From part 9
"I offered him time off with pay. He said he'd let me know. I came in this
morning and found this on my desk. Emerson's a man down again. I'm
moving Romero over to his team. Romero's not pleased." Vance gave a thin-
lipped smile that suggested Vance might be. "Find him and sort it out, Jethro. I
can't have him up and leaving like this again, regardless of how much
sympathy I have for his circumstances. If he wants back in again in the future,
I don't know that I can swing it."
Jethro stood up. "I still have some leave owed to me and we're on a slow case
period anyway…" He looked over at Ziva and McGee who were sitting at
McGee's desk together, working on something. "Bring in Masterson to head
up my team while I'm gone. He's a good man and he could use a break from
Cybercrimes for a while."
"You've got two weeks, Jethro," Vance said, turning away and heading for the
stairs. "David, McGee, my office."
Ziva and McGee cast surprised glances Jethro's way but at his nod, they
followed the director up the stairs.
Jethro powered down his computer then locked the drawer where he kept his
weapon. Tony was running again but this time Jethro was going to follow…
and bring him home.
There's no tragedy in life like the death of a child. Things never get back to
the way they were.
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Jethro let himself into Tony's apartment, not really expecting to find him there
but hoping to at least get some idea of where he'd gone and why. He
castigated himself as he walked around the empty, silent rooms, for not
checking up on Tony the night before, for letting him go off on his own again
in the first place. But he knew that deep, dark place Tony had crept into after
losing Emmy. Jethro had been there himself after losing Shannon and Kelly.
He'd needed space then too, away from the sympathetic looks and consoling
words of those who meant only the best.
He forced himself to look inside what head been Emmy's room. It was empty
now, nothing there to remind him of the little girl who still lived in his heart.
Despondently he closed up the apartment again and headed home.
He called Tony's name as he walked in the door, his heart sinking at the
resounding silence that greeted him. He went down to the basement but Tony
wasn't there, wasn't anywhere in the house. He checked the answering
machine but there were no new messages from Tony, just the usual
salespeople calling to try to sell him things he didn't want.
Frustrated he picked up the phone and dialled McGee's desk. "I need you to
do something for me, Tim, but I want you to keep it quiet for now, okay?" he
said as soon as McGee picked up.
"Just say the word, Boss."
"Do a dump on Tony's cellphone and his credit card and financial history for
the past few weeks, specifically looking for any calls he made to California
and anything that looks like he was planning on taking a trip."
"He's gone again, isn't he?" McGee said flatly
"Not for long," Jethro said firmly.
"I'm kind of not surprised," McGee said softly.
"Why not? Did he say something to you? That he was planning on doing
this?" Jethro felt unaccountably angry with McGee, that Tony might have
shared something with him and not with Jethro.
"Not really." McGee sighed. "It was a throwaway comment he made when I
saw him the other day. I asked him was he happy working with Emerson's
team and he said something about being as happy as he could be doing work
that didn't really count for anything anymore. That there were other things he
could be doing that were more important than catching bad guys and chasing
down Marines selling drugs. I'm sorry, Boss, if I'd realized-"
"It's fine," Jethro said quickly. "Just get me those records ASAP, okay? Call
me at home, will you? I'm staying here in case he comes back."
Jethro hung up then changed into a t-shirt and jeans and went back down to
the basement. The only thing that helped at times like this was working on the
boat. He poured a thimbleful of bourbon into a mug and drank it down then
put the bottle away. No way was he going to be too drunk to drive if McGee
called with information on where Tony was. Then he picked up the plane and
went to work.
An hour later, he'd worked up a good sweat when the phone rang. Dropping
the plane to the floor, he spun and grabbed it up from the table. "Tony?" he
said, hope blossoming anew.
"No, sorry, Boss, it's me," McGee said, sympathy clear in his voice.
"What ya got, Tim?" Jethro asked, hitching one hip up on the edge of the
table, the fingers of his free hand twiddling with a pencil on the table. He
almost wanted to tell Tim to stop, not sure he wanted to hear that Tony had
booked a flight for California and somewhere even further away.
"No sign of any tickets to anywhere out of state," McGee replied, sounding as
relieved as Jethro felt. "Credit card receipts show the usual stuff, gas for his
car, groceries… His cell phone records don't tell much different from what
you'd expect either except…"
"Spit it out, McGee," Jethro barked impatiently.
"He's made a lot of calls lately to one number. I checked it out. It's St Xavier's
church over on Fuller Heights Road, not far from the Marine Base. Um, I didn't
think Tony was Catholic," McGee said.
"He's not. Who's the priest there?"
"Father Joseph Cavello," McGee replied. "You want the phone number?"
"No, I'll call in there myself," Jethro said. "Tim, thanks."
"Anytime, Boss. When you find Tony, tell him that we… well, you know."
"Yeah, I know." Jethro hung up the phone then bounded up the stairs two at a
time to shower and change. It was only when he was in the car heading for
the church that he noticed his hands were shaking, ever so slightly, on the
steering wheel. He wasn't sure what he was more nervous about – that he'd
find Tony and Tony would refuse to come back or that he wouldn't find Tony
"Don't you need to go to work, Tony?"
Tony looked up into Father Cavello's kindly face and shrugged. "No rush," he
said easily. "I've taken a kind of sabbatical. Needed a break after everything
that happened. Besides, I like being here. You going to tell me you don't need
"You know that's not true. We definitely appreciate the time you're giving us.
However," the priest took a seat on the bench nest to Tony, "I do hope you're
not using St Xavier's as an escape. No matter how difficult life is, running
away is not the answer."
"It's kind of become a conditioned response for me," Tony said. "When I was a
kid I ran away from home at least ten times. Every time my folks had an
argument or I was in trouble for something, I hit the road. When my father cut
me off because I joined the police force instead of the family business I
applied for the furthest posting I could get into, short of going to Canada and
joining the Mounties."
"And this time? What are you running away from now, Tony? I know the death
of a child is an almost unbearable sorrow but running away won't bring Emmy
"I'm not running from that, Father. If I was, I wouldn't have chosen to be here,
would I?" Tony looked across the lawn then stood and smiled down at the
priest. "I better go referee before there's a free for all. Doesn't look like Sister
Mary Margaret is having much luck."
"And I have a sermon to prepare," Father Cavello said, rising to his feet and
looking across the grass, "though I have to admit I'd rather spend the day out
here in God's sunshine."
"Well, I'd offer to swap with you, Father, but sermons really aren't my strong
suit." Tony took off across the grass at an easy lope. "Bree, give the ball back
to Matty, he had it first."
Jethro tapped on the half-open door that bore a nameplate saying, "Father
Cavello". He'd wandered into the church ten minutes before but found it
empty apart from a woman arranging flowers who'd pointed him to a hallway
off to the side of the altar where she said Father Cavello could be found.
When no one responded to his knock he stuck his head around the door and
saw a casually dressed gray-haired man sitting behind the desk, typing on a
laptop. I'm sorry," Jethro said when the man looked up, "I was told Father
Cavello was in here. I knocked," he added belatedly.
"I'm sorry. I get so lost in what I'm writing that I don't even hear the world
going by. It's the curse of a man for whom writing sermons doesn't come
easily," the man said, standing up and indicating the chair in front of his desk.
"I'm Father Joseph Cavello. You are?"
"Jethro Gibbs." Jethro sat in the proffered seat and waited till the priest took
his own seat again.
"Ah, so you're Jethro."
Jethro felt as if his heart skipped a beat at the words, words that proved Tony
had been here. "You know Tony," he said making it a statement. "Do you
know where he is?"
"Whether I answer that would depend on the reason for you asking, the priest
said, leaning back in his chair and giving Jethro a speculative look.
"I'm worried about him," Jethro said simply. If Tony had spoken about him to
this man there was really no need for him to say anything more.
"Ah." Father Cavello leaned forward again, clasping his hands together on the
desk. "Do you think he wants to be found? If he did, wouldn't he have called
you by now?"
"I don't know. I don't think I know exactly what he wants now," Jethro replied
honestly. "I thought he wanted to be with me, I thought we'd established that.
He said, once there were no strings to us being together…" He trailed off and
stood up. "I'd really like to talk to him. Would you at least ask him to call me?"
Father Cavello stood up and walked around the desk, placing a hand on
Jethro's shoulder. "I'll take you to him. Whether he talks to you is up to him."
"Look, Bree, you can drop that bottom lip of yours all you want but I'm still
giving the ball back to Matty." Tony fixed the flaxen-haired, angelic looking
seven year old with a firm look then turned and tossed the ball to the little boy
a couple of feet away. "Nice catch, Matt," he said approvingly. He looked back
at Bree. 'There are at least ten balls here. Why don't you get one of the others
to play with?"
"Because I want that one," she replied with apparently flawless child-logic.
"Of course you do," Tony muttered. "Here." He picked up a ball, pulled a pen
from his pocket and wrote her name in large letters on it. "There ya go. Now
this is your ball. That makes it special, right?"
"I guess." Bree took the ball then leaned around Tony's legs. "Why is that man
staring at us?"
Tony froze momentarily then patted Bree's head gently. "He's a friend of
mine. Now go play and don't give the sister a hard time anymore." He heard
footsteps behind him but didn't turn around. "Hello, Jethro."
"Tony. You gonna turn round or do I have to talk to your back?"
Tony turned and felt his heart sink as he looked into Jethro's face. Jethro
looked tired, his face grim. "I'm sorry I haven't called," he said. "I kept
meaning to but-"
"Why?" Jethro asked. "Just why? Why leave? Why not call? Tell me why?"
Tony looked around and waved at the nun who was watching them curiously.
"Hey Sister, I'm going to take some timeout, okay?" he called then he turned
and led the way back to the bench at the edge of the park.
He waited till they were both seated then turned to Jethro and took a deep
breath. "I just don't want to do it anymore," he began.
"Us?" Jethro asked.
Tony saw the hard swallow that accompanied the words. "No, the job," he
said. "It just became so unimportant after Emmy died. I wanted to do
something that had a chance of making people happier, Jethro. I can do that
"You couldn't just tell me that? I didn't even know anything about this place
until today," Jethro said harshly. "I had to get McGee to go through your
phone records, your credit cards in case…" His voice trailed off and he looked
over at the kids playing in the distance. "You could have just told me," he said.
"I planned to. I just… I needed some time to make sure I was doing the right
thing…" Tony's voice trailed away then he grabbed Jethro's arm and turned
him to face him. "It wasn't that," he said. "I was doing what I do best – running
away. But not from you. Not this time. Never again. I swear, Jethro, I would
have called you as soon as I knew for sure this was where I wanted to be."
"What's with the kids?" Jethro asked. "They're like Emmy, aren't they?"
"The church runs a playgroup for kids with AIDS and HIV," Tony replied. "I
met Father Cavello at the hospital just before Emmy got really sick. I brought
her here a few times. I could see how short-handed they were. I remembered
how hard it was for me, in California. People are scared of getting too close to
these kids so volunteers are scarce."
"What were you going to do for money?" Jethro asked.
"Father Cavello offered me a job running the day-care program. It's not big
bucks like working for NCIS but it's enough to get by on."
"You sure you won't miss the excitement?" Jethro asked.
Tony grinned as tow kids started a free for all over the swings on the other
side of the park. "More than enough excitement here."
"It's not too close to home for you, after Em?" Jethro asked softly.
Tony turned and gripped his hand firmly. "I want to do this because of what
happened to Emmy. It suddenly hit me how lucky she was, in comparison to
these kids. She had us, Jethro. Some of these kids don't even have that
much." He looked down at their joined hands. "You gonna want a guy who
runs a day-care center instead of a guy who catches killers for a living?"
Jethro let go of his hand then hauled him in for a deep kiss. "I want you," he
said, pulling back, "anyway I can get you." He smacked the back of Tony's
head. "No more running away, DiNozzo. We're in this together, for good, or I
walk away right now."
"Deal. I'll go say goodbye to the kids, tell the sister I'll be back tomorrow,
"I'll be waiting," Jethro said.