Chapter three


By nightfall, they had checked through all the records of the family they could find, and Tony had sifted through the drug cases Mathilda Brown had been involved with. It had been all sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll until four years ago for her. Tony found it ironic that she’d finally managed to settle down, get married, have a kid – and then she was murdered, rather than when she was living in a one room apartment with five other women, shooting drugs all day long.

“Wrap it up for today,” Gibbs said. “Be back at seven tomorrow, and we’ll keep going.”

Tony looked at Emma, sitting on his lap. He’d managed to get a semi-comfortable seating arrangement with her on his knee and the files on the desk. One arm was around Emma, the other one could turn the pages. She was fairly stable, he’d realized after a while; she held her head and could sit up, although she was prone to fall over this way or that every now and then, and that would result in crying. Really, most things resulted in crying.

He wasn’t looking forward to the night. He’d hoped they’d be able to wrap the case up in a single day, but obviously not.

“DiNozzo, you’re with me,” Gibbs said as Ziva and McGee headed out.

“And Emma?” Tony asked.

“Is with you,” Gibbs said.

“Yeah, I knew that.” Under his breath, Tony added, “Unfortunately.”

“Heard that, DiNozzo,” Gibbs said.

“Sorry, boss.”

Getting all of the stuff Emma needed together took way, way longer than just grabbing his own things. Most of it was already loaded on the baby carrier – including newly bought formula, a bag of clothes given by one of the secretaries who couldn’t resist buying it on her lunch break after seeing Emma, and a truckload of diapers.

“Coming, boss,” he said at the impatient – and was that entertained, perhaps? – look on Gibbs’ face.

Fitting into the elevator was another adventure, but in the end, they made it down to the garage.

“Get the car seat,” Gibbs said. “I’ll watch her.”

“Are you sure?” Tony asked teasingly. “I’m only allowed to leave her with Abby and Ducky—ow.”

The head slap was expected, but worth it. He flashed a grin.

He hurried over to his own car and grabbed the car seat – oh, it looked so very wrong in his car – and managed to get it out in one piece. He installed it in Gibbs’ car without too many curses passing over his lips.

Gibbs picked Emma up – she was holding onto some toy that amused her for the moment – and fastened her in the car seat with easy motions.

“You’re really good at that,” Tony said.

Gibbs glanced at him. “Once you’ve had one, it stays with you.”

His tone did not invite to further conversation on the subject. Tony nodded and sat down in the car.

Gibbs drove more carefully than Tony had ever known him to do. It was like riding with a regular person. Tony found it very odd.

After parking in the driveway and getting all of Emma’s things inside – which was no small feat, to get the baby carrier out and the bag and everything else – Gibbs headed to the kitchen while Tony stood in the doorway, still with his shoes and jacket on because he couldn’t take them off while still holding the kid.

Gibbs stuck his head out, checking to see what was taking him so long.

“Ah,” he said.

He took Emma, easily placing her against his chest, and she reached up and grabbed his nose, pinching it between strong fingers. Gibbs chuckled.

Tony stood mesmerized, watching the two interact. He imagined Gibbs younger, hair darker with only a few grays, his face less lined than it was now, smiling happily at his own child. His daughter.

Gibbs looked up at him, small smile on his lips, and Tony shook himself into action, getting his shoes off and hanging up his jacket.

“Dinner?” he asked.

“Pizza coming up in ten,” Gibbs said. He looked at the child. “Not for you, though. You’re getting formula.”

Emma emitted a high-pitched squeal.

Tony followed Gibbs into the living room and they sat down on one end each of the couch. Gibbs shifted Emma to his knee.

It felt so very strange, to sit there with Gibbs and a baby, that ‘strange’ really didn’t even begin to cover it. Tony had lots of knowledge of how good Gibbs was with kids – Gibbs was really, really good, whereas Tony was really, really bad – but Emma was the youngest one they’d had to care for since Tony joined NCIS. She wasn’t a kid yet – she was a baby. A clean slate, on which the world would make its impressions as time passed. This morning, blood red death had been printed all over her soul.

“What will happen her when the case is closed?” Tony asked.

“If there are no specifics from the Browns, or relatives willing to take care of her, she’ll go into foster care,” Gibbs said.

Tony had heard a lot about foster homes and most of it wasn’t any good, although perhaps that wasn’t a fair view. After all, only bad things ever made headlines.

Emma was currently examining Gibbs’ shirt with her mouth.

Tony shook his head. “She drools like a dog.”

“Little kids do that,” Gibbs said.

“Little kids do a lot of things,” Tony said. “Annoying stuff. She’s got a good set of lungs, too.”

Gibbs cocked his head at Tony. “So you’ve never thought about having kids?”

“Me?” Tony asked. “Bachelor extraordinaire?”

“With all your dalliances, you might—”

“Don’t say that,” Tony said, paling. “I’m very careful with protection.”

Gibbs chuckled. The sound made Emma look up, eyes wide, but then she resumed playing with his shirt.

“Why don’t you want kids, then?” Gibbs asked.

Tony frowned. “Have you seen me with kids? I suck at it. I don’t get kids and they don’t get me.”

“It’s different when it’s your own,” Gibbs said, softly now.

“It just wouldn’t work,” Tony said. “Not with the job, not with my life. I mean, I can’t exactly go pick up my kid at daycare in the middle of a hot case. And what’d happen if something happened to me?”

“You have family,” Gibbs said.

“My father disowned me—”

“Not that bastard,” Gibbs growled. “Us. Me. Abby. McGee and Ziva, and Ducky.”

“Are you trying to talk me into having kids, boss?”

Gibbs snorted. “Nope.”

“Good,” Tony said. “Because I would suck at it, trust me.”

“Don’t think you would.” Gibbs watched Emma, softly smiling.

Tony’s eyebrows rose in surprise, but at that moment, the doorbell rang.

“That’d be dinner,” Gibbs said. “Here.”

He handed Emma to Tony. Tony wished he could take Emma with the same easy grace that Gibbs had with her, but he still felt uncomfortable. He was sure he was going to drop her on her head any second, or he’d do some other thing wrong and she’d get hurt or start screaming.

She didn’t start screaming; she simply reached out her hands towards his face and grabbed his nose, and then she managed to get a hold of his lip and pulled, hard.

“Ow!” Tony said and after a few seconds, she let go. She gave him a most innocent look.

Gibbs came back carrying two boxes that smelled deliciously and two bottles of beer. He set it all down on the table and then he left again, returning another few minutes later with a bottle of white stuff.

At least Tony had figured out the feeding thing. For some reason, Emma preferred to lie down with the bottle, so Tony placed her on the couch and held the bottle in place. She drank obediently.

He felt Gibbs’ gaze on him, and looked up. “’s not polite to stare, you know.”

Gibbs merely smiled and took a bite of his pizza.

Tony’s stomach rumbled loudly.

“Want me to take over so you can eat?” Gibbs asked.


Gibbs nodded, leaned over and took the place as bottle-holder while Tony took a piece of pizza and downed it in three bites. It was heavenly after a full day of screaming, diapers, and very little food for himself. He looked over at Emma, and wondered why on earth anyone would choose to have kids. What was the point? Why would anyone want to give up freedom in exchange for a screaming, attention-grabbing, pooping-and-peeing little thing that couldn’t do anything useful?

He swallowed and decided to be brave.

“Why did you want to have a kid?”

Gibbs looked up at his question. There was some turmoil in his eyes; sadness and regret, pain and longing, but also something warm.

“Didn’t, not until I met Shannon,” he said roughly. “And we were together for years before we started talking about it. We were still young and I was like you. Didn’t think it’d work, didn’t see the point. Didn’t think I’d be any good at it.”

Now that was a ridiculous notion, Tony thought. Tony imagined Gibbs as a fantastic father – one who cared, one who had rules and might be tough sometimes, but it was all based on an infinite, unconditional love.

Tony had never known such a thing, and it was one of many things that made him doubt his own ability to be a dad. His own father had been everything but perfect – or perhaps Tony had simply always been a bad son, as his father said. Either way, it wasn’t a recipe for successful fatherhood.

“What made you change your mind?” Tony asked, pushing on bravely, figuring that when Gibbs had had enough, he’d say as much. Or he’d simply leave.

“I grew into it,” Gibbs said. He placed the bottle on the table and picked Emma up, placing her against his shoulder and starting to walk around so that she’d burp. “Shannon got pregnant. Had nine months to prepare – and then she was there.”

Kelly. Gibbs had never spoken about her to Tony, and Tony felt like he was getting a look into something so private, no one had ever seen it before.

“She was perfect,” Gibbs said roughly, back to Tony. “And I got even more afraid. I was sure I’d ruin her. Shannon had to force me to touch her at all.”

Gibbs stopped and the silence spread thick in the room. Somehow, it wasn’t uncomfortable; it was simply filled to the brim with emotions that hadn’t been vented in a decade and a half, perhaps more. Gibbs wasn’t a person who shared his thoughts and feelings with anyone. Tony wondered if he’d been the same way with Shannon, or if it had become his personality after Shannon and Kelly were killed.

Emma burped loudly, breaking some of the tension. Gibbs gave a low chuckle.

“Ladylike, Miss Emma,” Tony said, smiling too although it didn’t quite cover the other emotions he was feeling – pride and joy over Gibbs’ sharing, and heaviness and sadness for all that Gibbs had lost.

“Get the blanket and some toys,” Gibbs said. “Let’s see if she’ll be okay on her own for a little.”

They placed her on the floor on the colorful blanket, with a few large toys that she proceeded to try to fit into her mouth. She seemed content enough and Gibbs sat down and took a second slice of pizza. Tony, who’d stopped eating when Gibbs began talking about Kelly and being a father, took another bite.

“Abby’d make a good mom,” Tony said, deciding that they’d had enough heavy subjects for the night. “And McGee would make a good dad.”

“Together or separately?” Gibbs asked.

“Both,” Tony smiled. “If they have kids together, they’ll have mini-Einsteins. They’ll graduate MIT at the age of four, or something.”

Gibbs chuckled.

“And Ziva’d be the cool aunt,” Tony said. “And Ducky could be the grandpa, with the stories and presents and stuff.”

“What about us?” Gibbs asked.

Tony ignored the way his heart flipped at how Gibbs asked about them as an ‘us’.

“I’d be the cool uncle, of course,” Tony said. “You’d be—uh. The strict uncle, I think. You know, the one with all the rules, but who the kids love anyway. Come to think of it, they’ll probably think you’re the cool one, and I’m the stupid one.”

He added the last part with a roll of his eyes. Kids really didn’t like him, and Abby and McGee’s possible future children would be no exception. They’d love Gibbs, though. Kids loved Gibbs.

Tony startled when Gibbs placed his hand on Tony’s shoulder.

“Emma doesn’t think you’re stupid,” Gibbs said.

“Emma is five months old,” Tony said. “She doesn’t know how to form an opinion yet. As soon as she does—”

He stopped when Gibbs fingers moved to his chin, bringing it up so that Tony looked Gibbs in the eye.

“Stop being self-depreciative,” Gibbs said. “Won’t get you anywhere.”

Tony flashed back to the only other time Gibbs had ever touched him this way – when he was being framed for murder and had his breakdown right in front of Gibbs. Gibbs had kept him from falling over the edge into insanity at that point – Gibbs with his head slaps and eyes that said everything, even when his mouth didn’t.

Tony licked his lips unconsciously at the near proximity to Gibbs. God, the man was beautiful.

Emma chose that moment to start wailing and Tony wasn’t sure whether he should thank her or curse her. Probably the former, because she’d just stopped him from leaning over and kissing Gibbs. That would have been a monumentally stupid move.

Tony bent down and picked Emma up off the floor while Gibbs cleared away the pizza boxes and the untouched beers.

“Now what?” Tony asked. “You should go to bed, you know. It’s late for little princesses such as yourself.”

He was tired too, but he doubted the night would offer much in the way of sleeping – not with a baby in the room.

“I’ve put the carrier in the guest room,” Gibbs said, returning to the living room.

“Thanks,” Tony said.

It was on the tip of his tongue to say something more, but he swallowed it back like a bitter pill. Emma screamed and Tony rubbed her back, closing his eyes. He didn’t notice the look of longing on Gibbs’ face.

Read? Review!


1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | epilogue

Readers of Emma, chapter three:

© Cosmicuniverse.net 2002-2013 | Design & production by Cosmic Creativ Consulting