Turing on the radio was his way of saying, ‘I don’t want to talk right now’. For once, it would seem the other occupants in the car felt the same way. Even his sometime bastard of a boss, didn’t say anything once he settled on the song that fit with everything that happened today.
‘When the day is long and the night, the night is yours alone,
When you're sure you've had enough of this life, well hang on.
Don't let yourself go, everybody cries and everybody hurts sometimes.’
The lyrics described exactly what he was feeling right now. This had been the longest day of his life, and soon he would be alone in the night.
Earlier in the day people were rushing around, looking for clues, praying, hoping, and begging to find their victim safe, and alive. Everything had felt like it was taking forever, even if it was being completed in record time. It was like on TV when the action was being presented in slow motion so you could see what was happening, second by second, minute by minute. Well, today it made the hours feel like days.
It had become a race against time, once the Amber Alert was activated this morning at 8 AM. The atmosphere surrounding the scene was thick with so much tension that he wished he had listened to his old man and joined the asshole’s company. Then again, your father might not be the best comparison, since you’re sure you would’ve jumped off the roof of his tallest building long before now. Still, fighting for jurisdiction had wasted valuable time, until his boss had growled and took control of the search, once they got on scene.
It was one thing when crimes happened to adults that for the most part could protect themselves. But, it was something entirely different and heartbreaking when the victim was a defenseless child. Even worse when the possible suspect or suspects could be one or both of the little girl’s parents. There was also the mother’s boyfriend, and the father’s boyfriend’s brother, who was a convicted pedophile, to consider as well.
He knew first hand on what a parent could do to hurt their own child. Even thought about getting a t-shirt made saying, ‘Reformed Parent Punching Bag’, or ‘Big Enough to Hit Back Now’.
The picture they’d been given was of a beautiful 8-year-old little girl, with dark brown hair and brown eyes that sparkled with childish delight. The missing little girl’s name was Bianca Castlewood and no one was exactly sure how long she’d been missing. Her mother, Lt Marian Castlewood had gone into the child’s room at 7 AM and found her daughter missing. The last time she’d seen Bianca was at 10 o’clock last night when she’d but the little girl to bed. Now, 8 hours later, she was safe, but her life would never be the same again.
Anthony DiNozzo was riding shotgun, with his seatbelt in place. His right hand holding tightly the strap above the front passenger window, praying that today would not be the day the damn thing would come loose, after all the abuse it received in the past, due to Gibbs’ driving. The other hand was braced on the dashboard to help him from getting a case of ‘Gibbs’ shaken passenger syndrome’. Soon they’d be back to the Navy Yard where he could retrieve his car and go home and find comfort in a movie and some alcoholic beverage. Beer or wine, it didn’t matter. Just as long as it dulled the pain, and chased away unwanted memories.
‘Sometimes everything is wrong. Now it's time to sing along.
When your day is night alone, (hold on, hold on)
If you feel like letting go, (hold on)
When you think you've had too much of this life, well hang on.’
The song played on giving Ziva something to concentrate on, taking her mind off how badly things had ended today. Seeing the frustration on Gibbs’ face was something she expected, and she was happy the parents weren’t present when they found the little girl. If looks could kill, then Gibbs would’ve been up on murder charges, even if their deaths would’ve been justified in every sense of the word of justice.
It wasn’t their leader she was most worried about. The concern that ate at her was for Tony. From the time the Amber Alert had been initiated she’d seen a change in her partner. Gone was the jokester that normally used his humor to distract and cope with the horrors they faced every day. In his place was a very quiet and overly serious, as DiNozzo would say, pod person.
When they’d gotten to the house his eyes had stayed focused on their surroundings and listening to Gibbs and the others, while they interrogated the family. Tony’s face never cracked a smile, and his eyes studied everyone present, especially the parents.
Every lead was followed up on, and it was Tony who finally found the little girl. She was lying in an empty field with her dress dirty and torn. It was obvious that the little one had been molested, beaten, and left to die. Seeing Tony taking off his jacket without hesitation, and then tenderly covering the precious angel with it before checking for a pulse, broke her heart.
“You know your coat is now evidence, don’t you?” one of the local LEO’s asked.
The glare Tony had given the man made one of Gibbs’ look tame, and it did not go unnoticed. She had witnessed Tony in protective mode before, but this time there was something different the way he was protecting this little girl. The way he called out for a medic, keeping calm and reassuring while holding the little girl’s hand.
“We need a medic here now, I have a pulse.” Never once did he look away as the little girl’s eyes started to flutter open.
“Don’t worry, Miss Bianca, you’re safe now. My name is Tony and I’m a special police officer.” Tony spoke so softly while gently touching her shoulder, keeping his hand on top of his coat.
“Bad man,” the little girl’s voice was so weak and scared.
“The Bad Man is gone, and you’re safe now,” Tony’s eyes were tender and his smile warm, and Ziva was sure it was just what the little girl needed.
The soft sniffles told Ziva the little girl was crying, and she could see how Tony wanted to do more to soothe her. When the small hand moved toward Tony’s it gave her hope that all would not be lost this night. The way Tony offered his in return did bring tears to her eyes.
Yes, there would be much Bianca would have to get through for one so young, but she would live to have a chance to fight and not let the bastard who had done this win.
“Don’t leave,” Bianca cried while at the same time squeezed Tony’s hand harder, when the paramedics made to leave with her on the cot.
“Wouldn’t dream of it, little lady,” Tony replied as the man motioned for the men to slow down, so he could keep up. Never once did her partner let go until they reached the ambulance.
End of Flashback
Gibbs had followed DiNozzo and the little girl to the ambulance after telling Ziva and Tim to get the car and pick him up. The need to watch their leader for a few minutes gave Ziva a good look at the relationship between their team leader and the senior agent. While the medics loaded the little one into the ambulance, Gibbs ruffled Tony’s hair and for a moment her partner relaxed for the first time since getting the call.
Even now, she could see how concerned about Tony Gibbs really was. The man kept sneaking glances over toward the other man, but Tony was oblivious. In fact both men lived in denial concerning the depth of the feelings they held for each other.
‘Everybody hurts. Take comfort in your friends.
Everybody hurts. Don't throw your hand. Oh, no. Don't throw your hand.
If you feel like you're alone, no, no, no, you are not alone’
Tim sat back and listened to the song DiNozzo had settled on. He tried not to think about the events that would forever be implanted in his memory. The fact that Tony remained so composed when they’d found the little girl surprised him, and then without second thought the man removed his jacket and used it to cover the little girl. The ground was muddy, and there would be no salvaging the Armani. To Tim, it just wasn’t something he’d expect from DiNozzo.
When the LEO had mentioned that the jacket would now be evidence, well, he wasn’t sure who was going to kill the man first, Tony or Gibbs. If there was such as thing as a death stare, Tony’s would’ve killed the man on the spot. The way Gibbs growled, you’d have thought there was a wolf about to attack.
Kids had never liked Tony, and he didn’t respond well with them either. So seeing him offer comfort to Bianca was a bit of a shock. This just wasn’t the Tony he was used to, and briefly thought about asking Abby to run a DNA analysis to make sure. Then again, the man did have moments of being a caring human being.
Then at the hospital, again he wondered if he’d been transported to an alternative universe. Miss Evans, the children’s advocate and social worker felt that Tony should be the one to interview Bianca. He’d heard something about they had bonded, and Bianca had come to trust the senior agent, in the time they’ve spent together. The stranger thing was that Gibbs agreed, and sent a look at everyone present that dared them to disagree. It was Ziva that made him reconsider the way he thought about one Anthony DiNozzo.
“You seemed shocked?” Ziva asked once they were alone in the waiting area.
“What do you mean?”
“Do not answer a question with a question; is that not what you tell me?”
Tim made sure no one was around, especially Gibbs, before saying, “Tony.”
“Ahh, you wonder how he could be so…?”
“Caring, empathetic, and bond with a kid, it’s just not the Tony DiNozzo I know.”
“Oh, Timothy, have you not learned yet that no one will ever really know Tony. He’s very proficient on hiding behind his many childish acts.”
“What do you think about this?”
“I think there is only one person that knows Tony, and it might be even more than Tony even knows about himself.”
“Gibbs,” Ziva replied before adding, “McGee, this is why Tony plays you the way he does. You need to think outside the box at all times.”
“What about Iraq?”
“If you really wanted to go, would Tony’s advice have mattered? Plus, knowing Tony, you should’ve known he was testing you, to see if you really wanted to go or not. He wasn’t the only one who asked to go, but Vance chose him over all the others. I think it was a very good lesson to be learned, if you can think outside that box, do you not think so?”
“So, you don’t think I was ready?”
“I think you could be now,” Ziva replied, with a wink and a smirk, “Time will tell when it comes time again to see if you stay inside the box or climb out to see what is outside.”
“Ziva, I bet your understanding of the American slang is better than you let on.”
“How does it feel to see over the sides?” Ziva asked as she stood up, “I think Gibbs is giving us that ‘come hither’ stare of his.”
End of Flashback
During the rest of the hospital visit he had time to think further on what Ziva had said. Could be she was right, and in truth he really wasn’t ready for Iraq. She was right about him listening to Tony in the first place; he just never considered it could’ve been Tony’s way of testing if he was serious about going. Abby had even told him many times he needed get out and see more of the world.
He really couldn’t wait to get back to the office and get his car. The need to shower, even if it wouldn’t wash away the filth he’d witnessed today, but it would help relax him enough that he might sleep. The song really did catch the mood he was in, for the day was long, and the night so far wasn’t passing any faster either.
‘If you're on your own in this life, the days and nights are long,
When you think you've had too much of this life to hang on.’
Leroy Jethro Gibbs drove on wishing with everything he had in him that today never would’ve happened. Seeing the change that came over Tony when the Amber Alert was called in gave him cause to worry. It was times like these that he was able to see just how serious DiNozzo could be, and it just didn’t sit right with him.
As irritating as Tony could be at times, it was the man’s humor, even inappropriate at times that kept him sane. It was like the man knew it and timed it as a distraction, or Gibbs might have taken someone’s head off.
It was Tony that got the mother to talk about the little girl’s imaginary friend, Lilly. He also was the one that got the mother to talk about how special the park was for Bianca and Lilly. When Tony wanted to go the park, he let him. Once they got there Tony walked the area, looking around at everything there was.
Out of the blue, the man wanted to check out the empty field beyond the playground. There were plenty of shrubs, and it was pretty dark. The perfect place to take a little girl, since there was no houses close that might hear anything that went on. On the other side was a school.
Hearing someone say that they found her made his heart beat fast. A part of him prepared to find the little one dead, were another part prayed she was still alive and unharmed. He wanted to hear that she had just wanted to play in the park with Lilly and gotten lost.
Finding her lying on the ground with Tony’s jacket covering her made him quickly look at his senior agent to assess how the man was doing. Hearing the man call out for medics eased some of his worry, but not much. He could tell by Tony’s expression that one of his fears had come true; Bianca’s body and soul had been violated.
Observing as his senior agent protected, and comforted the child warmed his heart, and made it that much easier to love the man. Over the years he’d come to realize that Tony had more walls of protection than China had rice. It was pretty hard work trying to peel them back to see the real man underneath. He’d seen the man those shields protected emerge at times, and one day he hoped to meet him.
Then at the hospital watching how the bond between Tony and Bianca formed, it told him everything he needed to know. Two lost souls have found one another and maybe together they could heal each other. Gibbs was pretty sure he’d be seeing more of Bianca and her mother in the future.
“Will you come see me tomorrow, Tony?”
“How about you use that sweet charm of yours and get the nurses to make us some tea. I’ll bring the sweet cakes, and we’ll have a tea party,” Tony replied.
“I like chocolate and vanilla.”
“Then for you, my lady, I will bring both.”
“Will you be okay while I talk with Tony in the hallway?” Marian Castlewood asked her daughter.
“Will you leave the door open so I can see you?”
“Yes, sweety, I will.” Marian replied, and didn’t leave until her daughter gave her a nod of the head.
Gibbs followed, wanting to get DiNozzo home. He needed to make sure that Tony was okay, and pretty soon he wouldn’t care who knew about his and Tony’s relationship.
“Tony, please,” Tony kindly interrupted her as he gently touched her arm.
“Tony, thank you for everything you’ve done. You’ve been wonderful with her, and I can see she trusts you.”
“Please, I’m just happy she’s safe. The rest…just take one day at a time.”
“I just want you to know that you don’t have to come tomorrow.”
“Marian, can I call you Marian?” Tony asked, and waited until she replied, “Yes”
“Here’s my card, and you or Bianca can call me anytime, day or night. If my coming to visit will help Bianca in any way, it’s no trouble for me to come. But, tomorrow I think it would break her heart if I didn’t bring the cakes for the tea party. You know how you women are about being stood up,” Tony teased, as he wrote his personal number on his business card.
“How about tomorrow at one, I’ll make sure she saves some room for tea, after lunch.”
“Then it’s a date.” Tony replied and then added, “Thank you.”
“I think you need this as much as she does,” Marian offered, “It must be hard when in the past it hasn’t ended so well with other children and their parents.”
Gibbs stood watching as Marian Castlewood stood on her tiptoes and gave Tony a soft kiss on his cheek. He waited for the woman to go back into her daughter’s hospital room and close the door before approaching DiNozzo.
“You did good, Tony. You’ve made me very proud today.”
“Now let’s go home.”
End of Flashback
He knew Tony was expecting to go home alone. They had never spent the night together during the week, unless it was because of a case that kept them late into the night. Then they only shared the bed to sleep. Tonight Gibbs needed his lover close, and felt the need to reassure the man that he was indeed loved and wanted.
He’d listened to the lyrics and could tell that Tony was hearing them, too. Tonight, if his lover needed someone to hold on to, someone to cry to, and someone to hold him and share the hurt with, then he’d be there. Hell, he trusted his team to back him and Tony up.
“You’re coming home with me.”
“Excuse me?” Tony asked in disbelief.
“Home. With. Me.”
“I’m a big boy, you know.”
“I think we should rethink the no weekday rule,” Gibbs shrugged, taking a peak in the rearview mirror.
Ziva had a smirk on her face that said she understood what Gibbs was saying. Tim’s expression was more like the deer in the headlight. He was sure once his junior agent figured it all out that McGee would be calling Abby, and she would either act surprised, or give the young man an earful on how unobservant he really is. Ducky would then get a call from Abby with the entertaining story on how McGee found out that Gibbs and DiNozzo was breaking rule number 12.
“Gibbs…breaking a rule?” Tony asked, and Gibbs knew the man was very nervous about coming out to both Ziva and Tim.
“Some rules are made to be broken, and others are made to be revised on an as needed basis.” Gibbs said with a grin as he reached over and tapped DiNozzo’s thigh.
“You do know you’ve ousted us out to the kids?”
“I think it’s like a movie, something about cheaper by something. Harry Fonda I do believe, and I do believe that Gibbs is Mr. Fonda, yes?” Ziva teased.
“That makes her yours, DiNozzo.”
“Ziva, it’s ‘Cheaper by the Dozen” and the actor is Henry Fonda,” Tony corrected and then looked at Gibbs and said, “McGibbs is yours, and you get to tell him all about the birds and bees.”
“Now, McBacktalk, no back talking your mother,” Tony’s easy laugh and bantering told Gibbs his senior agent was back.
“Who tells Ziva?” Gibbs asked with a straight face.
“I’m sure I can find a movie for her to watch that will explain it all to her.”
“Then you should be a good parent and watch it with me. Just so, if I have any questions on what goes where and how thing are supposed to fit, you can explain it to me,” Ziva’s voice took on the tone of sweet innocence that everyone knew was far from being true.
“Just don’t be like Abby and ask for a live demonstration. That will get you grounded for life.” Tony explained.
Soon they came to the Navy Yard and drove through the gates. Gibbs dropped everyone off by their cars except Tony. Instead he drove the sedan over to where his personal car was parked. After he pulled in the parking spot beside his Charger and put the sedan in park he turned toward his lover.
“How about this weekend we bring over the TV and DVDs first?” Gibbs asked as he handed Tony the keys to the Charger.
“Jet, are you sure you want to do this?”
Gibbs leaned over and said, “Never more sure in my life, now move it. We need to get home so you can get your beauty sleep, Lover Boy.”
“Man, you’re bossy,” Tony whined as he got out of the sedan.
“You need to look your best for Lady Bianca’s tea party tomorrow.” Gibbs reminded him as he got out and locked up the company car.
Once he was in his car Tony handed him the keys back. His life was looking good right now. Having decided it was time to take a chance on love again he felt it was time for him and Tony to go to the next step in their relationship. There was never a doubt on what Tony wanted, and he never once pushed Gibbs to make a decision. He never gave any ultimatums, only offered up unconditional love and support.
Gibbs turned on the radio, knowing how much his lover loved music. He didn’t believe in coincidences, but found it odd that the same song from earlier was playing as they drove out of the garage. The lyrics rang true even more now, and Tony would never hurt alone, and neither would he, ever again.
‘Well, everybody hurts sometimes,
Everybody cries. And everybody hurts sometimes.
And everybody hurts sometimes. So, hold on, hold on.
Hold on, hold on. Hold on, hold on. Hold on, hold on.
Everybody hurts. You are not alone.’