Title: Look After You
Author: Christi (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Timeline: Really, canon is not of the greatest importance here. Just post-Kill Ari because Ziva is there, albeit peripherally.
Genre: Gen, Tony-centric. Really, it’s (as kate98 put it) Case!fic, Now With Added Baby. It’s meant to read almost like an episode – granted, a very out there, never would happen episode.
DPB actually owns th
Note: Okay, so I sort of feel the need to issue a pre
Thanks to control_freak80 for putting up with me on a daily basis despite my very special kind of crazy and to kate98 and pixie_on_acid for the betas.
Across the room, Ziva closed her eyes in apparent frustration. “Really, McGee, must you do that?”
McGee, who had been absently tapping his pen against the face of his desk, looked sheepish. “Sorry. It’s just that Tony’s late.”
unusual,” Ziva r
“It is when Gibbs has specifically called him in for a case,” McGee pointed out. “He knows better.”
“Damn straight he does,” Gibbs mumbled over his morning cup of coffee.
With his usual graceless timing, Tony chose that moment to stumble through the elevator doors. “Sorry I’m late,” he gasped while hauling an awkward armload and finally placing it on his desk. “I got…held up.”
Everyone was too busy staring at what he had been carrying to reply right away. Finally, McGee managed to snap out of it. “Say, Tony…what’s that you have there?”
Tony rolled his eyes and collapsed into his chair. “Gee, McGee, are you sure you’re an investigator for a living? You’d think you’d be able to recognize a baby when you saw one.”
At this confirmation of her obvious fears, Ziva scooted further away from what she now recognized as a car seat. “Get it away from me.”
She glared at him and continued to huddle in her chair. Gibbs, in the meantime, had come off his warpath to gaze down at the little figure sleeping in the mass of plastic and cushions. “Why do you have a baby, DiNozzo?”
Tony, who hadn’t moved from his prone position, laughed hollowly. “Well, I didn’t think leaving it in the hallway in front of my apartment was the best idea, Boss.”
“It? You don’t even know if it’s a boy or a girl?”
“Well, I certainly wasn’t going to check, McGee.”
“I don’t understand,” Ziva piped in finally. “Why would anyone leave a baby in your hallway?”
Tony sighed, finally looking up. “Well, if the note pinned to the top of the car seat is to be believed, that would be because it’s my baby.”
Specifically, the note read: It’s yours. I can’t do this. Sorry. ~E.
Staring at it through a plastic bag, McGee looked at Tony in a way that made him immediately defensive. “I can’t believe you bagged it,” McGee said.
“It’s evidence!” Tony insisted.
“Evidence of what, exactly? Your out of control libido?” Ziva quipped from her station across the room, where she refused to move from as long as the baby was near Tony. In fact, Tony was pretty certain that she had actually scooted her desk a little further away when no one was looking.
he could blame her – a little distance from this mess right now would be more
than welcome. Really, Tony was caught so off guard that everything around him
“You know, it’s really a very cute baby,” McGee said, gazing into the car seat. “Can I hold it?”
Tony’s eyes widened in spite of himself. “And risk waking it up? I don’t think so, Probie.” The one thing he had going for him so far was the fact that the kid was asleep.
Ziva eyed it with suspicion. “Well, at least it’s quiet now.”
Tony’s thoughts mirrored hers exactly. “But we can’t very well take an infant to a crime scene,” she finished, which was…an excellent point.
who up until this point had r
McGee frowned. “Take care of what, exactly? It doesn’t exactly take an entire NCIS team to take care of a baby.”
“You’d be surprised,” Gibbs intoned dryly. “No, I meant that I assume DiNozzo wants to find out who, exactly, left this baby on his doorstep so that he can...return it.”
At this revelation, even McGee rolled his eyes. “Of course.”
the other hand, just shook his head and got down to busi
Digesting that particular order took a moment before Tony shook it off and let his training kick in. “Sure thing, Boss.”
Gibbs nodded, turning to McGee. “You have any experience with babies?”
“Sure! I baby-sat in high school.”
were good jokes that could be made of that stat
“Go with Tony. Just in case.”
Lastly, Gibbs turned to a slightly exasperated Ziva. “This is what we’re doing now? Really?” she asked.
“Yep,” Gibbs confirmed, walking over and grabbing Tony’s PDA off the desk, tossing it to her. “Start uploading the E section to the main computer.”
With a shake of her head and a few muttered Hebrew curses, she complied.
gone ahead to get Abby to turn down her music and explain the situation, so by
the time Tony entered with the car seat, Abby was practically jumping up and
down with excit
Tony had barely managed to put the carrier on her lab table before she pushed him violently aside, peering down at the little body curled there. “So cute!” she exclaimed. “What’s the baby’s name?”
“How should I know?” Tony asked. Honestly, he had been avoiding thinking about the particulars of this situation as much as possible.
“He doesn’t even know if it’s a boy or a girl,” McGee explained with an annoying air of condescension in his tone.
“What?! You guys! Why didn’t you just look? Poor baby, surrounded by a bunch of stupid boys.”
Somehow, when Abby said it, Tony really did feel like a stupid boy.
“Hey, Ziva wouldn’t look either,” McGee said defensively.
“Well, of course she wouldn’t!” Grumbling under her breath, Abby lifted the baby gently out of the car seat, efficiently peering under the diaper. She grinned delightedly. “It’s a girl!”
McGee followed suit by grinning inanely. “Tony, it’s a girl!”
“I heard Abby the first time, Probie,” Tony stated slowly, wondering when exactly he was going to wake up.
But this response was obviously the wrong one, because Abby’s features darkened. “You could be more excited, you know, Tony!” Looking at the baby’s sleepy features, she grinned devilishly. “You know, she kind of has your nose.”
Somehow, that observation pushed Tony a little too far. “Yes, Abs. Because this is exactly the sort of thing I’d get excited about,” he said pointedly. “It’s a baby. A baby was left at my front door. It’s not a joke and it’s not some joyous event. It’s my life. And this kid’s life. So can we please get on with things?”
He tried to cover the panic in his voice.
Judging from the look Abby and McGee shared, Tony hadn’t succeeded. And it was when the teasing stopped and a tense silence filled the room that Tony realized this wasn’t a dream or a mistake and this day really wasn’t going to get any better.
McGee moved towards it, but Abby just held the baby tighter, smoothing a hand down her back and crooning in its ear softly. “Hey, now. Shhh. I know that this is a new place and your daddy is sort of inept, but he grows on you. Honest.”
“Kind of like a fungus,” McGee chimed in.
Tony gripped the bridge of his nose. “With friends like these… Look, can we just do the mouth swabs? Please?”
“Congratulations, Tony!” Ducky said cheerfully. “You have a beautiful baby girl.”
Tony curbed the impulse to point out that they wouldn’t know for certain if she was his for another six to twelve hours.
“Abby sort of beat you to that discovery, Ducky,” McGee said helpfully.
“Ah, yes, well did Abigail tell you the approximate age of our delightful visitor?” Ducky asked while slipping the baby’s outfit back on and allowing her to grab his glasses. “Because I may be able to give you an estimate.”
“Please,” Tony pleaded.
“It’s difficult to say exactly – a date of birth is a bit harder to estimate than a time of death, you know. But judging from her weight and development, I’d say this lovely lass was born about three months ago. Do allow a month in either direction, though.”
The doctor picked her up off the scale and, completely without warning, went to hand her to Tony, who couldn’t help but feel distinctly panicked at the thought of holding her. “Here you are.”
“Oh, no, I…” but before the protest could fully form, she was in his arms, staring at him quietly while sucking on her fist. “Hi,” he said inanely, because his mind had blanked.
In response, she made a happy baby sound in a really high pitch that, if Tony spoke baby, he would assume meant ‘hi’ back.
That was…kind of cute.
But not really. And she’d better stop wriggling, because the floor was hard and he had no idea how to hold her. “I…Duck, could you?”
Seeing his obvious discomfort, Ducky took the baby back easily. “If you like, Mr. Palmer and I can watch her here while you agents try to track down the whereabouts of her mother,” Ducky offered. “At the very least, it is usually quiet down here.”
“I would hope so,” McGee muttered.
Ducky laughed. “Yes, yes. However, my point is, she shall not be in the way here.”
beginning to think it was a good idea. After all, the kid was already nodding
off again – se
“Of course, of course. Are there…ah…provisions?”
Tony winced just thinking about it. “I sent Abby out with my credit card.” A decision he was already regretting.
“Ah. I see. Very well. I am certain she will arrive shortly with ample supplies. Off you go, then!”
Tony went, unarguably relieved and at least a little concerned about whether or not the kid would still be piercing free by the time he saw her again.
By the time Tony got back up to the bull pen, Gibbs was more than a little annoyed. “About time, DiNozzo.”
“Sorry, Boss,” Tony replied immediately, keenly aware that this was all a favor to him and therefore, he was treading on even thinner ice than usual.
“Can we get this over with and onto a real investigation?” Ziva asked, very obviously irked by the whole thing.
just as eager as you are,” Tony pointed out. “Boss, Ducky said that the kid is
around three months old, give or take. Unless I’m r
possibilities,” Ziva interrupted, pressing a few buttons efficiently. “I had to
Tony grinned, leaning back in his chair. “Ah, Ellen. She could do this insane thing with her….”
“Please, Tony. Spare us,” Ziva implored. “And the second, someone listed as Emily. No last name.”
“I never got one,” Tony admitted, feeling a bit ashamed of that in retrospect. “Now she was a great ten days.” Surprisingly, he didn’t mean that in a dirty way – he and Emily had had some good times together. But between her MCATs and the new case that popped up, it had fizzled just as quickly as it had begun.
He had thought about calling her a few times. Not surprisingly, he had never gotten around to it.
As he stared at the names now on the overhead screen, Tony was surprised to find that he felt vaguely disturbed by this public display. It was one thing to share some idle talk about your sex life and quite another to have it literally front and center. And these two names…well.
“Any ideas which one is more likely?” Gibbs asked from right behind him.
Still eyeing at the screen, Tony tried to sort out his thoughts, which were decidedly jumbled. If this was all real and the kid was his and someone, somewhere had thought for whatever deluded reason that dropping it off at his house would be a good idea…well, if it was real, then there was only one answer.
After a few minutes, he turned and looked straight at Gibbs.
“No,” Tony lied.
Gibbs held Tony’s gaze for a few minutes, staring him down. Tony didn’t flinch and he didn’t look away and he didn’t squirm, and that was more than he had ever managed with Gibbs before.
“Okay,” Gibbs finally relented. “Then, seeing as we have a last name for her, we go after Ellen first.”
met Ellen Lanyer at a local bar, as cliché as that
was. She was a first year associate lawyer who had needed to blow off some
steam. After taking one look at her incredibly long legs, Tony had been more
than willing to oblige. They had continued this mutually advantageous arrang
Not surprisingly, he had suddenly lost her phone number.
Needless to say, he hadn’t been expecting a particularly warm reception when he showed up at her office that afternoon.
Actually, to be more accurate, he had been shocked when she agreed to see him right away.
Now, standing across from her ominous figure glowering at him from behind a ridiculously oversized desk, he realized that he shouldn’t have been. In fact, he was starting to think that calling ahead might have been a good idea. Or really, maybe this could have just happened over the phone entirely. “Ellen,” he said tentatively.
“Asshole,” was her greeting. Yeah, this meeting was going to go real well.
Well, one plus of her conviction that he was Satan’s spawn was that he could live up to her expectations and cut straight to the chase. Just get through the whole thing as quickly as possible and get the hell outta dodge. “Happen to misplace any babies lately?”
“Excuse me?!” she exclaimed, beginning to rise from her chair.
“A baby. Girl. About this big,” he clarified, gesturing.
Nor did he recall her apparent penchant for throwing things, but seeing as he was suddenly forced to duck a file, he began backing out of the room.
“You…you…jerk! You think I would just…I wouldn’t even have your baby, you self-obsessed, egocentric pig! How dare you waltz in here and just…ugh!”
He put up his hands as a motion of apology. “Hey, I’m sorry, but I had to check. You were one of my prime candidates.”
That was when her hand went for the paperweight.
you don’t se
mournfully followed Ducky down to Autopsy, holding a hand to his head. As if
the pounding wasn’t a constant enough r
“Abs, what are you doing?”
Abby glanced over, her face lighting up at his arrival. “I’m signing! Don’t you know that if babies are exposed to sign consistently enough, they can learn basic communication signs as young as six months? She’ll be able to tell you if she’s hungry or thirsty almost an entire year before she could verbally express it.”
course, didn’t se
The first (and more important) part of his sentence was blatantly ignored.
How had he gotten here again?
Abby just barreled along, obviously not noticing (or not caring about) his pained look. Not that she could, with her back to him once again. “Anyway, I’m glad that you’re back. I want to show you everything I bought. Did you know that Hot Topic has a baby section? I got her the cutest little onesies with band logos and a rattle with this really cool skull on it and….”
letting her loose with his credit card had definitely been a bad idea. “I don’t
suppose you r
“Don’t be silly, Tony. I even got a crib! It has wrought iron details and looks totally…oh. And there’s something else.”
“What? Did you find an infant-sized bustier?”
“No. Look,” Abby said, fishing a folded piece of paper out from under one of the bags. “DNA results.”
before looking, before she even finished her sentence. Really, he had known all
along. Still, the words, “It’s official. You’re a daddy,” se
Normally, an unsolved case meant nights spent snoozing in his chair, waiting for someone to come up with the next big break. Sometimes, if Tony was lucky, he claimed the rollout in Abby’s office before McGee could get to it. And while that sort of job dedication was a bit unusual (some might say obsessive), Tony figured that at least he hadn’t gotten as comfortable as Gibbs, who still routinely grabbed a few winks in Autopsy while waiting on a case.
Thanks to the addition of Baby Girl DiNozzo, however, pulling an all nighter was out of the question. Hell, Tony figured that he was just lucky Director Sheppard was out of town until the next morning, or he would have been sent home straight away to deal with the whole mess himself.
So, despite the fact that Ellen had turned out not to be their perp (so to speak) and they didn’t even have a last name on Emily, at five on the dot, Tony was sent packing with only a slightly drowsy infant for company.
“Okay, kid. Let’s hit the road,” he muttered while finally managing to reattach the car seat to the back of his sports car.
And while this whole day still had an eerie, sort of surreal quality to it, Tony couldn’t help but notice that on the way home, he drove more cautiously. He checked the belts strapped across her three times to make sure they weren’t too tight. He even pulled over once to find her skull and crossbones rattle after she dropped it under the seat and wouldn’t stop screaming.
The normal fifteen minute drive took almost forty minutes. By the time they pulled into the driveway of his brownstone, he was starving. The baby, if her continued screaming was any indication, was also starving.
faced a dil
some frantic searching, he found the bag of food supplies. Thankfully, the
bottle warmer came ready to use, and while it warmed up, Tony tried to tackle
After several false starts, he managed to get it to look almost right. “Okay,” he muttered. “Formula, formula…formula!”
He grabbed it, opened it with a pop, and fine, white powder promptly exploded everywhere. “Great. Just great.”
By the time the bottle was ready, the baby was bright red and seriously pissed. And, as Tony discovered while feeding her, the bottle must have been put together wrong, because it leaked.
Still, the kid eventually stopped crying, which was progress. Right now, he’d take the small victories.
“Okay. Now I get to eat,” he muttered to himself, awkwardly trying to shuffle the baby (who he was still not comfortable holding) and the cordless phone long enough to order some carry out.
For ten minutes, there was peace. There was a quiet baby and after some quick channel surfing, a Cary Grant marathon on AMC. This was okay. He could do this.
Until she started fussing again.
narrowed, he held her eye level. “Okay. I fed you. I am holding you. I have the
TV volume low. You have the rattle. What’s your probl
In response, she twisted a little one way, then wriggled another, and then proceeded to let out a huge burp while vomiting all over his Armani tie.
Not surprisingly, she found this more amusing than he did.
And, of course, that’s when the doorbell rang.
even the destruction of prime designer clothing se
Of course, the fact that she had essentially been asleep for most of the day didn’t really make bedtime a thing that was going to happen anytime soon. But she was quiet, and when she wasn’t screaming or making doe eyes at McGee or Jimmy, Tony had the time to stop freaking out and sort of enjoy her.
In a completely non-paternal way, of course. Just in a baby way.
all, her laugh was really cute. And when she grabbed at his fingers d
managed to change her diaper without too much trouble (it almost se
Tony took two seconds to double check and then happily followed her lead.
That is, until he woke up precisely to the now all too familiar sound of shrieking.
Director Jen Sheppard liked being the first one in the office in the morning on her first day back after a trip. There was something almost covert about it, a chance to observe the average state of the office when the agents knew there was no one up in MTAC breathing down their necks.
This particular morning, however, it was clear before she even stepped off the elevator that someone had beaten her.
She just didn’t understand how that someone could be a baby with an ear-shattering wail.
Curbing the impulse to cover her ears as she exited the elevator and walked into the main bull pen, she couldn’t have been more shocked to see Tony huddled at his desk, a car seat full of pissed off baby sharing the space. “Agent DiNozzo,” she said loudly enough to be heard over the racket. “Why is there a crying baby in my bull pen?”
He looked up at her wearily. “Well, because she won’t stop, Director. She’s been like this since three in the morning. I’ve tried everything. Twice. I changed her. Fed her. Burped her. Played with her. Sang to her. Walked her. She just…won’t stop.”
That much was obvious. “She can’t be here,” Jen pointed out.
Jen’s experience with babies began and ended with her nephew, who had just entered middle school. “No.”
“Well, then I’m waiting here for Gibbs.” At this declaration, Tony almost collapsed in on himself. “Gibbs will know how to make it stop.”
Honestly, Jen had no ready response for that. On the one hand, his desperation was clear. On the other, people were going to start arriving soon and this was hardly conducive to a good work environment.
Luckily, before she had to make a decision one way or the other, Gibbs appeared as if from nowhere. “What the hell are you doing to that baby, DiNozzo?” With a disturbing ease, he scooped the baby out of her carrier and cradled her in confident arms.
“Nothing. She’s just crying,” Tony explained once more.
“Ah,” was all Gibbs said as he began to pace, the baby’s cries already waning. “They do that sometimes.”
With the baby magically calmed down and secretly tucked away down with Ducky, Tony was able to think a little more clearly. Although when Gibbs returned from dropping her off bearing not one, but two coffees and proceeding to hand Tony one, it took a few seconds to shake off the weird feeling that overtook him.
Blowing on it, Tony looked at the information on the screen. “I met Emily at the Georgetown Library.”
“You know where the library is?” McGee asked, sounding genuinely surprised.
Rather than disabuse McGee of his set-in-stone shallow image of him, Tony just let it slide. “They have a great movie section.”
“Ah,” McGee nodded. “Of course.”
rolled his eyes. “Anyway, she worked as a clerk there, taking a year off
between graduation and med school to study for her MCATS.” He smiled, r
“That would make her what, about twenty-three, Tony? Isn’t that a bit young, even for you?” Ziva chastised.
He didn’t reply, because the truth was that at the time, he had wondered the same thing. It obviously hadn’t stopped him, but he liked to think that the ten days they had spent nearly joined at the hip had been enjoyed by all. “It’s a long shot, but we can try the library. She might still be working there.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Gibbs agreed. When they all waited for his next order, he just raised an eyebrow. “Well, what are you and McGee still doing here?”
even a librarian knew enough not t
“I’m sorry, Agent DiNozzo, but Emily stopped working here over ten months ago.”
Of course she had.
“I don’t suppose you could give me her address?” At her hesitation, Tony scrambled for some of the charm that had played a part in getting him into this mess. “It really is urgent that we find her as soon as possible.”
After one more moment’s hesitation, the librarian caved, copying an address from the computer down onto an index card. “This is the last known address we have for her. However, I should warn you that she came in to pick up her last few checks in person, so I don’t know if it’s still valid.”
Never a good sign. “I don’t suppose she was good friends with anyone who works here still? Someone who might know for certain how to contact her?”
the librarian paused. “Well, she didn’t really socialize a lot – always
studying those science books, you know. But I se
Finally, a break. “Is she here today? Can I talk to her?”
librarian smiled. “I’m sorry, but I’m afraid she went to visit her parents in
Tony sighed. “Of course not.” Shaking it off, he smiled. “Thank you so much for your help, ma’am.”
address she had given th
Tony highly doubted that tracking down one of
As they headed back to the car, McGee unhelpfully said, “Maybe the universe is trying to tell you something.”
“Don’t date girls with generic last names?”
“Tony. I meant about the baby.”
Playing dumb was just more appealing than having this conversation. “Just brainstorm,
Probie. How do we find a girl who se
Back at the office, McGee soon used his computer wizardry to discover that Emily may have moved out of her old apartment, but it was still the address on her driver’s license. And her voter’s registration. And, after an hour or so of hacking, at her bank.
“I honestly don’t know what else to check, Boss,” McGee said helplessly to Gibbs’ scowling features. “I think our only option might be to wait until her friend gets back from vacation.”
To Tony, who had been up since three and felt like he’d never be quite normal again, another two days sounded like a lifetime. “There’s nothing else we can do?” he asked, unable to keep a hint of desperation out of his voice.
McGee shrugged. “Unless you have any brilliant ideas….”
Tony was too damn tired for ideas of any kind, let alone brilliant ones. “Right.” Glancing at the clock, Tony realized that the decidedly unproductive day had flown by. “Well then Boss, can I leave? I need to go pick the kid up from Ducky and get her home.”
“Yeah, go on,” Gibbs agreed.
When he arrived in Autopsy, he was pleasantly surprised to find a decided lack of disturbance. “Everything go okay?” he asked as he walked over to the baby and let her grab his finger as she was prone to doing.
“Quite well, Tony! She has been quite good company, actually. I believe that she enjoys the sound of my voice,” Ducky said, sounding almost like a bragging grandfather.
“Well, I’ve always found it soothing, Doctor!” chirped Jimmy.
That made Tony pause, seeing as it was just a little disturbing. “Right. Well, thanks for watching her.”
“Of course, of course. You know, when Abigail was visiting earlier, we realized that you still have neglected to name her.”
“I haven’t neglected it, Duck. I just haven’t done it.”
“May I inquire as to why?”
After a long pause, Tony shrugged. “I suppose she already has a name. Just because Emily forgot to write it down, doesn’t mean I should go renaming her. It would just be confusing when I give her back.”
It was complete bullshit, and judging from Ducky’s neutral “Ah,” he knew it. “You’re off, then?”
Slinging the diaper bag over his shoulder and easily managing the weight of the car seat, Tony said, “Yeah. We’re off.”
Tony still had to stop the car once on the way home to fish the rattle out from under the seat.
avoided spilling formula everywhere (thank God, as everything still had a layer
of white dust from the day before), but he still ass
Because the tie incident had been hard to forget, he burped her immediately and thoroughly.
Then, because he was exhausted and hadn’t showered in entirely too long, Tony decided to take a cue from the inexcusable chick flick genre (what exactly had possessed Tom Sellick, he would never know) and shower. He just…took the baby with him. Sure, the water had to be lukewarm and he was sort of paranoid about dropping her, but at the end they were both cleaner and happier and smelling much better.
her in a diaper and a disturbingly cute little T-shirt that read “Made in the
She still woke up at exactly
This time, however, he just went through all the usual motions, finally walking her back and forth across the living room until she calmed down.
Yes, it took an hour and a half.
But eventually, it happened.
The next morning, Tony felt…better. Not great, because he still
lacked sleep and not even normal because nothing about this was normal. But less inclined t
“Thanks again for doing this, Abby,” Tony said as he settled the car seat on Abby’s working table.
“Are you kidding? I’m just relieved to not have to come up with excuses to go down to Autopsy and visit her,” Abby retorted while stroking a finger down the baby’s cheek. “I’ll bet Ducky’s jealous that I get her today, though.”
“He’s still sulking,” Tony admitted with a smile. “Okay, there should be plenty of bottles in the bag, if not I think I stuck an extra bottle in the top drawer of my desk.”
Abby gasped. “In Playboy’s honored spot?”
Tony grimaced. “Right on top of it, actually.” Never mind that the formula would probably leak all over it.
For some reason, this caused Abby’s grin to spread, now so wide that it prompted Tony to ask, “What?”
She shook her head. “Nothing. Go on. Solve the case of the missing mother.”
Tony nodded, glancing at the baby one last time before heading out. He had completely exited the room when he felt compelled to pop his head back in. “And Abby?”
Her face fell rather comically. “But I got
cute little t
“No. Tattoos,” Tony reiterated before leaving, heading back up to his desk where he was absolutely going to be late.
Sure enough, when he arrived, everyone was already gathering their stuff in a dash for the elevator.
"DiNozzo," Gibbs said by way of greeting. "That kid better be taken care of, because we're leaving." McGee had stayed late last night and turned up a possible lead – an Emily Johnson had rented an apartment nine months ago in a building that kept strictly electronic (and conveniently public) records.
"Yeah, Boss, she's with Abby."
From across the bullpen where Ziva was
gathering her things, there
"I was! But then I started worrying, y'know, because she's just a baby and I'm not sure that spending all that time with...well, dead people can really be good for her psyche long term. Plus, she was starting to smell like that industrial strength cleaner Ducky uses after the autopsies."
As they filed into the elevator, McGee frowned. "Okay...but how is spending large amounts of time with Abby going to better any better for her psyche?"
"Oh, it's not – I’ve accepted that that’s a lost cause. But at least this way, she retains that new baby smell."
Gibbs, who se
Of course, when they arrived at the apartment building en masse, they had no trouble getting information. Unfortunately, it too turned out to be useless. An Emily Johnson had rented an apartment here, but had apparently sublet it almost immediately. The landlady couldn’t even give an accurate description of the initial lessee.
“Sorry, Tony,” McGee said dejectedly. “I really thought this might be something.”
“Hey, you tried,” Tony allowed. “Thanks.”
“It’s not your fault, McGee. It’s just that apparently, Tony has a taste for women as flighty as he is. Let’s hope his daughter didn’t inherit that particular gene,” Ziva taunted.
For that, she received a quick slap on the head from Gibbs. “Ow! What was that for?”
Gibbs glared. “Didn’t your parents ever tell you to pick on people your own size?”
At Ziva’s confused look, Tony was surprised to find himself gloating a little. “In other words, screw with me all you like, but leave the kid alone. She’s cuter than you.”
Ziva looked slightly insulted by this, but Gibbs just grinned and kept walking to the car. Tony hung back, wondering why in the world he was feeling distinctly…relieved at the way the lead hadn’t panned out.
He didn’t like the feeling. It made him nervous.
They were supposed to be at their desks, searching for any possible
electronic trail they had missed of the apparently vanished Emily Johnson. In
reality, it se
Well, everyone except Ziva. But even she kept glancing in the baby’s direction slightly wistfully.
“I can’t believe you still haven’t named her, Tony,” Abby chastised. “She needs a name. You don’t want her to suffer from an identity crisis, do you?”
“She’s only three months old, Abby. I think she’s got awhile before the serious psychological issues set in,” McGee pointed out. “Still, she’s right. Have you thought about Jane? I always liked Jane.”
Tony wrinkled his nose without looking up. “Too G.I. Not D
Out of the corner of his eye, he could see
Abby snatch the baby from McGee’s arms. “Not to mention it’s boring. I’ve
always liked Desd
“Hardly surprising, my dear,” Ducky pointed
out (and really, why in the world were Ducky and Jimmy up here other than the
fact that it was where the baby was?) “Seeing as they have
distinctly dark connotations. But I hardly think Tony wishes to name his
child something so dour. I suggest something more pleasant. Perhaps Aurora,
Goddess of the
The headache Tony had finally been fighting
off started to pound once again. It wasn’t that he had a probl
“What about Francesca? Or
“Sure, if you want her name to be bigger than she is,” Ziva pointed out from across the room. “I’ve always liked Sarah, after Abraham’s wife.”
Tony groaned. “Et tu, Ziva?”
“Well, they have a point. We can’t just keep calling her ‘the child’ or ‘the baby’,” Ziva said defensively.
Giving up, Tony groaned. “Okay! If I name her, will you all just shut up?”
Judging by their silence, his tone might
have been enough. But knowing th
With somewhat shocked eyes, Abby handed
over the baby. He looked down at her for a few moments, wide blue eyes and that
goofy expression spread across her face and suddenly r
Abby, as usual, was the first one who dared
to speak. “
“Sure. After Cary Grant’s
daughter in Houseboat.” At
their blank looks, he sighed. “Houseboat, 1958. Cary Grant plays a single father with three
kids and Sophia Loren is an Italian socialite trying to break away from her
overprotective father. Not one of his best movies, but he’s
“Wait a minute,” McGee said. “Did you name
Tony didn’t bother t
If there was one face that Lt. Colonel
“Agent DiNozzo,” she said by way of
greeting. “I’d say come in, but you se
“I didn’t figure you’d mind,” DiNozzo said,
She merely pushed his feet off her desk and brushed away the dirt where they had been. “You figured wrong.”
“Well, sorry about that, but I need your help.”
It had only been a matter of time. “What mess did your big mouth and wandering eyes get you into this time, Agent? Piss off the wrong husband? Desert the wrong woman?”
“Stop it,” he said shortly. “I’m serious.”
When she stopped and looked at him for longer than two seconds, that much was clear. With a nod, she grabbed a notebook and a pencil. “I’m listening.”
By the afternoon, they had given up trying
to track Emily down, knowing that a solid lead would likely be available by
tomorrow. Instead, they were all using the opportunity to catch up on some old
paperwork. Tony had even managed to convince Gibbs to let the freshly dubbed
Elizabeth stay upstairs with th
As long as at least one of th
When it was McGee’s shift (which curiously
“Hey, Tony? Do your parents have any other grandkids?”
Trying not to show his discomfort, Tony just kept working. “Seeing as I have no other children, no, McGee, they don’t.”
“Well, have you told th
That prompted a snort. “I doubt it.”
McGee paused in shaking the rattle. “Really?”
“Well, my mom might. I think it’s a rule or something. But my dad will likely be more disturbed that I thought it was a good idea to pass my genes on to the next generation.”
“Oh, I don’t believe that.”
Tony glanced up at him, a wry smile on his face. “You’re close with your dad, aren’t you?”
“We’ve always had a fairly good relationship, yes.”
Tony shrugged. “Well then, there are no words I can possibly say that can make you understand the dynamic you have with a father whose disapproval of everything you do is your one great constant in life.”
As he had already revealed more about himself and his carefully camouflaged Daddy issues than he was entirely comfortable with, Tony just stood and walked over, scooping Lizzie up and carrying her back to his desk. “I think it’s my turn now,” he muttered, brushing a kiss against her forehead before nestling her back into her car seat. “Do your paperwork.”
On the way home that evening, Tony still had to stop the car. But he somehow managed to get home before Lizzie’s fussing had devolved into full-on shrieks.
He got the bottle (ass
After a quick bite to eat for himself, they played with a new toy he had picked up – a tiny little keyboard that lit up. The sound of it was annoying and tinny, but Lizzie made that happy baby squeal when she hit a button.
The TV stayed off. Tonight was Bogart night
on TMC, but hey, he had most of th
She went down a little before 11, having been awake most of the day.
At , Tony’s eyes shot open, his legs swinging out of bed before he had devoted much thought to it. With bare feet and bleary eyes, he padded down into the kitchen, fishing out a bottle from the dishwater and mixing the formula without too much trouble. He popped the whole thing into the bottle warmer on low, then mechanically climbed the stairs one more time, scooping up Lizzie just as her face was beginning to scrunch up in that position that meant screaming was certain to follow.
The comforting noises he made were almost mechanical as he cradled the sleepy infant, quickly and efficiently changing her diaper and carrying her down the stairs before she could think to complain.
bottle was ready by the time they got to it and with ease, Tony managed t
He fed her.
He burped her.
And yet somehow, it wasn’t until he lowered her from his shoulder and caught her sleepy blue eyes that the events of the last few hours began to sink in.
“Huh,” he said thoughtfully to her. “Look what we did.”
Lizzie had already drifted off. Tony, who was now wide awake, stayed in the chair, watching her sleep.
The next morning, Tony was almost on time after dropping Lizzie off downstairs. “Big day, DiNozzo,” Gibbs said by way of greeting. “McGee checked and Jamie Mann is at work today. You ready to go?”
“Yeah, Boss. I just…I need to make a quick stop over at JAG, if that’s all right?”
Gibbs shot him a strange look –somewhere between amused and omniscient – and finally nodded. “Yeah, DiNozzo. We can do that.”
He smiled. “You’re a smart woman.”
She waved off his compliments with a blush. “Hold on a moment, I’ll call Jamie down.”
moments between when the intercom echoed with her call and when the infamous
Jamie rounded the corner se
She sighed. “I suppose you’re Tony?”
He nodded. “Where is she, Jamie? I need to talk to her.”
The friend hesitated, clinging to the last of her righteous indignity. Finally, she just shook her head. “She’s been staying with me.”
until they rounded the corner of the apartment building that the full weight of
what was about to happen hit Tony. The force of it was so substantial that it
stripped the last of his normal cocki
Once McGee caught up, he waited for a few moments, before finally venturing, “Uh, Tony? Are you going to knock?”
He honestly didn’t know. But Tony couldn’t very well say that, because if he tried to explain to McGee the feeling he had in the pit of his stomach right now, all he would get for his trouble would be disbelief. After all, Tony DiNozzo wasn’t supposed to be philosophical and worry about the bottom falling out of his world. He was dependably shallow.
He wasn’t supposed to look at a door and simply know that his entire life now held two distinct and completely different possibilities.
He wasn’t supposed to wonder which possibility was the better choice.
So Tony gathered his bravado and knocked, because when all else failed, there was comfort in the status quo.
It didn’t take long for Emily to answer, the door swinging open to reveal her easy grace and warm smile.
A smile that faltered and finally crumbled when she caught sight of Tony standing at her door. “Emily,” he ventured quietly.
“Tony,” she responded faintly – before bursting into tears.
In a flash Tony was there, wrapping his arms around her and smoothing down her hair. “Hey, shhhh. It’s okay. I’m sorry, just…shhh….”
forgotten as Tony held her, trying the new and not entirely comfortable role of
supportive guy. After a few minutes, he r
He had needed NCIS to get this far. The rest, he needed to do on his own.
“McGee, would you mind waiting out here?”
shook his head and even helpfully reached in to shut the door, leaving th
Emily eventually calmed down, sipping at a cup of water that Tony brought her
and looking slightly
shook his head. “No, I get it.” Considering his own wildly changeable
Her smile was shy and awkward, a world apart from the girl whose laughter and bed he had shared for ten days all those months ago. “Is she okay?” Emily finally asked.
“She’s fine,” Tony reassured her – although he had to tamp down a flash of resentment to do it. Pointing out that worrying about her now was a bit too late would hardly help this situation. Instead, he focused on one thing he really wanted to know and tried to be as neutral as possible. “Can I ask you something, first?”
When she nodded, Tony asked, “What’s her name?”
I’ve been calling her
“Then that’s her name,” Emily said. “It’s pretty.”
She shrugged. “I tried. She just…I couldn’t…I don’t know. Naming her meant she was real – permanent. I don’t think I could’ve handled that.”
It sounded cold, but after the last few days, Tony could understand. Or at least, part of him could. The Tony DiNozzo of five days ago could. “She’s beautiful.”
“I always thought so, too! But they say the mother is prejudiced in that respect. Of course, if that’s true, it’s the one motherly feeling I managed to muster in three months.”
Tony sat next to her, needing to know how it all happened. “Tell me.”
sighed. “I just…I found out about a month after we went our separate ways. I
thought about getting an abortion, but it se
“For you I probably would have,” Tony admitted. “I liked you.”
Emily smiled again. “Good to know.” She sipped her water one more time, and then continued her story. “So I figured I could try. I never…I mean, my family is sort of nonexistent, and maybe it would be nice to have a built-in one. And I really did try. But from the start, I just…knew.”
paused, searching for words to explain herself. “All
I’ve ever really wanted was to be a doctor. And she was…in the way of that. And
I was supposed to love her enough, supposed to think the sacrifice was worth
it. But no matter how much time passed, I didn’t. It’s not postpartum
depression and it’s not
Tony looked at her for a moment and finally reached over, tucking a piece of hair behind her ear. As he was hardly in a position to make moral judgments, he answered the best he could, pushing aside the anger and the paralyzing fear that had kept him in their grasp the past few days and trying to concentrate on understanding because it was the only thing that might get him through this relatively unscathed. “Maybe someone who’s supposed be a doctor right now and not a mother.”
in silence, the very real knowledge that this was probably the most important
conversation of their lives hanging over th
McGee, the next hour se
When the door finally opened, it took him by surprise. He jumped up as quickly as he could, considering that his left leg had long ago gone numb. As McGee watched, Tony exchanged a few last words and a long hug with the young woman before the door closed and they were left alone.
stood with his hands in his pants pockets for a little while, se
McGee followed obediently, unable to resist the desire to know more. “So, that was Lizzie’s mother?”
“And…do we have to go back to the office and get her? What about all her stuff? The crib and the extra diapers and all the clothes Abby bought?” McGee was no expert, but he had really thought the onesie with the goth fairy on it was cute.
Tony laughed, and for the first time in nearly a week, he sounded a bit like the old Tony. “No, McGee. We’ve got everything we need.”
As they got into the car where Ziva and Gibbs had been patiently waiting, Tony handed him an official-looking form. After a quick glance, McGee couldn’t miss the bold, official letters on top: Dissolution of Parental Rights.
Closer examination revealed that they had been signed by one Emily Johnson.
Snapping out his reverie, Tony looked down at his pencil — the one that he had been unconsciously and incessantly tapping against the surface of his desk – and put it down obediently. “Oh. Sorry.”
Naturally, his somewhat lackluster response raised eyebrows. “Something on your mind, Tony?”
“No, I just….” Tony trailed off, before gathering himself and standing from his chair, striding confidently over to Gibbs’ desk. Unfortunately, that was as far as his confidence stretched, and he stood wavering over the surface for several long moments, feeling the weight of all eyes on him.
“Something I can help you with, DiNozzo?” Gibbs finally asked.
Tony hesitated a moment, then swallowed. “Yes, Boss. I would like to, uh…formally submit my request for…paternity leave.”
silence that had fallen over the room now se
Gibbs finally raised his hand, halting the flood of words coming from Tony’s mouth. “Easy, Tony. All you had to do was ask.”
At this, Tony blinked. “Really?”
“Really,” Gibbs affirmed.
Tony, who had honestly been expecting a different reaction, couldn’t help but feel a bit out of sorts. “Oh. All right then.”
“Why don’t you start with two weeks, then report in, see how you’re doing?” Gibbs suggested.
“Uh…that sounds good. Great. It sounds great.”
“Okay, then,” Gibbs agreed, going back to his paperwork. When Tony still didn’t move, Gibbs didn’t even bother looking up. “Was there something else?”
“No!” Tony exclaimed, stepping back and gathering his things together. “No, I’m good.”
“Good,” Gibbs agreed.
Gibbs put down his pencil and looked straight at his senior agent. “You sure you’re ready for this?”
In response, Tony actually found himself laughing. “No. No, in fact I’m pretty sure that this is a disaster waiting to happen. I can’t help but think that I’m going to screw this poor kid up so much that she’ll never forgive me, even if I try desperately to do everything right. But...she’s my daughter. Mine.”
Four days ago, that had been a concept Tony simply wasn’t been able to grasp. Over the last few days, it had somehow come to mean everything.
Gibbs studied him for a long moment, and finally rose from his seat, a coffee cup grasped in his hand as a pretense for the disturbance. On his way to refill it, he clasped Tony’s shoulder with one hand, the warmth of his palm seeping through Tony’s shirt as Gibbs squeezed just a little in reassurance. “Welcome to fatherhood. You’ll be fine.”
from Gibbs, the stat
Gibbs nodded, already on his way out the door. “Just fine.”