Part I: Inheritance
“Yes, Mr Hubbard. How are you, sir*?” Tony’s heart was beating loudly in his chest as he spoke into his phone.
He knew that he’d been a complete pest about the fact that his late uncle’s solicitor had been trying to reach him, making it seem to the team as if he could be inheriting a lot of money and quitting his job. He’d wished he could have been there for the reading of the will, but he’d already taken time off to go to Uncle Clive’s funeral. Gibbs barely even believed that he had an Uncle Clive to lose, so he didn’t want to push his luck. But he would have liked to be there for the reading of the will, since he had been invited to it. Tony didn’t think that Clive would have left him any money, not that he needed any more since he hadn’t even touched what he already had, but what he had been hoping for was even more important: he’d wanted to be left Clive’s family albums. The ones containing pictures of his mother. He had so very few of them. That was all that he wanted from Clive, and he knew that the old gentleman had always allowed him to look through them and had always been endlessly patient with all of his questions about Clive and his mother and their childhood together.
“Hello, Anthony. We missed you at the reading, but Clive would have understood your commitment to your work,” Mr Hubbard told him, his tone pleasant and warm.
Tony blushed a little at that and nodded, even though he knew Hubbard couldn’t see him. Mr Hubbard was a sweet man, and an old friend of the family. He and Clive had been very good friends.
“Well, I’ll get right to it, shall I?” the man continued.
“Right, of course,” Tony stuttered. Albums, please, please, he kept his fingers crossed, picturing the photos of his mother as a young woman, before she ever even heard of the DiNozzo name. So young, and innocent, and beautiful. Someone who didn’t need to drink to get through the day. Someone who laughed so openly, and had a smile a mile wide, and had no sadness in her eyes.
“Clive left you all of the photo albums of his childhood, and specifically designated that all of the photographs that contained your mother in them are to be bequeathed to you.”
“Oh, thank you!” Tony smiled gratefully into the phone, turning away and shielding himself from his team, not wanting them to see him when he was so genuinely emotional. “Thank you,” he repeated softly. “I appreciate you calling me to tell me that, Mr Hubbard. Thank you.” Tony was ready to hang up, having heard what he wanted to hear.
“That is not all, young Anthony,” Tony could hear the smile in Hubbard’s voice.
“The bulk of Clive’s moneys he willed to your cousin Crispian.”
Tony shrugged and nodded. He’d expected that. Crispian was much older than him, since his mother was the youngest Paddington and the age difference between Crispian’s father and Clive and his mother had been a large one. Crispian was a good man and had been the one to care for Clive when his health declined so dramatically in recent years.
“However, he did put some aside for you in a trust.”
“Oh, he didn’t have to.”
“I know that you still have the trust funds that your grandfather and your mother left you, which Clive was the administrator of, and now that he has passed, you will have control over your trusts.”
“But in addition, Clive has also left you a quarter of his estate, six million pounds, to be added to the trust that your mother left you.”
“What? But why?” Tony hissed.
“I realize that you are at work and cannot speak freely.”
“I shall set up some time for us to speak at a better time.”
“Of course. Is Crispian OK with this?” Tony whispered.
“Your uncle spoke with Crispian about this matter, prior to his death. There are no issues with Crispian.”
“Anthony, hello!” And there was Tony’s cousin on the phone now. “Be a good sport, shut up and take Uncle Clive’s money. He meant it for you and I won’t go against his wishes. But you know, I found that IOU you wrote him when you were in college? For ten thousand dollars? A loan?”
“Wow*!” Tony chuckled, remembering the document that he had written up and printed and tried to make look as official as possible.
“I’ll expect repayment of that in full,” Crispian continued. “With interest. To your trust fund, of course.”
Tony snickered. “Wow! That is unbelievable*!” he rolled his eyes.
“Those are the conditions I’m setting, Anthony,” Crispian laughing too. “Here’s Mr Hubbard. And don’t you dare ask him about his cupboard again. Clive might not be alive to paddle you, but I am.”
Tony rolled his eyes again.
“One last thing, Anthony,” Mr Hubbard was back. “You remember the house in Virginia, home of the last of the Paddingtons who immigrated to the New World in the 19th Century?”
“The house where Uncle Clive and my mother used to love to visit during summers?” Tony asked softly.
“Yes. That one. Clive had such fond memories of it.”
“He left that to you. You are the last of the Paddingtons in America. Clive wanted the house to go to you, despite what became of it and the rest of the Paddingtons who lived there. He had good memories of that house, and good memories of your mother with him, in that house.”
Tony sighed and nodded, bowing his head. He knew about the Paddington cousins who had died in what was supposed to be terrible circumstances – he didn’t really know the particulars except that everyone died – and he’d thought the house destroyed or sold. But apparently, no, he was now the owner of this house. This mysterious house with the tragic history.
He knew he was getting overwhelmed emotionally. All those pictures of Clive and his mother. He had so few of them, so few mementos of his mother. Because one of the stepmothers had done some ‘spring cleaning’ and ‘accidentally’ destroyed all of them. Except for a few that he’d hidden away. Getting the photo albums meant everything to him, and the fact that Clive had also left him money and a house, a house that was filled with good memories of his mother? It was too much.
“OK, well. Thank you very much*,” Tony murmured.
“I shall work with a solicitor on your side of the pond to finalize everything and send you the appropriate documents.”
“Thank you very much,” Tony exclaimed again, nodding as they said their goodbyes.
“Don’t be a stranger!” he heard Crispian yell.
“All right*! Well I’ll see ya, pal*!” Tony yelled back.
He hung up the phone, heart still racing, and saw that McGee, Ziva and Gibbs were all looking at him now. Shit. He didn’t need this right now. His fingers were starting to tremble, and he took a few deep breaths, trying to calm himself. Tears threatened to blind him for a minute. He would have all those pictures of his mother! The thought of going from having only a handful of well-worn photos to albums full of pictures was overwhelming him.
“Did… Uncle Clive have a big estate*?” McGee was asking.
“Huge*!” Tony exclaimed, licking his lips. “Twenty four million pounds*.”
Cash. Not including the properties and securities and bearer bonds. But Tony just kept thinking of those pictures of his mother. He couldn’t believe it. He would own more than three pictures of his mother! He wanted to laugh and cry at the same time.
“That’s over thirty five million dollars*!” McGee’s voice broke through to him, his brain whizzing around like crazy.
He needed to get away from them. Get a moment to collect himself. Shit. He was cracking in front of them and he needed to go, everything felt so brittle. And somehow he faked it. Told them some stuff. Lied and told them it had all been left to Crispian, mixed in the truth that it turned out he had signed an IOU to Clive which Crispian was collecting with interest, omitted the bit about repaying it to himself instead of to Crispian. Swept the picture of the red Ferrari that he’d told them he planned to buy into his trash can. He couldn’t bear to look at it when he would have the pictures that he truly wanted soon.
And when McGee patted him on the shoulder and told him facetiously, “I am sorry for your loss*,” Tony almost burst into tears. Because Clive was dead. Uncle Clive, who had always been so goddamned nice to him, was dead. Uncle Clive who had been the only one who remembered his mother fondly and without animosity, and had told him all these stories about her. Clive had left him all his pictures of her. Pictures that Tony had always wanted, but never dared to ask for. Because he was just a far flung nephew, and his mother had been estranged from her brother and her entire family because she had chosen his dick of a father over them.
“It’s only money*,” Tony bit out. “Excuse me.”
He made his escape, not needing to see Ziva’s face, gloating with happiness at his supposed misery. He went to the men’s room and locked himself in a stall for ten minutes, trying to process it. He’d been sad, of course, when he’d been told of Clive’s death, and the funeral had been difficult, especially since some of the Paddington cousins were snooty and looked down on him, because his mother had been estranged from them for decades and they had no real idea who he was as a person. But Clive had never had any attitude with him, had always accepted him unconditionally, had always told him how like her he was. And Crispian turned out to be one of the nicest guys ever. But what was hitting him so hard now was that his mother was dead, and the only person who ever wanted to remember the good times with her, who had wonderful memories of her, and who, like him, had loved her, he was dead, too. It was like Tony was losing his mother all over again, when the last person other than him who had truly loved her died.
Eventually he had to get up because McGee might have been teasing him about it earlier but his ass really did hurt like the dickens. Tony hadn’t been on a horse since his eighth birthday party, when his mother had arranged for pony rides for him. It was also the final birthday party that he’d ever had, and the last birthday party that his mother had been alive for. A wave of sadness threatened to overcome him. He slunk back into the rest room and slammed the stall door shut and closed his eyes. Shit. He really had to get a grip on himself. He couldn’t go back out there to his teammates in this condition or they would absolutely tear him apart.
He focused on controlling his breathing, and relaxing his tensed muscles, and gradually his heart slowed down and he felt semi normal. He splashed cool water on his face and dried it with a paper towel, tweaking his hair in the bathroom mirror before he went back to the bullpen, smile firmly in place again. He took the teasing with an easy grin, teasing them right back, and forced himself to focus on work for the whole day, but when Gibbs let them go, he was the first one out of there, going right home. He had a small snack, changed into his clubbing clothes, and despite it being a work night, and went out, danced his troubles away, and went home with a man.
One of Tony DiNozzo’s secrets was the complicated nature of his sexuality. Sometimes, after some of the difficult days, he just needed someone to fuck him and use him, and just pound into him. A woman wouldn’t do. And today was one such day. Hell, every day since Jeanne had accused him of murder had been that kind of day. He hadn’t been able to fuck a woman since Jeanne and well, if sometimes the men he’d been picking up might have been a little rough with him and hurt him a little, that wasn’t too bad since he knew he deserved nothing less than pain for what he’d done to Jeanne.
That night, the man was younger than him, and gorgeous, and hung like a horse, which pleased Tony to no end. After a couple of mutually beneficial orgasms, Tony slinked back home and called Crispian at 0300, which was 0800 in London and Crispian had probably been at work for an hour or two by then. He winced, as his ass was hurting even more now, after the horseback riding and the subsequent rough fucking. He called Hubbard again after he was done speaking to Crispian, and they spoke at great length making final arrangements for everything to be delivered to him, and Tony was an emotional mess again after that.
He forced himself into the shower, napped for an hour, got up and showered again, and was back at his desk before the rest of the team appeared.
Gibbs couldn’t help himself. He kept watching his Senior Field Agent as he worked. Tony seemed distracted that day. Quieter than normal. He barely even responded to Ziva and McGee when they continued to tease him about owing money instead of inheriting money from his dead rich uncle, and Gibbs could see that the words were actually hurting him. There was a tightness in his lips, and the lack of the usual participation in the team banter made Gibbs wonder what the hell was going on. Had Tony really wanted the money that badly? Did he want to leave the team? Leave NCIS? Leave Gibbs?
That last thought rocked Gibbs. He’d been giving Tony a hard time, prodding him about what he would do, when he would quit his job once he got his hands on his uncle’s North Sea oil money. But with the news that Tony owed his cousin now, Gibbs knew he should settle himself down. Tony wasn’t going anywhere. He would need a job in order to facilitate the payback of the loan. But he’d always thought that Tony’s whole thing about money was just a front. That he didn’t really care about it. Not that much. Even though he did like his expensive clothes and whatnot. So was Tony that upset about not inheriting what he thought he would get? Or was Tony upset about something else? Because this behavior of his, this feeling of Tony deliberately putting distance between himself and his team, this was definitely Tony being upset and hiding it. And for the life of him, Gibbs couldn’t figure it out this time.
Sometimes not even Gibbs who was the person closest to Tony on the team, could figure out what it was the man kept in his head, his masks were so fucking good. It had intrigued Gibbs at first, and over the years, he knew that he had developed an unhealthy attachment to DiNozzo, with his beautiful eyes, bright smile and a self that was more hidden than out in the open. Tony only hinted at everything that he could be, with his sly wit and his coy looks, and that mouth that looked like it was meant for filthy things. Even all these years later, Gibbs knew that he’d barely scratched the surface and that Tony kept himself insanely private by being ridiculously public about his indiscretions. He hid himself right out in the open, which was a talent. As if he knew where all the shadows were and could insert the pieces of himself that he never wanted anyone to see into the dark spaces while shining a light as brightly as he could on other pieces of himself in order to deflect and hide everything else.
He knew that he was obsessed with DiNozzo, and had been for far too many years now, but he couldn’t help himself. He always enjoyed watching the man interact with his team, enjoyed the banter even though he usually growled to stop them from doing it or getting distracted from their work, but he’d had to swallow his laughter at Tony’s words a lot over the years. So yeah, when Tony was having an off day, Gibbs knew it. Usually he knew why Tony was off, but this time he really couldn’t figure this out.
He watched Tony surreptitiously, a move that he had perfected over the years they’d worked together. That day, Tony seemed to have absolutely no idea that Gibbs’ eyes were on him. Usually, Tony would meet his eyes and give him worried looks, and Gibbs knew that Tony would start trying to figure out what he’d done wrong lately. And while Gibbs didn’t feel good about making Tony feel guilty for no reason, he’d rather the man feel guilty than be upset that Gibbs was lurking and being a creep, stalking him. But not that day. That day, Tony was completely oblivious, flipping through the cold case files, brow furrowed in concentration, completely focused on his task and shutting out all distractions. Gibbs knew that that was one of Tony’s avoidance techniques. If he didn’t want to worry about whatever it was he was worrying about, he would focus everything on to one task with laser like focus and let everything else fall away.
Gibbs usually liked the results out of those days because Tony had a knack for solving cold cases. He seemed to be able to put things together, things that looked as if they had no connection to each other, but then Tony would rearrange the pieces and clues and magically pull out some weird theory, possibly based on some movie or other that he had seen, and voila, that would be the key piece of information leading to arrests and cases being closed.
But that day, Tony didn’t come up with any new clues. It was a quiet day, with everyone working cold cases. And it was nice, because he and Tony had had a grueling few days out in Arizona. Truth was, he was feeling it in his bones, too. So maybe it was just exhaustion that was causing Tony to be off a little. Or could it be it something else?
Gibbs pursed his lips. Was Tony catching valley fever again? Hadn’t he said that he and Arizona didn’t mix and that he’d had valley fever before? He resolved to speak to Ducky and find out more about valley fever, including the possibility of reoccurrence, so that he would be able to monitor Tony for symptoms.
But at the end of the day, after Ziva and McGee had left for the day, Tony handed him a form requesting leave. He was asking for the upcoming Friday and Monday off, a long weekend, essentially. Normally, Tony would be babbling about the vacation that he was planning for weeks on end, planning his time off with great delight and well in advance. This time Tony just handed him the paper, lips pressed together in a straight line, dimples creasing his cheeks.
“What do you need time off for?” Gibbs asked him, knowing that he came across annoyed and grumpy.
Tony shrugged. “Have some stuff to do,” he said vaguely.
Tony nodded, not meeting Gibbs’ eyes.
“You doing OK?” Gibbs asked softly.
Tony’s green eyes finally met his, and he looked surprised. He nodded. “Sure, Boss. I’m fine. Never better.”
And that was when Gibbs knew that something was definitely up. Whenever Tony insisted that he was ‘fine’ and ‘never better’, it absolutely meant the opposite. He sighed. “You gonna tell me what stuff it is you’re planning on doing this weekend?”
Tony shrugged again. “Just some stuff around the house,” he muttered.
“You? Doing stuff around the house? Do you even know the business end of a screwdriver?”
Tony grinned. “I think it’s the end with the thingy that you use to hammer in nails, right?” he joked.
Gibbs rolled his eyes. “Need any help?”
Tony looked surprised again and shook his head vehemently. “Nah, I’m good. Thanks. Just need the time to figure out how to fix things after I screw them up. You know how it is.”
Gibbs gave him a long look, and despite the fact that he didn’t believe one word of what DiNozzo was saying, he signed off on the request and nodded, putting it in his outbox.
“Thanks, Boss,” Tony’s grin was small but genuine. Gibbs saw how tired Tony looked behind the smile.
“Sure you’re OK?” he tried again.
“You think a couple of days on a horse that would prefer to eat me rather than let me ride him is going to keep me down, Boss?” he winked saucily and Gibbs’ heart jumped a little. Even all these years of exposure to Tony and his flirtatious nature hadn’t inured him to the man.
“Get out of here,” he growled. “Before I change my mind about approving your time off.”
Tony laughed and grabbed his things before he sauntered away, and Gibbs allowed himself a moment to admire Tony’s ass as he walked away.