Chapter seven


“What happened, Petty Officer Rosen?”

“I—I don’t—don’t know,” Rosen said, looking this way and that, nervously wringing her hands.

Gibbs was more patient with her than he usually was with suspects – but then, this one didn’t need to be broken. Rosen looked about as broken as a human being could be.

“We have your fingerprints at the crime scene,” Gibbs said. “You placed several phone calls to the Brown residence, and to Jonathan Brown’s cell phone. I’d like to know why.”

“He—he loves m-me,” Rosen said. “H-he loves me.”

Tony saw Gibbs sigh softly. Ziva stood in the corner of the room, simply watching, while McGee and Tony watched intently through the glass window.

“Did you kill Jonathan and Mathilda Brown?” Gibbs asked.

“N-no!” Rosen exclaimed. “They’re not d-dead. They—they’re not dead. They’re not dead. Not. Not.”

She moved back and forth on the chair, eyes squeezed shut.

Gibbs placed two photos on the table; one of Jonathan Brown, the other of Mathilda Brown. Both had been taken at the crime scene.

“They’re dead, Petty Officer,” Gibbs said.

“I didn’t—didn’t mean to,” Rosen whispered. “Didn’t mean to—he loves me—l-loves me—he should be with me. Loves me.”

“Did you kill him because he wouldn’t leave his wife for you?” Gibbs asked.

“H-he loves me!” she said.

Emma started sniffling at that point, face scrunching up with displeasure. Tony rubbed her back.

“I know, honey,” he said. “I don’t like her either.”

He left, wondering if Gibbs would be able to get anything sensible out of the crazy woman, as Emma’s sniffles turned into crying. He took her back up, grabbing the baby carrier in the bullpen, and went into a conference room. Her wails cut into his ears, unpleasant and loud.

“What’s up?” he asked. “Or are you just unhappy with Crazy Chick? I know I am. She killed your parents.”

Emma agreed with more screaming. Tony wondered if he should say words like ‘kill’ to Emma, but he decided that she wasn’t even close to the stage of talking, so he was safe. By the time she was ready to start talking, she’d be far, far away from him and his bad influence.

He couldn’t decide on whether the closing of the case was a good thing or not. On the one hand, he would get to give Emma away and he’d have his hands free again, he’d be able to sleep through the night, and he wouldn’t have to change dirty diapers all day long, or have his eardrums ruptured by screaming – but on the other hand, he would have to give Emma away which meant—no Emma.

He realized suddenly that a small understanding as to why people had kids had festered and gotten a hold of his mind. It wasn’t complete understanding – he didn’t want to go out and get a girl pregnant, no thank you – but it was a part of it. For lack of a better word, he understood the love. Emma gave it unconditionally, just because Tony was there, because Tony took care of her. She didn’t call him stupid, nor did she make him the butt of her jokes. She was simply there, happy to be with him, content to exist. She was a heap of human clay, ready to be molded into something beautiful.

She had quieted, as he walked around rubbing her back and holding her, talking to her in a quiet, soothing voice. Her small hands were fisted in his shirt and he wanted to think that she didn’t quite want to leave him. He kissed the top of her head.

He heard the sound of a camera taking a picture, and he turned.

“Sorry,” McGee said. “It was just—”

He didn’t continue, simply shrugged by way of explanation. Tony didn’t prod him.

“Anything?” he asked quietly.

“Abby matched the blood on her clothes to the blood of the Browns,” McGee said. “She confessed, or some version thereof, but I’m not sure what’s going to happen to her.”

“Mental ward, if what she looked like in interrogation is anything to go by,” Tony said.

“Probably,” McGee said. “Look, uh—Child Services are out there. They’re here to get her.”

Tony nodded. “I’ll be out in a second.”

McGee left, closing the door behind him. Tony looked down at the child in his arms and wondered how she had managed to sneak into his heart in just days. He wouldn’t have thought it possible. Then again, it hadn’t taken Gibbs more than a few seconds to head straight into Tony’s heart when they first met, so maybe it could happen. With very special people.

“You’re very special,” Tony said to Emma, “and I will keep an eye on you. So you make sure you’re good. Well, not too good. Too good is boring. But you should be bad on the side of good.” He stopped, knowing he was babbling, and doing so to a baby felt even more silly than babbling did in general. “If anyone else tries something, just pick up the phone and I’ll be there. Okay?”

She made a sound as though she agreed.

“Good girl,” he said, smiling softly at her. Then, to his own surprise, he whispered, “I love you, Emma.”

Emma gazed up at him, blue eyes serious. The tears had dried, but she still had snot all over from her crying fest. He grabbed a tissue and wiped her face. She protested unhappily.

“Got to look pretty for Child Services, sweetie,” Tony said softly.

He sighed, and headed out. His feet felt heavy.

The bullpen was crowded; Gibbs, Ziva and McGee were there, of course, but Abby, Ducky and Palmer had also made their way up. Two round ladies dressed in dark blue suits whom Tony could only assume came from Child Services stood by Gibbs’ desk. They didn’t look particularly happy.

“You’ve put us off long enough,” one of them said.

Gibbs didn’t look impressed. “We had a killer to catch. Her safety was more important than your rules.”

“The rules are there for a reason,” the other one snapped. “Where is she?”

Tony hoped those two wouldn’t be taking care of Emma for any longer period of time.

“Here,” he said, making his presence known.

“Tony! Emma!” said Abby, with enough enthusiasm for anyone to think that she hadn’t seen them in years.

“Shh,” Tony said. “I just got her to stop crying. My ears need a rest.”

“Oh, right,” Abby said, grinning.

Gibbs stood up. “As you can see, she’s in one piece and perfectly fine.”

The ladies didn’t looked wholly convinced. Obviously, they didn’t think NCIS Special Agents made for very good babysitters. Tony couldn’t really blame them, considering his reluctance to take on the job, and his fumbling and uncertainty through even the most basic things.

“Good,” the rules-lady said. “We have a foster home ready to take her.”

“Where’s she going?” Tony asked.

“She’s staying in Washington,” the lady said. “We have been in contact with the sister in Australia, but she has no interest in the child, apparently. All other relatives are deceased, which leaves us with foster care. Hopefully, we will be able to find someone to adopt her.”

She sounded business-like when she spoke. Tony wondered how many children a day they took care of.

Tony hesitated. “Would it be possible for me to keep track of her? Just—know where she’s going?”

He tried to deliver the words with as much charm as possible, and it seemed to work. The lady’s frown melted away.

“It’s not according to the rules,” she said. “But I’ll see what I can do.”

“Thank you,” Tony said.

“Now, if you’d hand her over—”

“I just—have to say goodbye,” Tony said.

He ignored the fact that the whole bullpen seemed to be watching, and he gazed down at Emma. She looked back at him, blue eyes big and beautiful, mouth slightly open as though she waited with baited breath for what he was going to say.

“Remember what I told you, sweetie,” he said to the baby.

He kissed her forehead and hugged her closer, running his hand up and down her back, feeling small breaths and a steady heartbeat beneath his fingers. She was warm and soft, her hair like silk.

He breathed in her scent – she smelled of baby powder and formula and it was just so lovely. He stored it away, in a safe place in his mind, a good, warm memory.

Then he handed her over to the lady, and swallowed as he felt the heaviness in his heart. He couldn’t seriously be heartbroken over a baby he had only known for three days. He couldn’t. He was Anthony DiNozzo, NCIS Special Agent, goofy, silly—

—father with a daughter, if only for a few days.

He gave the lady his card, his hand shaking, and she pocketed it.

The two ladies efficiently packed up all the things Tony had been lugging around – diapers and bottles, formula and toys, clothes and wipes and powder and—

Tony watched as they thanked the team. His gaze was on the carrier, on Emma, lying on her back. He knew she’d start screaming soon enough, unless they got moving. Then they did, and his eyes were still on Emma and the carrier, even as they went into the elevator and the doors closed behind them.

Just like that, she was gone.

He felt thin arms sneak around him, hugging him. Abby tried her best to comfort him and he wondered how much of his heartbreak showed on his face. He should school himself into what they expected – he should make a joke – but he couldn’t find it in himself.

So he simply stood there and let Abby hug him, and he wished that it was Gibbs’ strong embrace instead.

When Abby pulled away, standing up on her toes to kiss him on the cheek, Gibbs spoke.

“Go home, DiNozzo.”

“Boss—” He was almost surprised that he could talk. He cleared his throat. “I’m fine, boss. Really. Don’t we have work to do?”

“DiNozzo,” Gibbs said. Gibbs’ gaze told Tony that Gibbs wasn’t trying to screw him over, nor was Gibbs tired of him showing feelings. This was Gibbs trying to take care of Tony.

“Boss, I need to work,” he said. “I can’t be at home, I’ll go crazy.”

Gibbs regarded him for a long moment before nodding. “Okay. There’s a report that needs to be written.”

Tony made a show of his grimace, and muttered, “Oh, joy, a report,” loudly enough for Ziva and McGee to hear. He hoped it was enough for them to believe in; hoped it was a façade thick enough to not be seen through.

He sat down to work, in reality not minding writing the report. Anything to keep his mind off the baby that had just disappeared out of his life.

new scene

They finished early, Gibbs getting telling them to go home at four when he’d checked over their reports and deemed them satisfactory. Tony sighed, knowing there was nothing more for them to do at NCIS for the day. In the hours after solving a case there was always paperwork of different kinds to fix, but once that was done, they usually went into a sort of vacuum, where they were too drained to start studying cold cases but at the same time they had their hours to work.

The vacuum hurt more than it usually did, this time around. For once, it wasn’t a physical hurt – Tony had had more than his fair share of physical vacuum hurts, what with getting shot, battered, bruised, and ill with the plague – but an emotional one.

He took his own car back to his own apartment. Both felt empty, his apartment dark when he finally reached it. He hadn’t been home in three days, since he started playing daddy.

Tony took a shower, turning the water to scalding hot and just standing under the spray. He remembered Emma, splashing him with water. That made him think of Gibbs, wet and then sans shirt, and then sans clothes at all, and then—he felt himself grow hard. Gibbs invaded his mind, and he welcomed it, because those were positive thoughts, delicious memories that felt oh so good.

Hand wrapped around his cock, leaning on the other arm against the wall, he came, Gibbs’ name on his lips.

Afterwards, he dried himself off, grabbing a pair of grey sweatpants and an old college shirt.

He’d barely sat down on the couch when a series of rapid knocks on the door had him up on his feet again.

“Boss,” he said, finding Gibbs outside. “Do we have a case?”

“No,” Gibbs said. “You okay?”

Tony sighed. “I’m fine. I just need to—debrief myself.”

“Can I come in?” Gibbs asked. He held out a bag with cartons that smelled deliciously.

Tony gave him a quick grin. “Since you’re bringing bribes, yes.”

He tried to think of any previous occasion where Gibbs had actually asked for permission to enter his home, rather than to just stalk inside. He failed.

Gibbs handed Tony the carton and hung his coat on the hanger. They headed into the living room, Tony making a quick detour to the kitchen to get plates and something to drink.

“Beer?” he asked.

“Sure,” Gibbs said.

“Are you driving?” Tony asked.

“Not planning on leaving,” Gibbs said.

Tony smiled at that, grabbing a beer each.

They ate in silence, although Tony felt Gibbs’ gaze on him all the while. Finally, after sating the worst of his hunger, Tony looked up.

“You’re staring a hole through my skull, boss,” he said.

Gibbs smiled slightly, but stayed quiet.

Tony sighed. “Yeah, I miss her. I know it’s insane, especially after how much I said I don’t want kids – I still don’t, by the way – but I do. She was—something. Really something.”

“You bonded,” Gibbs said.

“Yeah,” Tony said. “We did.”

He took another bite of food. It was very good; noodles and chicken and vegetables.

“I’m going to keep track of her,” Tony said.

“Hope you do,” Gibbs said.

“I just want to make sure she’s all right,” Tony said. “She’s still so little, and the world kind of sucks.”

They sat three feet apart on the couch, and Tony inched closer, wishing he could know for sure that it was all right. He needed comfort – physical comfort – right now. Not necessarily sex, although sex would be nice later, but for right now just—closeness.

Gibbs apparently didn’t appreciate his attempt at covertness. Rolling his eyes, he held out an arm, allowing Tony to lean in and cuddle up against him.

“I won’t ever say that I understand what you went through with Kelly and Shannon,” Tony said, “but I think this is a little, tiny bit of it. Probably not more than point zero-zero-zero-zero-something percent, but—”

His heart pounded, because he wasn’t sure Gibbs would like the comparison. Gibbs’ daughter had died – comparing that to Emma was probably, now that he thought about it, not the brightest idea Tony had ever had.

Gibbs’ hold tightened minutely.

Then Tony felt a kiss being pressed to his temple, warm and soft. He closed his eyes, breathing in, reveling in the feeling of Gibbs holding him.

He realized that though Emma wasn’t his, Gibbs was. Gibbs was his family. His home.

He smiled, turned his head, and kissed Gibbs for real.

Gibbs didn’t seem to mind.

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