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Man In the Mirror

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He turned twenty-one today, he had sat by the phone waiting for at least a Happy Birthday phone call from his father; a phone call that never came. How many times he found himself checking for a dial tone, Tony lost count. What he knew in his heart was he never wanted any child of his to feel the way his father made him feel today; so unimportant and insignificant.

Sadness fell over him like a fog; he was hurting and there was not anyone in his life to make him feel safe; loved. Taking his coat from the hook by the door, Tony left his dorm room and made his way to the streets. Walking up and down aimlessly, he watched the children playing without a care in the world. These were children whose lives were touched by such poverty that they did not even have shoes on their feet on the unseasonably cool day.

Turning up the collar on his coat to ward off the breeze, Tony walked another block before he came across a small child rummaging through a dumpster. Walking to the little boy, he gently picked him up and carried him into the nearby diner. Buying the little guy, a bowl of soup and a sandwich; he handed the waitress some money from his pocket ordering some food for the little boy to take back to his family. Tomorrow morning, he would call at the local police station and find the little boy and his family some help.

After a night of tossing in turning, a young Anthony DiNozzo made his way to the local police station in an attempt to help the family he came across the night before. As he walked into the station, he watched and listened to the people as they sat with the officers giving their stories and recounting the crimes against them or those that they had witnessed. After a short wait, Tony was placed with an officer who was able to direct him to where he needed to go in order to get the family into a shelter.

"Say kid," the police captain called after Tony as he was about to leave. "That was a good thing you did; you ever give any thought to being a cop."

"Not until today," Tony smiled.

"If you want to join the police academy come see me after graduation." Captain Martin handed him a business card with his contact information on it. "You've got a natural something that we don't see much of; don't let it go to waste."

"Thank you, sir." Tony pocketed the card and started for the door. "I'll see you in a month."

The month went by quickly, Tony had spent time researching everything he could about law enforcement while studying for his finals and getting ready for graduation. On graduation day, he stood in front of the mirror and took a good, long, hard look at himself.

"Well Anthony," he smiled at his reflection. "You look good and you did good. You're a college graduate without the help of your father."

The next time Tony found himself standing in front of a mirror, he wasn't alone; he stood with Captain Martin.

"Uniform looks good on you," Martin commented. "I'll see you at graduation; I'm proud of you." Tears stung Tony's eyes, that was the first time in his life he remembered someone being proud of him.

"Thank you, sir," Tony saluted as he watched his mentor walk out the door.

"You look good, Anthony." He smiled at himself with pride; he was going to be someone that made a change.

It would be years before Tony would hear those words again. He had been forced to move from force to force; the circumstances becoming a little hairy after they realized he came from money.

Finally, he's landed in Baltimore, MD; where his life was changed by many things. It is an arson case that shakes him to the core. He risks his life to rescue a kid trapped in a burning building; both make it out, but neither of them are unscathed by the experience. It leaves Tony a changed man; a man that doesn't want to live alone.

Tony doesn't want to be alone; his heart leads him to Wendy. The woman that would not only break his heart, but leave him with emotional scars that he will carry for a very long time. His heart is broken when he offers the opportunity of a lifetime, career wise. The questions about his lost love will lead Tony down a path of inner turmoil.

A case brings NCIS team leader, Leroy Jethro Gibbs to Baltimore. The navy cop is impressed by what he finds in the homicide detective and soon has him right where he wants him. At the door leading to personnel at NCIS headquarters.

His first day working on Gibbs' team is the next time he finds himself standing in front of the mirror.

"You ready?" Gibbs asks as he walks into the guest room of his home. "Going to be different than anything you've done so far."

"Yeah," Tony nods as he tucks his shirt into his jeans and takes one final look. "It's going to be different, but different is good."

"And I don't waste good," Gibbs reminds him. Stepping up behind his new agent, Gibbs takes a long look in the mirror at the man. "You're good; don't ever let anyone convince you differently."

"Thank you," Tony smiles his megawatt smile and Gibbs can see that the praise bestowed on the young man was taken to heart. This will be the first, but not the last time that he wonders exactly what happened as a child that left this kid so broken.

The year will go by with the two men working side by side, the head slaps serve as a reminder that Gibbs cares and when they become rather infrequent, Tony begins to question his place on the team and in Gibbs' life.

The day Gibbs almost died in the murky waters of the Washington Channel, Tony's heroics doesn't only pull him from a submerged car, but also manages to save not only his and Maddie's life but perhaps his own.

The ER was packed and Gibbs was less than cooperative as the doctor checked him over. Director Shepherd had accompanied the downed agent in an effort to make sure he received medical care. Just as soon as he was released, Gibbs headed for DINozzo's apartment. Using his key, he let himself in and stopped in his tracks as soon as he saw Tony's exhausted form sleeping on the couch.

Making his way past him, Gibbs went into the bedroom and packed enough clothes for Tony to stay with him for a couple days. On his way out of the bedroom, he stopped in the bathroom and pulled the nebulizer machine from under the sink, the medication and inhalers from the medicine cabinet. Stopping in the kitchen, he grabbed a few things that he knew would make his agent feel more at home.

Running it down to the car, Gibbs came back up to find Tony sitting waiting for him. "What if I don't want to go with you?"

"You don't have to come with me," Gibbs answered. "I wish you would; I would like to be able to express my gratitude for what you did."

"You're thanking me?" Tony sat in shock.

"You saved our lives with no consideration of your own," Gibbs shrugged. "You are a hero in my book."

"A hero?" Tony was stunned, but he stood and without another word followed Gibbs; allowing him to take him home.

"You feeling okay?" Gibbs asked with great concern as they drove through the streets of Virginia to his home. "I brought your nebulizer and inhalers; meds from Brad and your tea."

"Yeah," Tony yawned. "Just tired; swimming does that to you."

After a long, hot shower, Tony stood looking in the bathroom mirror shocked by how exhausted he looked. It was Gibbs coming to look for him that pulled him from his thoughts. "What do you see?"

Tony looked in the mirror at the reflection of himself with Gibbs over his shoulder. "Exhaustion," Tony chuckled. "I also see gratitude."

"Thank you," Gibbs whispered in his ear as he watched their reflections in the mirror. "Thank you."

It was Vance that nearly shattered Tony's world when he sent him off as Agent Afloat. Tony goes home to pack; his orders are that he's shipping out the next day. He fights the anger and the tears; he fights hard against the rejection and the fears. His life went from having a purpose to all of a sudden he felt worthless and useless. His guilt over the death of Director Shepherd was all consuming; he stood in his apartment looking around; lost and confused.

Lost in his grief, Gibbs doesn't go to Tony until it was almost too late. By the time he arrives, Tony's sitting in his apartment with a loaded gun in his hand. It's a tear stained face that looks up at Gibbs as he walks through the door. It takes a few minutes to get Tony to hand over his gun and even longer for Gibbs to convince him that he will move heaven and earth to get him back.

"She's dead because of me," Tony whispered. "Why would you want me back? You loved her; I know you did."

"I did." Gibbs agrees, "She was dying, Tony. Ducky told me tonight; she went out on her own terms. Jenny knew what she was doing when she sent you away. Come with me for a minute."

Standing in front of the mirror with Tony in front of him, Gibbs turns his agent's chin so that he's looking in the mirror. "What do you see?" Gibbs asks as he really studies DiNozzo, himself.

"A broken man," Tony's eyes are downcast, he can't look at himself.

"Not broken," Gibbs corrected. "Wounded but not broken, DiNozzo." Turning Tony to face him, Gibbs looks his agent in the eyes and gently reminds him, "you're mine and I will fight to get you back, that is a promise". Always a man of his word, Gibbs did manage to succeed, leaving Tony feeling a little less wounded.

Years of service would lead Tony and Gibbs on an emotional journey; their bond growing stronger. The true test would come when Tony's father appears in the picture. His sudden presence at NCIS would leave the Senior Field Agent a bit shaken and troubled. The animosity and distance between the two men would be clear to those that truly cared about Tony.

Left alone; Gibbs explains to Anthony DiNozzo Sr. exactly what he thinks of his son. "Tony likes to hide behind the face of a clown, but he's the best young agent, I've ever worked with."

Standing outside, the door, Tony's faced with the honesty of Gibbs' words and is shaken on a level that leaves him reeling. He suddenly finds himself torn between doing the right thing for a father he never knew and living up to the expectations of the father figure he's been blessed to have.

When Gibbs sees through Tony's farce, Tony is left amazed by how well this man has gotten to know him over the years. Thinking back over his career at NCIS, Tony realizes that he's spent more time with Gibbs in ten years than he has with his father in forty. They've spent more quality time together; had more meaningful moments together than Anthony Sr. even realizes he's lost.

Gibbs turns his gaze to Tony, "why'd you do it?".

"He's my father. He is who he is. I couldn't bust him. Sometimes it's better to keep what you know to yourself." Tony sighs as he waits for Gibbs to comment. He's not surprised when his mentor and father figure simply clinks his bottle of beer in a toast and answers. "Amen." Knowing the emotions of the day will take their toll on his boy, Gibbs picks up Tony's empty plate and points to the stairs. "I changed the sheets; go get some sleep."

"Thanks," Tony gives a shy smile. "I don't know how you do what you do or know what you know, but I'm grateful that you do. Thanks, Boss."

"I happen to think you're worth it," Gibbs smiles. "You're welcome, now hit the rack."

As he sinks into the pillows, Tony realizes it doesn't take a mirror for him to see exactly how much different he's become than what he was destined. He could see it clearly in Gibbs eyes.

Tony would see the same look two years later as he stood at the altar waiting to marry the woman that had changed his life. Turning to his best man for the ring, Tony looks into Gibbs' eyes as he takes it from him. The emotions that play across them leave Tony barely able to speak his vows.

As the minister declares them man and wife, Tony kisses his bride then turns to hug Gibbs. As they leave the church, Gibbs looks at the empty spot in the front pew where Tony's father should have been seated. Tony's not mentioned his disappointment to anyone and when later questioned, the young man makes a statement that rocks Gibbs.

"It doesn't matter," Tony gave a small smile. "I had the only father that ever mattered standing beside me as my best man; that was all I needed."

It's a year later, the two men are sitting in a small room together; circumstances of life, bringing them a moment of quiet to reflect a bit. "You've changed a lot over the years," Gibbs states softly. "I'm proud of you, Anthony DiNozzo."

"I took a good look at the man in the mirror," Tony said softly. "I decided a long time ago that I didn't want to be the man I was expected to be; I wanted to be someone that made a difference. I wanted to be someone that this little girl will be proud to call daddy. It took a few years to figure it out, but I had one hell of a teacher along the way."

With tear filled eyes, Gibbs watched as Tony gently placed his goddaughter into his arms. "You did one hell of a job at achieving just that." Gibbs whispers as he leans down and kisses the baby on the forehead. "Welcome to the world Lauren Ann DiNozzo; you're definitely daddy's little girl."

~Take a look at yourself and then make a change. ~