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Victory is Long

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Part I: Anthony

Anthony had been happily watching movies, ordering room service and swimming in the ocean, free to do as he liked for several days before there was a stentorian knock on the door of their suite. He opened it, green eyes questioning.

“Can I help you, sir?” he asked politely.

The man who stood there was wearing a uniform and had a name tag with his name and the word ‘Manager’ on it. He stared at the child in shock.

“Yes?” the boy asked, one eyebrow raised.

“We received a call that the occupants of this room, the DiNozzos, checked out three days ago, although we have no record of it,” he finally managed to get the words out. Apparently Anthony had stumped him.

“My father might have forgotten to check out officially. He gets like that sometimes if he’s busy with meetings,” Anthony explained gravely. “Has he come back for me?”

“And you are?”

“Anthony DiNozzo Jr,” Anthony told the man. “His son.”

The man did a double take, taking in the wide green eyes, the too-skinny body. “How old are you? Ten?”

“I’m twelve,” Anthony said, annoyed. He knew he was small for his age, but he would get his growth spurt one day. He knew it. He stood straighter, trying to appear taller.

“And you’ve been here without supervision for how long?” the man asked.

Anthony pursed his lips as he thought. “I think I last saw Father four, maybe five days ago?” he supplied.

“And you didn’t think to call him?”

“He gets upset if I interrupt him,” Anthony said, eyes big and serious. That was a serious no-no. Interrupting Father would land Anthony in hot water. The kind that involved bruises.

“And your mother?”

“She died.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” the man muttered. “And do you not have a nanny or something?”

Anthony rolled his eyes. “I’m twelve,” he said again, trying to curb his exasperation. “I don’t need a nanny anymore. I don’t see Father for days on end all the time. I can take care of myself.”

The man gave him a sad look. “I suppose you can at that.”

“Is he coming back for me, or am I being sent back?” Anthony asked wearily. He opened the door wider and gestured the manager in, the move far too grown up for such a little boy.

“Well, why don’t you gather your things and come with me. Unfortunately, your father telephoned the police as he thought someone was perpetrating credit card fraud.”

Anthony snorted at that. As if. The only person perpetrating fraud of any sort was his father. He might be twelve, but he wasn’t stupid. His father was so not on the up and up. “So, when do the cops get here?” he sighed.

“Cops are here already, kid,” a voice made Anthony jump.

He turned to see a man in a crumpled suit – department store, his brain supplied – about his father’s age, a badge on his belt. “Hello?” he cocked his head.

“I’m Detective McGarrett,” the man introduced himself and allowed Anthony to inspect his badge.

Anthony offered his hand. “Anthony DiNozzo, Jr,” he supplied as they shook. “Pleased to meet you, sir.”

“DiNozzo?” McGarrett did a double take and looked at his notebook.

“He claims to be Mr DiNozzo’s son,” the hotel manager chimed in.

Anthony made a face and shrugged.

“Your… uh… father reported credit card fraud and we thought we’d catch the criminals dumb enough to still stick around the hotel room for three days.”

Anthony couldn’t help but laugh at that, a short, bitter laugh. “Sorry. No dumb criminals. Just me, stuck here.”

“When’s your flight home, kid?”

“In two weeks.”

“Nice vacation.”

Anthony shrugged. “Can’t complain. The beach is nice. Room service is nice.”

“Where’s your mother?”

“Dead.”

“Sorry, kid.”

The child shrugged again.

“So I think we have a bit of a problem now,” the manager interrupted. “As Mr DiNozzo has reported these charges for room service as fraudulent and his credit card has been canceled.”

McGarrett watched as the boy sighed. “I’d better see if the airlines will change my ticket home,” the boy was matter of fact and practical.

“How old are you again?” McGarrett asked. “Ten?”

Twelve, sir,” Anthony rolled his eyes and shook his head. Jeez, Lewis, did he have to say it a million times?

“Is his father on the mainland already?” the manager asked.

McGarrett nodded. “Tony, can you go with Mr Watanabe and wait in his office after you’ve packed and I’ll call your dad to see when he can come to pick you up?”

“It’s Anthony, sir,” the child corrected him before he sighed again. As if Father would come back for him. But he nodded and obediently packed all his things, looking around the room carefully, including looking longingly out the window onto the surf, before he went with the manager.

He was sitting quietly in the office, reading one of the books he’d brought with him, when he heard yelling outside Mr Watanabe’s office.

“What do you mean you’re not coming to pick him up? This is your son we’re talking about! He’s not luggage that you forgot and the hotel can just ship that to you overnight delivery! You forgot your son here for three goddamn days! You even thought that him ordering room service – to feed himself since you’re obviously incapable of caring for your own child – was credit card fraud! You forgot your twelve year old kid! In a fucking hotel in Maui! And you’re back in New York? It didn’t occur to you that you were missing something? Something important? Like your fucking kid?” It was Detective McGarrett’s voice. Anthony scrubbed his face. At the rate this was going, by the time he did get home to Father, he was going to be so angry Anthony wouldn’t be able to sit down for the rest of the summer.

“Like hell I’m going to just fucking put him on a plane by himself!” McGarrett yelled. “He’s too young to be going from fucking Hawaii all the way to New York City unaccompanied! He’s a child! He’s a fucking minor!

He can take care of himself?” McGarrett sounded livid. “I’ll have you know that I have called Child Protective Services on you. Because you abandoned your kid in a hotel room for three days! Somebody should be looking at your fitness as a parent.”

Anthony couldn’t make out some of the snarled threats and the voices died down. But a couple of minutes later, Detective McGarrett burst into the office. His expression immediately gentled. “Son, I’m afraid I have bad news. Your dad can’t come and pick you up right away.”

Anthony nodded solemnly.

“And because of what he did, some nice people from Child Protective Services are going to take care of you until he can prove that he’s able to care for you.”

Anthony’s face fell. He nodded, eyes down. McGarrett sat on the couch and waited with him until the CPS agent arrived. The woman took a look at the boy and sighed.

“We don’t really have a lot of foster homes set up on Maui,” she told them both. “I’m going to have to send you to a group home in Honolulu.”

Anthony nodded silently.

“Group home?” McGarrett raised his eyebrows.

“It’s the only place we have room,” the woman said, her tone regretful.

“If he has to go back to Oahu anyway, maybe he can come stay with me while you work with your counterparts on the mainland to figure this out?” McGarrett found himself saying when he saw the bitten lips and chewed up fingernails on the boy. “I have a son his age, and my daughter’s a few years younger. On their summer break. They can hang out.”

The woman brightened up. “You don’t mind, Detective?”

“Eh. It’ll be good for Steve to have to care about something other than catching his next perfect wave,” McGarrett shrugged. “If it’s OK with this young man? Is it OK? Would you mind staying with me and my kids while they straighten everything out?”

Anthony’s eyes grew wide with hope although he shrugged, trying to pass it off as a casual acceptance. “Whatever,” he tried to emulate James Dean, with an uncaring attitude.

“Is that a yes or a no, son?” McGarrett asked again.

“Yes! Yes, sir!” Anthony finally smiled. He wanted to ask about Detective McGarrett’s wife, since he was still wearing a wedding ring, but he chose to wait and see. He didn’t want to bring up a difficult topic if the Detective’s wife had left him, or something.

“Good. Grab your stuff. You can have the guest room, or maybe my son will share if you get scared about being alone in a strange place.”

Anthony shrugged. He’d been alone his whole life. Where he was didn’t really matter. But he kept all that to himself. He was used to keeping everything to himself. He went with the nice Detective on the short plane ride to Honolulu and they drove up to a big wooden house on the beach.

“You live on the beach, Detective?” Anthony’s mouth fell open, his eyes wide with glee.

“It’s Hawaii, kid,” McGarrett said, grinning. “There are beaches everywhere. And you should call me John.”

Anthony gave him a doubtful glance.

“Do you know how to swim?” the man asked him, eyes serious. “Because if you don’t I don’t want you anywhere near that water. That’s open ocean, son. You don’t ever underestimate the power of the ocean.”

“I can swim,” Anthony assured him. “Father wouldn’t let me take surfing lessons though.”

“Maybe Stevie can teach you,” McGarrett smiled and ruffled his hair, and Anthony stared at him for a moment before he nodded. “C’mon in, I’ll introduce you to the kids.”

McGarrett carried Anthony’s suitcase into the house, the boy trailing after him, eyes still on the ocean behind the house. He swung the door open, and yelled “I’m home! Stevie! Mary! C’mere a sec!”

A tow headed little girl popped up from the couch. “Daddy!” she squealed and went to hug him.

“Sweetheart, we’re going to have a visitor stay with us for a bit. This is To…”

Anthony cleared his throat pointedly.

“Sorry, excuse me,” McGarrett looked like he was trying to hide a grin. “This is Anthony. He’s staying with us until he can go home.”

“Hi Tony!” Mary gave him a gap toothed smile. “I’m Mary.”

“Where’s your brother?”

Mary rolled her eyes. “Like you even have to ask, Daddy,” she shook her head.

“Yeah,” McGarrett smiled at her. “C’mon, kid. Let me show you to your room and then we can go watch Stevie surf. That ham always loves an audience.”

Anthony followed McGarrett up the stairs and he opened a door and looked in and sighed. The guest room was a mess – Mary and Steve used it as a playroom and had left their toys strewn everywhere. McGarrett gave Anthony an apologetic look. “Sorry, kid. I’ll get the room cleaned before we get you settled in. OK? Just dump your stuff in Stevie’s room for now.” He led the boy to another room, the door wide open revealing another messy room with more toys and books and clothes thrown on the floor. He put Anthony’s suitcase there by the door and beckoned.

“C’mon. Stevie’s out there catching as many waves as he can before school starts up. You want to go watch?”

Anthony nodded, eyes big and solemn. McGarrett held out his hand and the boy stared up at him in surprise. The man wiggled his fingers, and Anthony finally understood that it was a prompt for him to take the man’s hand. He gave the man a puzzled glance and hesitantly put his hand into McGarrett’s large one, and allowed himself to be led back downstairs.

“Sweetie pie, we’re going to go introduce Anthony here to Stevie. You want to come with?” McGarrett called to his daughter who had resumed her position in front of the television.

“Yeah!” she shrieked, throwing herself into McGarrett’s arms.

Anthony watched in amazement as the big, macho cop swept his daughter up with one arm and kissed her cheek, settling her on his hip before he took Anthony’s hand again and they walked outside. Mary seemed to be around seven or eight, surely old enough to walk by herself and McGarrett was a man who carried a gun. Father said real men didn’t carry around children who could walk. Father said that real men definitely never held their son’s hand unless they were toddlers and needed help walking still. But this man, who was a police detective, which was even more exciting than anything Father could even pretend to be, seemed to have no problems holding Anthony’s hand and carrying his daughter even though neither of them were infants. Detective McGarrett seemed like a real man to Anthony, even though he was carrying around his not so little daughter on his hip.

Anthony couldn’t remember the last time anyone had picked him up – maybe it was after the time that Father had grabbed his arm and twisted it so hard that he’d needed to go to the hospital to get x-rays and a cast? The x-ray technician had lifted him from the wheelchair onto the examination table. And Father didn’t even bother to take him to the hospital. It had been the housekeeper who had thought that he needed a doctor. He couldn’t help but envy Mary, so secure in her father’s arms, not doubting his love for her, not even for a second. He couldn’t wrap his mind around it. And now the man held his hand, as if even Anthony mattered to him. And Anthony definitely couldn’t understand that. He tried not to let Father’s words enter his mind, the ones that made him want to wonder if this policeman had ulterior motives, or if he was secretly being held for ransom or something. Although he knew that if he was, Father wouldn’t pay one red cent to get him back.

“You know my father won’t pay you to get me back, right?” he found himself saying to the detective.

“What’s that, Anthony?” McGarrett looked at him, blue eyes looking sincerely confused.

Anthony shook his head, blushing profusely. He should keep his doubts to himself. Father always said that he was too loud, and too talkative. He needed to curb his tongue. That was what Father always said. Especially when he was called to the carpet and required to pour Father his scotch.

“Are you all right?” McGarrett asked, concern coloring his tone now.

Anthony didn’t know what else to do. He nodded dumbly. McGarrett let go of his hand and pulled him into his side in a short but tight hug, releasing him quickly and ruffling his hair again.

“Hang in there, kid. We’ll figure things out for you. Look, there’s Stevie in the water.”

Anthony looked and in the distance he saw a figure gracefully balancing on a surfboard, expertly riding the waves. He seemed to dance among the waves, his movements fluid and graceful, responding to the ocean as if they were communicating with each other. He dove off the board into the water when the wave died out.

“Stevie!” McGarrett was yelling and waving.

“Stevie!” Mary yelled with him.

The figure rubbed water out of his face after he surfaced, found his board and swam back to shore, towing it, his strokes strong and sure. Anthony stared, wide eyed and thunderstruck, as the boy stood up in the water, pushing his hair out of his face, water streaming down his body. He was the most beautiful person Anthony had ever seen. And the water droplets streaming down the tanned skin just emphasized the boy’s beauty.

“Dad,” the boy waved back, slipping his board under his arm and walking up the beach to where John, Mary and Anthony stood. “You’re home early?” he looked at the complicated looking watch on his hand.

“Yeah. The case on Maui ended early. And we have a guest for a little while. This is Anthony. Anthony, my son, Stevie.”

“Steve,” the boy rolled his eyes and held out a wet hand to Anthony, who stared at him, frozen in his tracks for some reason. The most beautiful boy in the world had huge hazel eyes and one day, one day Anthony knew that he would be so beautiful that he would stop traffic. Anthony had started noticing beautiful boys as well as beautiful girls even though he knew he wasn’t supposed to look at boys that way. He knew nobody would ever look at him the way he was looking at Steve. He knew that he was nothing much to look at, not to mention everyone at his school remembered him wearing his sailor suits to school when he was much too old to be doing such things, and they thought he was a mama’s boy, even after his mother died. They all looked at him with such disdain that Anthony almost never spoke to anyone when he was in school. But he knew that one day he would achieve a growth spurt and stop looking like a frickin’ eight year old and then he would show them. But for now, he knew that nobody ever noticed him. And that was fine. But this beautiful boy holding out his hand to shake his, as if he could even be allowed to exist on the same plane of existence as this boy, this was short circuiting his brain.

“You’re kind of shy, huh?” the gentle tone and the smile that appeared made Anthony’s heart beat almost right out of his chest. The beautiful boy stuck his surfboard upright in the sand, grabbed Anthony’s hand and pumped it. “I’m Steve. Anthony – do you mind if I call you Tony?”

Anthony shook his head dumbly. Of course he wouldn’t mind it. This beautiful boy could call him anything he wanted and Anthony would answer, even if it was ‘Tony’. Anthony hated that because his father went by that, and Anthony did not want to ever be mistaken for his father. But Steve could call him that. Sure. No problem.

“Good. I’m going to be in seventh grade in September. What about you? Fourth grade like Mary? Or Fifth?”

Seventh,” Anthony bristled. “I’m twelve.” Jeepers, how many times did he have to tell people his age anyway?

“Of course you are,” Steve grinned at him.

“Anthony is from the mainland,” John told them.

“Are you? Do you surf?” Steve sniffed and scrubbed his face, water still dripping down his face and his body. Anthony tried not to imagine himself as a water droplet, sliding down that flesh, so he could be touching Steve. “Tony?”

Anthony shook his head again.

“No problem, brah,” Steve grinned at him. “I can teach you. I’ll make a surfer out you yet, little haole. Come on. Let’s go find you one of my old wetsuits. We can start right away.” And then the boy grabbed his wrist and dragged him back up to the house.

Anthony turned to look back at Detective McGarrett who shook his head at his son’s enthusiasm.

Anthony ended up staying with the McGarretts for over three weeks. Steve taught him to surf which to Steve’s delight he took to like a fish, and he happily played Barbies, hula danced, did origami, and had tea parties with Mary when she asked him to. He even let her paint his nails and solemnly discussed what nail polishes worked best for Mary, even though Steve called him a dork for doing it afterwards. Anthony had never had a sister before, and Mary was adorable. Steve was entirely too hard on her, but Anthony could not resist her baby blues and was roped into many of her games. But the rest of the time, Anthony was Steve’s. They played together, surfed together, and Anthony ended up sleeping on a mattress on Steve’s floor instead of in the guest room. He even got used to answering to ‘Tony’ without flinching, because when Steve, Mary and John said it, it didn’t sound like the name that an asshole would answer to. The name that Father’s so-called friends called him and they all called Anthony what Father called him – ‘Junior’. When Steve, Mary and John called him Tony, it sounded like an endearment.

Anthony had been infatuated with Steve the moment he laid eyes on him, the most beautiful boy in the world, and in getting to know him and his family, and when he was taken under Steve’s wing, his feelings deepened. He knew that he would be Steve’s forever, even if the other boy would never know it. Steve taught him to play basketball, and introduced him to his friends and they all surfed together or played football and basketball. Anthony found that even though he was on the scrawny side, he had a knack for playing both sports and for the first time in his life, he was picked first. But he had a feeling that even if he’d sucked, Steve would still have picked him first for his team, because Steve was sweet and protective, and would never hurt his feelings.

The food in Hawaii agreed with Anthony as well. He loved the variety of tropical fresh fruits that were available and fell upon malasadas – the Hawaiian version of donuts – with a kind of ferocity that John McGarrett had to stare at him in awe, seeing such a tiny little boy demolish so many donuts in one sitting. Anthony even learned to appreciate sushi, even though he had at first looked at it askance, but Mary and Steve seemed to love it so he gave it a shot, too.

The first time Anthony asked John if he could make dinner for the family, about a week into his stay there, John had told him to knock himself out. John was then sent to the grocery store with a list that contained more fresh ingredients than they generally ate and then he watched with a dazed expression as Anthony assigned tasks for both Mary and Steve to help him make the food. They had ended up with what was a simple meal of pasta with a meat sauce. The difference was that Anthony had somehow made his pasta from scratch – a rustic wide cut pasta, and the marinara had been made from actual tomatoes instead of poured out of a jar. John watched as Anthony chopped herbs with a knife, slowly and carefully, but he was no stranger to a knife.

“Where’d you learn how to cook, Tony?” Mary asked as she tore romaine lettuce with her fingers and threw the pieces haphazardly into the salad bowl.

“We have a really nice cook and she lets me help her in the kitchen,” Anthony replied, frowning as he focused on rolling out the dough – with a rolling pin since the McGarretts didn’t have a pasta roller. “She’s from Italy and she thinks children should always help with making meals.”

Anthony blushed crimson when they all complimented him after the first bite of the food. And after the meal, John marshalled the McGarrett children into helping him with clean up and Anthony wasn’t allowed to help, since he had made the dinner, but he sat at the counter and giggled and laughed with everyone, feeling at home with this family. Feeling like maybe, he might even belong, just a little bit. He cooked a few more times during the rest of his stay, always impressing the McGarretts with his food.

But his favorite part of his stay, by far, were the nights in the bedroom when he and Steve were alone. They would talk about anything and everything, and for the first time in his life, Anthony felt that someone understood him. Mrs McGarrett had died in a car accident several years ago, so Steve understood the pain of losing a mother, as they were both motherless children. And somehow, Anthony felt that even if Steve had seen him in his sailor suit, or seen him crying at recess after his mother died, that Steve wouldn’t have been one of the boys who called him names and pushed him into things, and made his life miserable.

Anthony didn’t cry when he said goodbye to the McGarretts. Mary was wailing and holding on to him, and Steve looked stoic. John hugged him tightly before he was given over into the care of the woman Father had sent to accompany him on his long flight home. Anthony looked back, eyes huge in his face, and when tears finally filled his eyes, Steve broke away from his father and ran to him, hugging him hard and kissing his cheek, putting a crumpled piece of paper in his hands before he ran back to John.

When Anthony was sitting in his seat on the airplane, he finally straightened out the wrinkled paper and saw a hastily scribbled ‘Write to me. I’ll miss you’ and their address on the back. He smiled and put his fingers on his cheek, feeling Steve’s lips on him still.

And when Anthony was returned to his father, he was publicly greeted with an awkward pat on the head, and privately with a backhanded slap. He was told that he was being cut off and disowned for putting his father through the hassle of working to get him back from Child Protective Services. And Father told him that he was lucky that Father even brought him back at all and didn’t just leave him in whatever hellhole he’d been stuck in for the past few weeks. But Father was done with him now, done with having him in his house and in his presence, and then he was immediately shipped off to boarding school. But it wasn’t so bad because he and Steve wrote to each other constantly. And he was finally out of Father’s clutches.