- Character Bashing
- Canon Divergent
Tony knocked on the door and waited for an answer. Unlike Gibbs, Tony knew how to actually request entrance to a room. Vance’s answer came seconds later, so Tony pushed the door open and stepped inside.
“DiNozzo,” Vance said. “We weren’t scheduled to meet today, were we?”
“No, sir,” Tony said. “Carla pushed our budget meeting out to next week, but I was able to meet with Gibbs and go over his last quarter’s worth of expenditures. I should have the final figures before we meet.”
“Okay,” Vance said. “But I get the feeling you didn’t come in here to tell me that.”
“No, I didn’t,” Tony said. He pointed at the chairs in front of Vance’s desk. “May I?”
Vance waved at him. “Please.”
Tony settled in and cleared his throat. He hadn’t planned to involve Vance in his personal business, at least until he had a clearer idea of what his personal business entailed. But, he also realized that if he were going to use NCIS resources to investigate his father, he needed to get Vance’s buy-in.
“Whatever it is, just spit it out,” Vance said.
“Right,” Tony said. “So yesterday I met with a Navy SEAL. Commander Luke Sundstrom.”
“He a friend of yours?”
“In a manner of speaking,” Tony said. He took a deep breath. “As it turns out, he’s my brother.”
“And I take it you didn’t know you had a brother before yesterday,” Vance said. “You sure he’s legit?”
“I had no idea, but I did have Kasie run our DNA,” Tony said.
“You’re a match?” Vance asked.
“Across the board, including mitochondrial DNA,” Tony said. “He clued me in to the fact that my father paid his mother to go away at some point. Five million dollars.”
Vance whistled. “That’s not an insignificant number. Where do you think he got the money?”
“That’s what I’d like to know, sir,” Tony said. “You see, my mother had a trust fund. I think maybe he took the money to pay off his mistress from that trust fund. But, given his past, it’s also just as possible that he stole that money from a mark. Luke doesn’t want any part of stolen money. Frankly, neither do I, but if the money is my mother’s, I need to know so it can be returned to the trust fund. Maybe even returned to the Paddingtons.”
“You suspect something else is going on?” Vance asked, surprising Tony with his insightfulness.
“I was never told I was adopted,” he said. “And as far as I know, there are no records of an adoption in my parents’ papers. My birth certificate shows Claire Paddington and Anthony DiNozzo Sr. as my parents, which wouldn’t be unusual if I were adopted. The courts issue new birth certificates during adoption proceedings all the time.”
Tony sighed. “But given the kind of man my father was, and given what he used to do for a living… I just need to be sure everything is on the up and up. Plus, given my position, I don’t want to reflect poorly on NCIS.”
“Well, I appreciate your candor, DiNozzo,” Vance said. “I assume that you’ve got a plan for how to address this issue.”
“Yes, sir,” Tony said. “With your permission, I’d like to assign an investigator to work with my attorney, Harvey Specter. They can investigate the trust and any other aspects of the case that they uncover.”
“Specter, huh?” Vance said, raising his eyebrow. “That man is the most vicious lawyer on the eastern seaboard. How’d you end up one of his clients?”
Tony chuckled. “I met Harvey back when I was playing for Ohio State. He helped me sort out some issues with my education trust.”
In point of fact, Harvey had gone after his father after Tony discovered that his father was pretending to be him in order to gain access to his educational trust. Harvey had been a young, fresh-faced law student working under the supervision of Jessica Pearson. He’d taken the case with enthusiasm, and had successfully beaten his father and his high-priced lawyers. Tony had been impressed, and Harvey had simply kept him as a client, even after his career-ending injury.
“Alright,” Vance said. “Who did you have in mind to investigate this case?”
“I’m thinking of sending Special Agent Bishop to New York, with your permission.”
“Alright,” Vance said. “I agree that, given your position and career track, we want to nip this in the bud before it becomes a scandal neither one of us can run away from. Send Bishop, but let her know that I’m officially supervising this investigation. I’ll expect her report when she’s completed the investigation. She can report progress to both of us, though if any major decisions need to be made, I’d prefer it if you left those up to me.”
“Thank you, sir,” Tony said as he stood up.
“You know, you have a lot of vacation time saved up,” Vance said, leaning back in his chair. “Even after your extended leave. Might be good to spend some of that time getting to know your brother.”
“I’ll keep that in mind,” Tony said, ghosting a smile.
He headed out of the office, aware that he’d just been had. HR had been pestering him to take some of his accumulated vacation time since he’d returned to the agency. Tony was, truthfully, viscerally allergic to vacations. Although now he had a good reason to actually take one.
Bishop knocked on the door as she swung it open. Tony looked up from the report he was reviewing, waving her into the office as he closed the folder.
“Donna said you wanted to see me?” Bishop asked.
Tony indicated the chair in front of his desk. “Have a seat.”
“So, what’s up?” Bishop asked as she settled in.
“I need to ask you for a favor,” Tony said. He folded his hands on his desk to keep from fidgeting. He normally didn’t like to talk about his personal business, but it wasn’t like Bishop didn’t know at least some of it. “And I need you to keep this to yourself.”
“Okay,” she said, elongating the ‘o’.
Tony sighed. “I need you to go to New York and meet with my lawyer. All the information is in this folder.”
He handed the folder to her. She took it and opened it right away, her eyebrows rising with each line she read.
“Your—this isn’t a joke, right?” she asked, looking up. “This is for real?”
“Yeah, it’s for real,” Tony said. “Unfortunately, my family is more like a telenovela than I’m actually comfortable with. I need you to work with Harvey and his team to figure out where the money came from. I also need you to look into the Paddington Family Trust. I want to make sure that the language that gave me the trusteeship isn’t written to exclude adopted children.”
“Anything else?” Bishop asked.
“You mean, this isn’t enough?” Tony asked. He shook his head. “Just follow your instincts. I trust you with this. Keep me posted, but otherwise, you’re free to follow the investigation wherever it leads.”
“Is this an official NCIS investigation?”
“It is, for now,” Tony said. “Vance has signed off on this, so you don’t have to worry that you’re sneaking around behind his back. We need to know just how far my father’s bad acts went. It doesn’t look good for a NCIS SAC to have a father who defrauded and embezzled from a powerful British family, so we’ll want to keep it as quiet as we can.”
“Right,” Bishop said. She shook her head. “It’s just…”
“Go ahead,” Tony said when she trailed off. “Just say it. You’re not thinking anything I haven’t already thought of.”
“Well, Senior has always been so kind to me,” Bishop said. “I mean, I know you’ve said he used to be a conman, but he seems like such a harmless old man that it’s hard to imagine him pulling a con, much less this.”
“I think that’s his superpower, honestly,” Tony said. “And for all I know, he’s a reformed conman at this point. I try not to look to hard at what he’s doing and where he gets his money. Maybe that’s short-sighted for someone in my position, but it’s never served me in the past to dig too deeply into his activities.”
“Well, whatever’s going on, I’ll figure it out,” she said. “You want regular updates?”
“Unless it’s something urgent, a phone call once a day will suffice,” Tony said. “As the… victim, I can’t be too involved. And your final report will go to Vance, just so you know.”
“Got it,” Bishop said. “All I’s dotted and T’s crossed.”
“Thanks for doing this, Ellie,” Tony said quietly.
“Anytime, Tony,” she said. “You know that.”
Tony was assaulted by three feet of spitfire the second he stepped through his front door. He dropped his messenger bag under the entry table and shrugged out of his jacket, dropping it on top of the table to be hung up later, all while his daughter clung to his legs and chattered excitedly about her art class that day.
“You’re going to have to show me this Picasso, Munchkin,” Tony said as he scooped his little girl up and headed for the kitchen.
“Daddy,” Tali whined. “It has to hang on the wall at school until the end of the week.”
Her tone told him that she’d already given him this detail more than once. “I’m impatient to have it on my fridge. Sue me.”
Tali—as expected—giggled riotously. He pressed a kiss to her cheek as he walked into the kitchen. Meg was standing at the stove, stirring something that smelled great. He walked over and dropped a kiss on her cheek as well.
“Welcome home, my dear,” he said. He set Tali down in her chair at the table and kissed her one more time. “Stay here with Meg for a bit. I’ll be right back.”
“Okay, Daddy,” Tali said.
She grabbed the coloring book she’d been working on before he arrived and picked up a crayon, getting back to work on her Disney princesses. Tony shook his head and smiled. He turned and headed for his office, placing his gun in the safe. Despite being promoted to SAC, he hadn’t been able to let go of the habit of carrying a gun. He didn’t need it, but he felt better carrying it. He ran upstairs and stripped out of his suit, pulling on a sweatshirt and a pair of old, faded jeans.
He jogged down the stairs and stopped in the doorway to the kitchen, leaning against the jamb as he watched Meg pull dinner together and chat with Tali about her day. Mary Margaret Donovan had been the wife of his first training officer, back when he’d joined the Peoria PD. He’d run into her at the supermarket his first week back, and within minutes, she’d hired herself to be Tali’s nanny, and had moved herself into his house. It had been the most surreal experience of his life, but he was simply too grateful to her for all she’d done for him to complain about the fact that she’d very quickly become the boss of both of them.
“Are you going to lurk around over there all night, or are you going to make yourself useful and set the table?” Meg asked without looking behind her.
Tony would never not be impressed by her ability to sense things around her without actually seeing them. Tony thought it came from being a cop’s wife; Meg said it came from being a mother. The truth was probably somewhere in between.
“What are we having?” Tony asked as he crossed to the cabinets to pull out dishes.
“Beef stew,” she said, giving the pot one more stir before she put the lid back on. “There’s some fresh bread in the oven staying warm.”
“Mmmmm,” Tony hummed. He pulled out bowls and plates and set the table while also helping Tali clean up her coloring books. “So, did you have a good visit with… what was her name?”
“Ida Loesser,” Meg said. She walked the soup tureen over to the table and set it near her usual seat. “Which you know very well, you scamp. And yes, we had a lovely time. I can still take her lunch money at the poker table, so all’s right in my world.”
Tony laughed. “Maybe they should just call you The Cincinnati Kid.”
“I can still take your lunch money, too, boyo,” Meg said, whacking the back of her hand against his arm. “And don’t you forget it.”
“Yes, ma’am,” Tony said, still chuckling.
They powered through the stew and bread, and Tony poured a nice red wine for he and Meg. While Meg took care of the dishes, Tony gave Tali a bath and got her settled into bed. Meg popped upstairs briefly to kiss her goodnight, and then Tony read her a story before tucking her in and turning out the light.
By the time he made it downstairs, Meg had more wine and two slices of cheesecake from her favorite bakery in New York waiting for him.
“And now I’m going to have to run an extra five miles to work off this cheesecake,” he said as he sat down. He dug in right away, drawing a chuckle out of Meg.
“And yet you plan to eat the whole piece.”
“What?” Tony said. “It’d be a waste not to.”
“Uh huh,” Meg said. She shook her head, even as she smiled at him. “So, tell me what’s been going on with you. You sounded preoccupied on the phone the last couple of days.”
Tony sighed. “That’s a loaded question, if ever I’ve heard one.”
“That bad?” she asked, one eyebrow raised.
He sighed again, then proceeded to tell her the whole sad, sordid tale. By the time he’d finished, Meg looked fit to be tied.
“That bloody, buggering bastard,” she muttered. It was times like this that Tony really appreciated how creatively the British could swear.
“Yeah, that about sums it up,” he said. He tossed his napkin on the table, leaned back and shook his head.
“Do you know what you’re going to do?”
Tony snorted. “What I always do: survive. Beyond that, I’m sending one of my investigators up to New York to look into the trust, to see if that’s where the money came from. I’ve also asked her to look up my adoption records, so we can verify that I’m even legitimately a Paddington.”
“And if you’re not?” Meg asked. “What will you do?”
“Give the money back and walk away,” Tony said. “It’s not like I’ve ever been very welcome in that family anyway. Grandfather hated Senior, so it shouldn’t be all that hard. Clive should be more than grateful to get my mother’s trust fund back. Or at least what’s left of it after Senior raided it.”
“Oh, Tony,” Meg said. She reached over and squeezed his hand. “They don’t deserve you anyway. None of them could ever see past your father to the unique and special person you’ve always been. I say you’re well rid of them.”
“Thanks, Meg,” Tony said, squeezing back.
“And what about this young man, Luke,” Meg said. “Are you going to see him again?”
“Gah, it sounds like we’re dating,” Tony said with a shudder.
Meg slapped his arm. “Stop being so melodramatic and tell me what you’re going to do about Luke.”
“We talked a bit about that, actually,” Tony said. “I think… I’d like to get to know my brother, and he wants the same thing. I have no idea how that’ll even work, but… I don’t know. Maybe something good will come out of all of this.”
“To offset the bad that your father has done,” Meg said. She was one of just a few people in the world who could seemingly read his mind; it always creeped him out, but at the same time, he was glad someone else understood him like that. “You do know that it’s not up to you to right your father’s wrongs?”
“I know,” Tony said. “I can’t help the people he conned in the past, but I can help my own brother. And if it turns out he stole that money, no matter who he stole it from… well, I guess that’ll mean we’re the only family we’ll have left.”
“And you have me,” she said. “Patrick adored you, thought of you as another son. You know I’m always here for you, no matter what.”
“Thanks, Meg,” Tony said. “That means a lot.”