner stuff than Gibbs thought.
Gibbs was feeling a little more hopeful as he pulled out his phone and sent a text. He flipped the phone closed and stuffed it back in his pocket. He’d done what he could, it was up to DiNozzo Sr. from this point out.
When he got back to the bullpen, there were hastily hidden expressions of disappointment that he was alone. Even Abby had come up from her lab.
“Where’s Tony’s dad?” Abby was the only one brave enough to ask.
“He had business to attend to,” Gibbs replied, hoping he wasn’t lying to Abby. Abby loved Tony’s dad, but then Abby loved most people. “He only stopped by for a minute.”
“Awww,” Abby’s lower lip stuck out. “Poor Tony, he missed him.”
“Couldn’t be helped, Abs,” Gibbs told her as he sat down at his desk. “Now did you have the results on the McMillan case that I need?”
Abby smiled and cocked her fingers at him. “Nope, but they’re cooking away downstairs.”
Gibbs lifted one eyebrow and she sighed dramatically. “All right, all right, I’ll go check.” She wagged her finger at Gibbs. “But don’t you know that a watched pot doesn’t boil?”
He kept his gaze steady and she rolled her eyes. “I’m going, I’m going.”
Gibbs was careful not to smile until she was safely on the elevator. He bent his head over his computer, aware of other eyes on him. “What is it McGee? Did you finish tracing that money yet?”
He didn’t need to see McGee to know that the young man had gulped and turned his own focus back on his work. “No, boss, not yet.”
“Well, get on it,” Gibbs barked at him, although the order was mild compared to his typical delivery.
The office became quiet, as it usually was when Tony wasn’t around. It lacked a certain energy, though, that Tony’s antics provided. Gibbs knew that he was a bastard; Tony complimented him perfectly, lighting up Gibbs‘ dark places. He’d never hold the younger man down, but hoped to keep him as his second for a long time to come.
After about an hour, Tony and Ziva returned from canvassing the neighborhood of the latest murder. There was a lack of bounce in Tony’s step; he already knew his father’d been by.
“Discover anything?” Gibbs asked, trying to keep everything as normal as possible.
Tony just shrugged and it was Ziva that answered. “The neighbors heard nothing and saw nothing.” She looked at Tony in concern, he obviously wasn’t interested in adding to the conversation. “I believe them.”
Gibbs nodded, outwardly digesting the information, but really assessing Tony’s mood. “Ziva, McGee’s been back tracing the financials. See what you can help him with. DiNozzo, come with me.”
Tony followed meekly enough as Gibbs lead him to the elevator. Once the doors were closed and they were on their way down, Gibbs reached over and flipped the switch so that the car was stopped. “Talk to me.”
“He didn’t even stay?” Tony asked, finally lifting his face to look at his lover. “I heard he was here and left when I wasn’t around. He couldn’t even stick around long enough to talk to me.”
Knowing that Abby swept the elevator for monitoring on a daily basis, Gibbs knew it was safe to pull Tony into his arms, which was exactly what he did. Tony was stiff for a minute, but then leaned into Gibbs’ embrace.
“I know for a fact that he came here with the express purpose of talking to you,” Gibbs reassured the younger man. “He was going to wait for you, but I wouldn’t let him.”
Tony lifted his head from Gibbs’ shoulder. “You wouldn’t?”
“We’ve discussed this,” Gibbs reminded him. “Your father has some things to prove, both to me and to you, before he’s allowed into your life again.”
“I know,” Tony looked away and sighed. “It’s just hard.”
“I know,” Gibbs repeated Tony’s words and then kissed him softly. “If it helps, he took the first step I gave him. I think he wants to work on things with you.”
“He did?” Tony’s expression grew hopeful. “He does?”
“That’s what my gut tells me,” Gibbs admitted. “Whether he can follow through, though, is still up for grabs.”
“I’ll take what I can get,” Tony looked much happier.
“Good,” Gibbs reached over and flipped the switch again, restarting the elevator on its way down again. “Abby’s got some test results to show us.”
A little while later, Gibbs’ phone vibrated a warning that he had an incoming text. He looked at it briefly, smiling at what it said. “Good job,” he said quietly to himself, glad that Abby had Tony distracted.
Anthony DiNozzo Sr had indeed taken the first step.
Visiting Jackson was one of Tony’s favorite things to do. The older Gibbs had accepted him like family from the very first. Actually, Jackson had been more accepting of Tony than his own father had been. Tony frowned at the reminder; it’d been weeks since his dad had been in town and Gibbs still wouldn’t give up any details on DiNozzo’s Sr.’s short visit.
“Everything okay, Tony?”
Tony looked over to find Gibbs looking back at him. The older man pulled his eyes back to the road, but Tony knew that Gibbs’ considerable attention was still mostly on him. He also knew better than to lie to his lover.
“Just wondering about my dad,” Tony admitted.
Gibbs had refused to tell Tony anything more about his father’s short, mysterious visit. Tony trusted Gibbs, but as the weeks went by without a word from DiNozzo Sr., Tony began to wonder if his father had abandoned him. Again. He probably had needed money and gone to another source when Tony wasn’t available.
“I got the impression you weren’t too happy that first time your father showed up,” Gibbs’ voice was deceptively noncommittal.
Tony shrugged. “I thought we’d made some progress last time. I guess not.”
“It takes time,” Gibbs glanced briefly at him again. “Someone Anthony’s age isn’t going to change quickly.”
“Yeah, I know,” Tony sighed. “I guess I should consider myself lucky that he’d consider changing at all.”
“Don’t give up on him yet,” Gibbs advised him. He even reached over and put his hand on Tony’s knee for a moment before returning it to the steering wheel.
“Is that your gut talking?” Tony asked.
Gibbs nodded, smiling with his eyes, if not his lips. “Something like that.”
It was late afternoon when they got to Stillwater, so they went directly to the store. It was easy finding a parking spot close by. Tony stretched once he got out of the car, breathing deeply of the small town air.
“God, I love it here,” Tony exclaimed. “We should come more often.”
“You say that every time,“ Gibbs chuckled. He moved around to the back to get their bags out of the trunk. “You’re a city boy, Tony. You’d be bored in no time.”
“Maybe,” Tony conceded. “But as long as I had you and a DVD player, maybe not.”
They went into the store, the chime announcing their entrance. Jackson was seated behind the counter, a newspaper in front of him. The older man looked up as they walked through the door, his face breaking out into a huge grin as he recognized his visitors.
“Leroy! Tony!” He got up and came around the counter to greet them. “The pair of you are a sight for sore eyes.”
Tony waited while Jackson hugged his son first and then Tony had his turn. He happily returned the old man’s embrace. Jackson was shorter than Tony, but sturdy in a way that Tony had always thought that a father should be.
“Nice sweater,” Jackson commented as he pulled back. His face was lit up with a smile he used more often than his son.
“Thanks,” Tony stroked his hand along the soft fabric. Jackson had loaned it to him during his last visit. “The person who gave it to me has impeccable taste.”
Gibbs chuckled. “Notice he said ‘gave’ and not ‘loaned.’ I think you can kiss that sweater goodbye, Dad.”
“That’s okay, it looks better on Tony than me,” Jackson patted Tony on the shoulder before moving to the counter to fold up the newspaper.
“You look good, Dad,” Gibbs eyed his father. “Been getting more rest?”
“Yeah, having help around the place has been a big improvement,” Jackson replied, then laughed. “Although, that’s had its ups and downs too.”
Tony looked around the small shop. Jackson usually ran it by himself and, although he ran a tight ship, there was only so much that one man could do. Now that Jackson mentioned having assistance, though, Tony could see small changes. The shelves were just a little neater and, once Tony looked really closely, he could see that some of the products sported new, more upscale brands.
“So, who’d you hire?” Tony asked, smirking. “A hot babe.” Jackson was more of a ladies’ man than his son, although it was Jethro Gibbs who’d been married four times.
“Not exactly,” Jackson shook his head, but before he could say more, someone came out of the back room.
“Jack, we’re out of red wine and I mean the good stuff, not that vinegar that you normally carry,” a strangely familiar voice stated.
Tony blinked and then did a double take. That simply could not be his father emerging from Jackson Gibbs’ storeroom. His father didn’t have the same problem. As soon as he saw Tony, Anthony DiNozzo Sr. grinned.
“Junior!” He exclaimed, walking towards Tony with his arms spread wide.
Jackson had lost no time. While Tony had been surprised, he’d grabbed his folded newspaper and rolled it up. When DiNozzo Sr. walked by on his way to greet Tony, Jackson had used it to slap him on the back of the head.
“Ouch!” Anthony DiNozzo Sr. rubbed the back of his head as he turned towards Jackson. “What was it for this time?”
“That is your son, not an extension of your ego,” Jackson used the newspaper to point at Tony. “He has a name, use it.” He lifted an eyebrow in reaction to Senior’s growing ire. “I assume you remember it, since presumably you were involved in naming him?”
“Of course I remember it,” Tony’s father retorted. Jackson tapped the newspaper on the counter and Senior sighed before turning back towards Tony. “Anthony, it’s good to see you.”
Tony found his voice. “Good.” He looked from one Gibbs to another, but both of them gave him bland faces in return. When he turned back to his father, Senior had come closer and had his arms open again.
It took Tony a moment to realize that his father was asking for a hug. With a feeling of surrealism, he walked forward and let his dad put his arms around him. Senior even patted Tony on the back a couple of times. Tony did the same, if stiffly. As soon as he could, he backed away from the hug. To his great relief, Gibbs was close by and put a warm hand to the small of Tony’s back. His lover’s silent support went a long way to settling Tony
“Dad, what are you doing here?” Tony had recovered enough to able to articulate a longer sentence.
His father shrugged. “I was in between financial deals and I thought I would drop in for a visit to my favorite son.”
Jackson rattled his paper. Tony’s dad rolled his eyes and spread his hands in a conciliatory gesture.
“To be more specific, I had a couple of business deals that didn’t turn out quite the way I thought they would,” Senior admitted. He smiled again, but Tony could tell it was an empty one. “Since I was also in between residences, Jethro was kind enough to make arrangements with Jackson here for me to have gainful employment and a place to stay.”
“You’re the stock boy?” Tony’s voice almost broke when he asked the question. He didn’t know whether to be delighted or appalled.
“I prefer to think of it as inventory management,” his father replied suavely.
Jackson huffed. “I prefer to think of it as not working hard enough.”
DiNozzo Sr. gave him a wounded look. “Surely you don’t expect me to finish my shift now that my son’s here.”
“My son’s here too,” Jackson reminded him. “And you don’t see me closing the store down.”
“It’s not like anyone would notice,” DiNozzo Sr. made a sweeping gesture; they were the only ones in the store.
“And what if Mrs. Carlson comes back for more cough syrup?” Jackson crossed his arms across his chest and glared at Tony’s father. “Or if Phoebe runs out of something to fix food for her family. Running a store in a town like Stillwater isn’t just a business; it s a responsibility. Your customers have a right to expect you to be open when you say you’re going to be.”
Tony’s father opened his mouth to complain and Gibbs cleared his throat. To Tony’s surprise, his dad backed down without saying anything more. Jackson nodded in satisfaction and turned to his guests.
“Leroy, you and Tony head on to the house,” he instructed them. “I’ve got some chili going in the crock-pot. Help yourselves. Anthony and I will be along in a couple of hours, after we shut down.” He turned to DiNozzo Sr. “Better get the broom out, this place needs a thorough sweeping before we close up.”
There was a brief glaring contest between the two older men, but Tony’s dad broke first. Shrugging, he turned towards Tony. “Go ahead, son, you look beat. Jackson’s right, we’ve got some tasks to finish up here first.”
“Come on, Tony, let’s go,” Gibbs’ hand was still resting on Tony’s back and gentle pressure was applied, encouraging him nonverbally too. “I don’t think you’ve had Dad’s chili yet.”
“Okay,” Tony let himself be led from the store. Before they walked out, he turned back. “See you in a little bit, Dad.”
“Looking forward to it,” his father replied.
For once, Tony believed him.
When they were outside, Tony turned to Gibbs. “What’s going on?”
Gibbs smiled, one of his rare grins that made him look like a mischievous boy. “Isn’t that obvious? My dad is giving your dad parenting lessons.”
Tony looked from his lover’s face back to the store. “That is either insane or genius.”
Warm fingers on his face turned him back to Gibbs. “You okay with this?”
That was a good question. Tony’s gut was going with genius, but he didn’t trust his quite as much as he did Gibbs’. Of course, that observation alone was his answer. “They aren’t. . . together, are they?”
He’d succeeded in surprising his lover. Both of Gibbs’ eyebrows went up. “Like we are? No. As far as I know, the local widows are still bringing my dad cookies and I’ll still need to be on guard for Abby and Ziva’s virtue when your father next visits the office.”
Tony relaxed, letting himself grin. He hadn’t truly thought that their dads had become a couple, but enjoyed the opportunity to tease his lover. “Well, that’s all right then.”
Gibbs smirked as he realized he’d been had. He lightly patted Tony’s face and then turned towards the car. “Good.”
“Wait a minute,” Tony grabbed Gibbs by the waistband and pulled him back. “Come here.” Gibbs complied and as soon he was in reach, Tony kissed him soundly. “Thank you.”
“Your dad cares about you, Tony,” Gibbs told him, cupping Tony‘s face gently. “He just doesn’t know how to do it right.”
“Jackson will set him straight,” Tony leaned into Gibbs’ hands.
“Dad can help him be a better father, but setting him completely straight?“ Gibbs chuckled. “I don’t know if anyone can change him that much. Your dad’s a scoundrel, Tony.”
“Yeah,” Tony agreed, but for once he said it with fondness and not frustration. “I guess he is.”
Gibbs kissed him again. “Come on, let’s go eat.”
Tony thought about Jackson’s house and the warm feeling it gave him. It was a comfortable place, although that feeling came as much from the company as the space itself. Soon he’d be sharing it with not only Gibbs’ dad, but his own as well. Tony realized that, far from dreading the experience, he was looking forward to it.
“Yeah,” he replied to his lover. “Let’s go.”
With a distinct feeling of contentment, Tony got into the car. Jackson wasn’t the only Gibbs intent on redeeming his father. Jethro Gibbs had put this whole plan into motion and had done it because he didn’t want DiNozzo Sr.‘s neglect hurting Tony any more. Tony knew that his lover was right, DiNozzo Sr. would always be a scoundrel, but that didn’t mean that he couldn’t also be a good man - or a better father.
With two Gibbs men on his case, Anthony DiNozzo Sr. didn’t stand a chance.