Father had been drunk again when the mail had arrived and a promised check from a business associate hadn't arrived. But a letter from the school had, by hand that afternoon. Anthony DiNozzo Senior had called Gerald Kauffman, his business associate and had paled at the information, his now ex-business partner, had shared with him.
"JUNIOR!" his father had called. No... screamed would have been more accurate.
Eight year-old Anthony DiNozzo Junior had leapt up as fast as he could, considering his father had punished him last night as the butler had dropped his dinner plate, even though it hadn't been his fault. As he ran he felt something around his ribs grating, and the bruising this morning was pretty spectacular. Skidding to a halt in front of his father's office door, he clambered to his feet, smoothed down his unruly hair and knocked.
"Get in here!" Anthony DiNozzo Senior slurred as he sat at his desk.
"You wanted me father?" Tony asked.
"No... Never wanted you, you are a waste of space and this... This proves it…" he snarled waving a piece of paper around.
Tony gulped as he recognized the logo of his school at the top of the paper and figured out it was about the fight he'd had earlier in the day at school.
"Suspension... SUSPENSION!" he shouted, "My... You, were suspended from school for fighting!" he snapped.
"It wasn't my fault, Harold was…." Tony stopped as his father smacked him with the back of his hand clean across his face.
"Harold Kauffman Junior is the son of the man I was to do business with. You just cost me ten thousand dollars! The stake in a deal that would have netted me millions." Anthony growled at him.
"He was hitting a girl... He's a bully!" Tony argued.
"TEN. THOUSAND. DOLLARS!" Anthony roared slamming his desk with both hands and leaning forwards.
Tony took a step back as Anthony lent over him, "You are responsible for costing me a lot of money. You wanna know how hard life is?" He smiled nastily as he grabbed Tony by the scruff of the neck and hauled him to the car.
"Father…?" Tony started, then stopped at the glare he was given as it sent fear throughout his young body.
"Quiet boy!" Senior snapped.
Tony sat terrified as he watched the countryside of the Hamptons go by and they rode into the night. He woke up about three hours later, the car was still moving and Senior was muttering to himself as he drove. Tony was still scared as his father had never been this mad at him.
He had slipped down in his seat while he was sleeping and he slowly, without alerting his father to his presence, tried to lift himself up and look out of the window.
He was surprised when he realized they were in a city. "Must be New York, " he thought to himself when he saw the lights. They drove for a few more minutes until the lights spaced out a bit more and the car stopped.
"OUT!" Senior snarled.
"Why?" Tony asked nervously.
"You think ten thousand dollars, is ok to lose over a girl? You can take care of yourself."
Shaking, Tony's small hands fumbled with the safety belt as he tried to follow his father's instructions. Senior got out and wrenched the door open nearly strangling Tony as he pulled him through the safety belt and threw him on the cold, damp grass.
"Father! You can't leave me here!" Tony exclaimed his eyes brimming with terrified tears.
Senior looked at his son and laughed, "I would be ten thousand dollars better off without you. You will learn that actions have consequences boy. This is the consequence of your action that cost me all that money." He pulled a bill from his pocket, sneering, he threw the money at the boy and Tony watched as it fluttered to the ground at his feet. "Here's ten dollars. I'm not totally heartless. "Now you can look after yourself 'cause you aren't no son of mine." He leant inside the car and took another swig from the bottle of scotch on the passenger seat. He put it back and grabbed a small bag, "These are yours." He threw the bag at the eight-year-old and climbed back in his car. "Have a nice life. I know without you, I will."
Tony watched, shaking in fear as the taillights faded and his father drove off into the darkness. He held his bag tightly against his shaking body as he looked towards the city in the distance. With a second look, the buildings and skyscrapers didn't resemble "The Big Apple". He wiped his eyes and headed in the direction of the lights just as the heavens above opened up and torrential rain fell upon the terrified child.
Anthony DiNozzo Senior laughed as he watched the biggest pain in his life fade to black in the distance as he drove away and got onto the freeway heading back to New York. He took another swig from the bottle of Scotch beside him and then swerved across the four lanes of the traffic. The last thing he saw was the lights of a Semi truck in the outside lane before hearing a horn and the crunch of metal as the truck slammed into his car and crushed it against the guard rail.
The Junior DiNozzo was angry as he walked the streets, he wanted to yell and scream with the unfairness of it all. It hadn't been his fault. He had been in the right, he had been protecting a girl from a bully. At school they had told him bullying was wrong, were they wrong?
Walking towards the edge of the suburbs, he shivered as the rain turned to sleet, snaking its way down his neck and back, making him seem even colder than before.
"Finally," Tony thought when he saw houses on a dimly lit street. Still reeling with anger that his father left him on the side of the road, he had known this day would come, but now... in the middle of winter?
Tony remembered what his teacher had told him to do if he was lost, and he thought with a sour laugh, that he would definitely count as lost.
Walking up to the first house he could see, and although it was January the house still had Christmas lights up. After knocking on the door and waiting anxiously for someone to answer it, he admired the pretty lights above him. He had always wanted lights like that, but his father had forbidden it, calling it an "unnecessary expense". Tony watched as the man inside put down his paper and came to the door.
"Hello?" The man who answered the door looked at him suspiciously.
"I'm lost. Can I come in and use your phone please sir?" Tony asked.
This was the fifth time today that the neighborhood kids had rung his doorbell with some excuse to try and sneak into his house. There was no way he was falling for it again.
"Get lost and go home kid! I swear, you kids ring my bell again and I'm calling the cops!"
Tony knew that look, he had seen it in his father's eyes many a time. He moved back as the man stepped out onto the porch and falling backwards down the steps he ran crying off into the night, the man's laughter ringing in his ears.
Further down the road Tony fell again, the pain in his ribs making him cry. His small canvas bag was soaked through and so was he. Fearing the backlash from his father this morning after his transgression yesterday, he had not eaten since the fateful dinner the night before and having missed lunch while waiting to see the principal for hitting Harold Kauffman, he was hungry. His stomach rumbled and he looked to the side of him as inexplicably the rain got even heavier.
There was another house, it was the only one on the street without blaring lights save for a small light on in the basement. Walking up the steps, he decided that wasn't going to stay, he just wanted to get out of the rain for a moment. Leaning against the door for a second pushing as far away from the inclement weather that he could, Tony cried out as the door opened and he fell in. He groaned as the pain in his ribs flared like a fire around his core. Gathering his things, he stood up. He was going to leave, honest, he was... But there was a smell from the kitchen that made his stomach rumble again.
"Hello…?" he called out quietly.
Looking at the coat rack he saw a small pair of rubber boots alongside adult wet weather gear. He assumed by the fact that the boots were pink that they belonged to a little girl, possibly three or four years old.
There was no reply.
Taking off his shoes so as not to ruin the carpet inside the house, he walked towards the delicious smell. His stomach rumbled even louder as he saw a crock-pot on the side in the kitchen and as he got closer to it, his mouth began to water. He couldn't help himself, so he lifted the lid.
Breathing in the heady aroma of the meat and potatoes inside Tony found his mouth watering even more. There was a bowl and a fork on the counter beside by the crock-pot. Taking the bowl, he dished out a small amount as he was unsure how much ten dollars would buy, but stealing wasn't an option. Taking the ten dollars from his pocket he placed it carefully on the counter. He quickly ate, his stomach rumbling as he did so, then tidied up, washing the bowl and replacing it where he'd found it. He made sure the money was where the house owner could find it and he turned to leave, but was stopped in his tracks when he spotted a coffee drinking man who was leaning in the alcove staring at him.
"Who are you kid and why are you in my house?" he asked.
"I wasn't stealing!" Tony replied, his hands shaking, "I left money... it just smelled so good. I was hungry... I'm sorry…"
"Don't apologize, it's a sign of weakness," the man said and stopped as he saw the determined look on the kid's face.
"I'm not weak," Tony replied. Walking past the man he headed for the door.
"Where do you think you are going?" The man asked reaching out for him.
Instinctively Tony yelped and moved back, "You don't have to call the cops, I didn't do nothing."
Leroy Jethro Gibbs looked down at the kid and his gut churned.
"What's your name kid?" he asked.
Tony stood up straight, "Anthony DiNozzo Junior, Sir."
"Don't sir me, I work for a living," Gibbs snapped automatically.
"Yes Sir... I mean... Yes... Mr….?" Tony stammered.
"Gibbs, my name is just Gibbs."
"Yes, Gibbs,"Tony said, looking at his feet and realizing his soaking wet socks had left puddles and footprints on the carpet.
"Sit down." Gibbs motioned to the couch and Tony walked over and sat.
"How old are you Anthony?"
"It's Tony. I mean I'm eight."
Gibbs looked at the kid and scowled as he noticed his arm wrapped around his ribs protectively.
"What did you do to your ribs?"
Gibbs raised an eyebrow, he didn't believe the kid, but a few other things were worrying him as well.
"Where do you live?" he asked.
Tony looked panicked, "I…. I dunno…" he mumbled as he started to cry for a second and angrily swiped at his eyes.
"Where ya from?" Gibbs asked, noticing the kid had an accent but couldn't quite place it.
"New York…. The Hamptons."
Gibbs turned his back and filled up the bowl the boy had used earlier,
"Here, eat this, I gotta make a call," he said handing Tony the bowl. The smiling boy eagerly tucked in as Gibbs walked to the phone in the kitchen and dialed a number.
"Hi, Joann. It's Jethro….Is Shannon there?" Waiting he looked over at the boy who was eating carefully so as not to spill any of the food he had given him.
Tony looked up and smiled at the man who was on the phone, wanting to convey his gratitude. He knew that soon enough he would be out in the cold again, but was grateful for the kindness that he had been shown.
"Shan…." Jethro looked over at the boy and his heart melted at the smile, "I need your help. Can you ask Joann to keep Kelly for a while and maybe you come back early?" he asked.