LJ "runs away" to Gibbs' house when he gets in trouble for his siblings' pranks.
Chapter 1: LJ Goes to Grandpa's House
Seven year old LJ DiNozzo was angry. His brother and sisters had been picking on him mercilessly. Anthony had pranked him twice in the past day and Tali had managed to pull three pranks on him. Even Rivka and Beth had figured out a way to get him in trouble with Ima and Abba. Every time, every single time, Ima had made him clean up the results of the pranks. He had vacuumed the carpet in his room three times in the past two days, cleaned the entire bathroom that he shared with Rivka and Beth, and had to help Ima clean the kitchen floor after Anthony's latest prank.
"But, it's not fair, Ima. Anthony is the one who rigged the juice container to fall. I just tried to pick it up from the counter and pour my juice. Anthony left the cap loose on purpose so I would spill the juice." LJ tried to explain to Ima why Anthony should be helping her clean the floor and not him.
Ziva gave her son the Ima glare, "LJ, you were the one who was touching the juice when it spilled. I did not see Anthony in the room. That means you must help clean up the mess."
LJ had enough, "IMA, I DID NOT SPILL THE JUICE ON PURPOSE. ANTHONY HAS BEEN PRANKING ME ALL WEEK. ALL OF THEM HAVE. I HATE THEM ALL!"
"Leroy Jackson DiNozzo, you do not raise your voice to me. I asked you to help clean up the spilled juice. End of discussion." Ziva was losing her patience, not wanting to have an argument with the boy. "We are almost done. Please be quiet and just help me with this. Then you can go."
LJ grumbled to himself as he wiped the cabinets with the rag his Ima had given him. He threw the rag in the sink and mumbled to himself, "You love them better than me." Ziva looked at her son. She tried to hug him, and he pushed her away. "No, Ima, go away."
LJ realized almost immediately that his tone and words were disrespectful, "I'm sorry, Ima. I'm just angry at Tali, Anthony, Rivka and Beth."
Ziva sighed, "Apology accepted. Please go to your room and calm down. Then we can talk about what happened."
"Yes, Ima." LJ knew better than to continue arguing with her. He headed to his room dejectedly, hoping that he would have some peace from his siblings. He opened his door and a cup of water dumped on him. He heard giggling in the bathroom, and knew that his sisters were behind the prank.
"SHIT, SHIT, SHIT. QUIT YOUR DAMN PRANKS." LJ yelled into the hallway and slammed his door. He heard the gasps of his sisters and brother. He slammed the bathroom door and flung himself face down on his bed.
He heard the door to his room open, and without looking, he yelled, "GO THE HELL AWAY. LEAVE ME ALONE."
"LJ, that kind of language is not acceptable, and you know it." Tony tried to keep his voice calm, hoping his son would calm down and stop shouting.
"NO. THIS IS NOT DAMN PICK ON LJ DAY! I CAN YELL IF I WANT." LJ kept his face down, and did not look at his father. "AND, NO, I DON'T WANT TO TALK ABOUT IT."
By this time, Ziva had also come into LJ's room. "We will talk about it after you have calmed down. Yelling, using curse words and disrespecting us is not acceptable." She and Tony turned to leave the room to give their youngest some time and space.
LJ lay on his bed, thinking about his day and his week. When had the family turned against him? Maybe he should leave. He got up and started packing some clothing into his large sport bag. He would go to Grandpa's house. Maybe Grandpa would let him live there and he wouldn't have to deal with the crap from his siblings. Ima and Abba would stop punishing him for things he didn't do.
As he zipped the bag, Abba came into the room. "Ready to talk?"
"No. I'm leaving. I'm going to Grandpa's and not coming back." LJ held up his bag to show his Abba.
"Okay. I'll take you there." Tony surprised LJ with his response. "Let me get my keys and tell Ima." LJ stared after his Abba leaving the room. He picked up his bag, shoved his stuffed lion inside, and went to get his coat and shoes by the front door.
Tony found Ziva in the kitchen. "LJ is running away. He's going to Gibbs' house. I told him that I would drive him over."
Ziva nodded, "I will call Abba and let him know what is happening. Good luck."
Tony found LJ by the front door, ready to go. He led the boy to his truck and motioned for him to get in. He started the engine and backed out of the driveway. He headed to Gibbs' house, not saying a word. LJ watched his father, waiting for him to say something, anything, instead of the silence.
Tony glanced sideways at his son. He would let LJ be the first to speak, if he chose. LJ glared at his Abba and then slouched down, looking out the window as the truck turned into Grandpa's driveway.
"I'll walk you to the door, but then you are on your own. Okay with that?" Tony was giving LJ an out, if he wanted it.
"Sure. Grandpa will be glad to see me." LJ picked up his bag and walked to the front door with his Abba behind him. LJ opened the door, and Gibbs was sitting in his recliner, watching a movie. "Hi, Grandpa. I'm having issues with everybody in my house. Can I stay here for a while, please?"
Gibbs turned to see LJ next to his chair and Tony in the entryway. He nodded to Tony, "Sure, LJ. You can stay with me. Take your things up to your bedroom and then come back down."
"Okay, Grandpa." LJ climbed the steps as Gibbs motioned to Tony to step out onto the porch.
"I'll let you know what he says. Are the other kids aware that he left?"
Tony shrugged, "Ziva has probably told them that he is coming here. Maybe we can get to the bottom of all this pranking and figure out what is really going on with all of them. Thanks, Dad."
Tony turned to leave as Gibbs went back inside. He had just sat down in the chair again when LJ came down the steps. "Did Abba leave?"
"Yep. Said he had some things to get done at home." Gibbs motioned to the other recliner, indicating that LJ should have a seat. "Just you and me here."
The pair sat in silence, watching the western that Gibbs had been half watching while waiting for LJ to arrive after he talked to Ziva. She and Tony were aware of the pranks and that LJ had been on the receiving end for several days. They figured that getting LJ away from the others would help them get to the root of the pranking with the other kids.
The movie ended, and Gibbs stood up. "Need to get us some dinner. You wanna cook or clean up?" He looked at LJ for a response.
"I'll clean up. What are we having?" LJ was hungry and hoped Grandpa would make cowboy steaks.
Gibbs looked in his fridge and freezer, "Got some ground beef and vegetables. How about meatloaf and salad?"
LJ shrugged; he would eat almost anything his Grandpa cooked. "Sounds good to me."
Gibbs smiled, "I'll make the meatloaf and then we can make the salad together. You can rinse the tomatoes and lettuce while I get the meat ready."
LJ took the vegetables from Grandpa and carried them to the sink to rinse. He placed the tomatoes on the cutting board and tore the lettuce leaves into two bowls. Gibbs handed him the serrated knife to cut the tomatoes. "Remember your knife safety."
LJ nodded and deftly cut the core from the tomatoes and then cut each one into wedges and placed the pieces on the lettuce in the bowls. He put the knife in the sink, grabbed the dish rag and cleaned the knife, resting it in the dish drainer, point down. Grandpa smiled at him and nodded, "Very good, LJ!"
LJ smiled back at Grandpa; Gibbs figured it was probably the first time the kid had smiled in a few days. His grin was pure DiNozzo; this boy was definitely Tony's kid!
The two worked in silence to prepare the meal, and as Gibbs took the meatloaf from the oven, LJ set two places at the table. He put Grandpa's coffee cup next to the coffee maker and started making the coffee. He put a glass on the table with his own milk. He put the salads on the table as Gibbs put a slab of meatloaf on each plate and put the plates on the table.
The two ate in silence. LJ wanted to talk to Grandpa about the mess at home, but he wanted to enjoy his dinner as well. Grandpa did not need to hear all the details over dinner. Gibbs watched LJ, sensing that the boy wanted to talk. Gibbs remained silent; LJ was like his parents. He would talk when he was ready, not a minute sooner. They finished the meal and LJ cleared the table, taking the dishes to the sink. He washed the dishes, utensils, his glass and the pan from the meatloaf, setting them all to dry in the dish rack. When he finished with the dishes, he wiped the table and counters. Finally, he dried the dishes and put them away. Gibbs watched it all in silence, pretending to work on the crossword puzzle in the newspaper.