Summary: On April 26, 1971, both James Rossi and Anthony DiNozzo were born in the same New York hospital. When newborn DiNozzo dies in his mother's arms, Senior makes a life altering decision that forever changes the lives of two Italian families.
Warnings: Just some good ol' kidnapping of a newborn and cursing.
Author's Note: I'm back! Thanks for the reviews and please later continue your support. I do love reviews. Enjoy the story, please!
On April 27, 1971, Anthony David DiNozzo arrived to his wife's hospital room, smiling to himself as he watched Josephine DiNozzo cue their son from her cradled arms. He had stopped at the empty room of the Rossi family, the occupants long gone by the afternoon. The couple had awoken to the death of their son. When the DiNozzo's woke for the morning, they knew their son was alright, sleeping safely from his bassinet in the hospital nursery. Senior had made sure of it.
Given that police wasn't swarming him as soon as he stepped into the maternity ward, he would assume no one knew about the switch. That thought made him smile. No one knew. He had a new son and no one thought or knew any different.
"Look, my love, little Antonio is such a lovely child. He has already had his first laugh. And he has green eyes!" Josie sounded nothing like the woman from yesterday with her previous angst filled tone and shaking hands. She was happy today, her bright blue eyes crinkled upwards with her large smile as she cradled her son.
Her son. Her son with green eyes. Shit. Those were the businessman's first thoughts. He crossed his arms and he frowned heavily. That was not good. It seemed his son had his mother's eyes. And not the right mother at that. Already, this child was causing problems for his father.
Ah, he decided, he would cross that bridge if a nurse asked a question about the topic. He smiled, uncrossing her arms and walking into the room. "That is wonderful, my dear. Truly wonderful. Our Anthony will be a ladies man someday," he laughed.
"Yes, yes," she laughed with him. "He will be such a good boy."
As life would have it, Josie DiNozzo wasn't the best mother. She, much like her husband, was absent from her son's life. More often than not, she was unconscious in an alcohol induced haze. Raising another woman's child caused more guilt than she originally thought it would. She did, however, keep her promise to herself. Every day she had with her son, which, in ten years wasn't nearly enough as it should have been, Josie loved her little Antonio. She held him when she was awake, sometimes even singing to him at night.
The only time she ever regretted her life decision of keeping her stolen baby was when she sat dying in the same New York hospital her son was born in. She had cancer, and she had refused what they called "radiation." She had only months either way. Josie could feel her days were numbered as she watched movies with Antonio. On her final day, when the two had just finished the black and white film It's a Wonderful Life, she laid with a strong fever, too tired to move and painfully quiet as she breathed heavily with the help of her cannula, gasping in for air like an asphyxiating fish on land desperate for water. She was too weak to move from her final resting spot.
Was she wrong to raise another woman's child? Until her dying days, she had never really thought of her crimes.
Her son was crying, holding her hands. "Mama, I don't want you to die," he was saying in his low, pleading voice that only a child could produce. "Please don't leave me." His big, innocently bright green eyes looked sadly at her, his eyes a constant reminder that the boy who sobbed for his mother was crying over the wrong woman.
Over a decade ago, Josie gave birth to a little blue eyed boy; she could remember. Though, for the past eleven years, she had raised a green eyed angel. She distantly wondered how her other child would had turned out. Would he be tall, like her current son? Would he had cut his own hair at the age of six? Would he had climbed the tallest tree in the yard when no one was watching him and cry at the top until the local fire department rescued him? Would he had played soccer in the backyard during the hot summers, able to win or lose against himself? Would her other son dissect old radio and television sets, simply because he wanted to know what was inside and how it worked? Would he had been able to put the sets back together again when he was done, sometimes making the televisions work better than before like her Antonio? Maybe her real son would have had temper tantrums. Antonio rarely had those as a small child. Would her other child make friends as fast as her now son? Would he understand the way people acted, and try to help others whenever he could? She didn't know. Josie did know that her little boy, her current child, was her little green eyed angel.
Nothing could change that.
"I know, baby," she said breathlessly. Her beautiful Italian accent had been Americanized over the years, much like the rest of her. Her body, now deathly skinny, was nothing in comparison to the beauty of her younger self. Her previous long brown hair had long been chopped off and dyed to a light blond color to match her neighbors, her short, plain finger nails now long and painted. Her dying face was forever young with expensive surgeries. Nothing about her was the same from her native county.
After meeting Anthony many years ago, she knew he was different. He was kind and happy, willing to do anything for her. The two married within months of meeting each other, neither of the couple ever looking back. Why would they? The two had a kind, gentle child months after their marriage. The boy was smart, and knew about things children his age shouldn't. Antonio could connect with people. He made it a habit with the hospital staff.
Once again, she wore a light blue gown in the hospital, and once again, she was left wondering where her husband was. Not here, obviously. Never was he with her or their son. Sometimes that man left her wondering if she should have kept her own son. Maybe both of the children would have been better off where they were. She herself was not a very motherly person, nor was Anthony fatherly – both of the members of the DiNozzo family were vastly different from those people, the crying couple over a decade ago in the maternity ward. The ones from the room across from her own. The woman who gave a muffled scream before her husband attached her in a vise like hug. Josie could hear the woman struggle from where she stood, screaming for her son, her miracle baby.
If the rich woman knew her husband, the small, sleeping green eyed infant in her arms probably belonged to that woman. Little did the sobbing woman know that her small babe was resting so peacefully in the room right across from her, blissfully unaware of his heartbroken mother. Josie understood that pain – the panic, the struggle to take in another breath as she held the dead body of her own child. She could remember the fear grip at her very core, leaving her wondering why, why, why. A hole planted itself into her heart.
A nurse, probably new if her large brown eyes and unshed tears were anything to go by, stepped into the room, apologizing for the noise as she closed the door.
Senior did not cry when he found his dead son's body. He simply got a new son. She briefly questioned if she would be replaced as fast as their son had been after her own death. Josie was getting a headache from all of the thinking. She shook her small head, her thin, short hair quaking at the movement. "You need to know," she spoke out loud, her voice rasping as she spoke; her fever controlling her mouth. "My little Antonio, you need…you need to know." Her voice was as low as a whisper and tears pooled at her searching blue eyes.
"What, Mama," the boy asked just as quietly. He held her frail hands between his own. His natural tan skin went against her own pale tone. He had arched eyebrows and long chestnut brown hair that reached his attached earlobes, a genetic occurrence which matched neither of his parents. Both Senior and Josie had detached earlobes. His green eyes were another trait that should not be there. Those eyes should be blue, like her real son. Antonio didn't know, though. He was only eleven and thankfully saw none of the differences between his preteen body and his parents. Josie began to breathe more heavily, with an effort that shouldn't be there. She wondered if she would be joining her own child soon.
"You – oh God, my baby – you're not mine. You're not m – my baby," she stuttered, tears rolling from her eyes. "You – you're not…not my…baby," the last word was spoken in a tone lower than a whipser, causing Anthony Junior to strain his hearing to understand – for her words to click in his mind.
"I'm – am I..." he paused, watching his mother hyperventilate. He was crying, too. Her heart monitor was going off, flashing colors and numbers rising. "Am I adopted, Mama?" His heart pounded as he awaited the answer.
Tony was not given an answer. The bulky black and white television that was hooked into the wall shut off with a click when he bumped the button as moved farther from the bed, his mother turning off much the same way. She suddenly became weak, her breathing slowing into an almost nonexistent rate, her fingers slipping from his grip. Her deep blue eyes stared at the wall above, pupils blown, tears still falling from her high cheek bones, and chest stilled, unmoving. The monitor was beeping, louder and louder with each passing moment. Seconds afterwards, an army of nurses stormed in. He was forcibly removed from the room, his body wiggling, punching the women as they dragged him.
"No, no, no, no, no, no," he was yelling, screaming as a mantra until he no longer had a voice. Tears were running down his short face. Half an hour later, he was back in his mother's room. He sat quietly, calmly in her room while he awaited his father's arrival into the hospital. His fingers shook with rigorous quakes, staring at the floor next to his mother's bed. His mom was still in bed, lying lifelessly with a sheet covering her body. The cancer had taken her away from Tony; that is what the doctors had told him.
His father didn't arrive until six hours later, long after his mother was taken to the morgue. The nurses had allowed Tony to stay in the freshly cleaned room, so that is where Senior had found his son.
"Come, Anthony," he said loudly into the nearly empty, dark room. "Let's go home." The man did not pause for his the child to answer, simply turning and waiting impatiently by the nurses' station, his arms crossed defensively and tapped his foot against the white tiled floors. Tony followed his father eight minutes later, green eyes downcast and nearly as lifeless as his mother's. His mind was going a hundred miles an hour with wonder, wonder if he would ever be called Antonio again, wonder of what his mother had meant nearly seven hours ago, wonder of if he was adopted, wonder of who his real parents - real family were. He continued to walk, following his last living parent into the garage where his father slapped him harshly over the back of his head.
"Impudent boy," he muttered, climbing into the back of his limo and not dare awaiting for his son before slamming the door closed. Tony stood frozen in shock for thirty full seconds, then followed his father's lead.
Anthony was twelve now, standing fearfully by his father's clean desk in their Long Island mansion. He had just been kicked out yet another boarding school. His father was not happy. An unhappy Senior was never a good thing.
At the moment, he stood in his former uniform, a white polo covered by a black suit jacket, a dark blue tie, and black pants. His shoes were a dark brown and leather material. He was practically shaking.
"You know, Anthony," he said in a low tone, sitting at his large wooden desk and causing his son to stand straighter with fear and hatred. Over the years, Tony had found he dreaded being called Anthony; only his father ever did so. Over a year ago, he was correct when he allowed his mind wondered - no one had ever called him Antonio again. He now introduced himself simply as Tony. "You have your mother's eyes."
"Thank you, father," he said. In truth, the last year and a half had been long. He was starting to forget the details of his mother. Had she had brown hair and blue eyes? Maybe it was green eyes. Maybe she had blond hair. Before long, like every time he thought of the woman who raised him, he became frustrated. All of the pictures of his mother were in a retro late seventies and early eighties photographs, with a dull yellow filter that displaced the colored details. The only thing he could do was agree with his father.
"You have been enrolled into Rhode Island Military Academy; you are starting Monday."
"I'm disowning you. You will be left no money when I die and I am now turning your room into a gym. Be sure to collect all of your needed items before you leave. Everything else will be disposed of. Understood?" Senior did not listen for his son's reply. He continued his paperwork; his business was not well. He estimated his money would only last half a decade at most. Therefore, when he got a call from yet another boarding school, saying young Anthony's was going to be dismissed, Senior simply said okay. He did not fight the expulsion. Three schools in almost a two year period was too much for Senior to handle. He was running low on both money and patients for a child he has no biological connections to. The child was not his; he never was. So, Senior was done covering for the boy if he didn't need to, and from now on, he wouldn't.
That boy was on his own.
From where he stood, Tony hesitated from answering right away, instead gnawing on the inside of his left cheek. The only things he needed were his photo album, clothing and a couple of Betamax and VHS tapes. He lived, mostly, without any material possessions, which was a good thing, he supposed. The disowning thing was a necessary evil, one of which he was okay to accept. His father held no real love for him, always leaving him at hotels and houses, sending him always to boarding schools after him mother died. Senior ignored him the majority of the time. Disowning? It might be the best thing that has happened to him.
"Yes, father," he finally stated.
Turning, leaving the room, he couldn't help but wonder if this was even his real family. His mother had never answered his question that fateful day nearly two years ago. His father had beat him when questioned. Maybe…maybe he was meant for a better life, with a different family. He smiled at the butterflies in his stomach. A different family would have been nice.
Once in his room, however, he frowned. Too bad this was his life, he thought, looking at the small, practically closet sized and bare bedroom. He had a wooden twin sized bed, a book shelve and an old television on a wooden dresser that matched his bed.
When he was gone, it will look as if no one had ever lived in the room.
Quickly, he grabbed the old leather photo album that was hidden beneath his bed, holding it tightly against his chest. His photo album was the only thing he had left of his mother, the warn maroon leather a reminder to his mama's soft, warm touch.
The photo album was one of Tony's most precious items. It allowed him to remember what he had always forgotten. Her normal olive colored skin that became pale with death near the end of her days, her hair flat and without life, her eyes rounded and distant. What color were her eyes? He didn't remember, and the pictures were not in color. He couldn't remember the little stuff, like what color her eyes and hair was, or her laugh, or how long her hair was, or –
He had forgotten a lot over the past year and a half. That was another reason he held so much value to his photo album, filled with pictures of his mama when she was younger, when she partied with men who were not his father and dressed like women his father's special catalogs. He had one picture of his family, where he, his mother and father were all over dressed; Tony, in his old, much hated sailor suit, his mother in a black dress, and his father in the same suit Tony later ruined for a Halloween costume.
Tony was six in the photo, smiling widely with a large missing tooth and even bigger eyes. He was innocent back then, still being called Antonio by his mama; her little angel. He was only ever called a troublesome mistake when his father ever remembered he was actually alive. Tony didn't even have enough energy to care. He flipped the page, finding several pictures of himself in the old black and white coloring.
One, where he played on the swing set, looking joyfully into the camera while his ear length hair opposed the wind, and the other, where Tony tinkered with an old radio and a large flathead screwdriver on the wooden back patio of the household. The picture he held the most sentimental value to was the one where his mother bent over him, nearly hugging his shoulders while Tony himself wore a coned birthday hat, mother and son wearing two brilliant, happy smiles. He had just turned four in the picture, his hair short-ish hair messy and icing on his nose. It was one of two photos he had that were just him and his mother.
The second photo he was posed in with his mother was taken minutes after his birth. He was swindled in a blanket while resting in his mother's arms. He was a tiny baby, crying, by the looks of it. His mother smiled from the bed with clear exhaustion on her face.
God, he missed her.
His heart ached, a gaping hole appearing with the loss of the woman who raised him. From the outside of the house he basically didn't live in anyways, a car beeped. It was his ride, he knew. Tony had to leave now, to never return. He held no regrets to that, either.
Closing the album, he packed up his items into a black bag. He had movies, two books, a month's worth of clothing – mostly jeans, shirts, and boxers – and his photo album. He turned off the lights in the room with a click, throwing the backpack full of stuff over his shoulder and walking away, not once looking back as he left the near empty household.
Nearly six years later, Tony sat in a small white tiled locker room of Rhode Island Military Academy. He was alone, dressed in nothing put a white towel, allowing his muscular figure to show to the world. His dark brown hair was short now, messy after a long shower. His coach had just dropped by, yelling with happiness about Tony obtaining the scholarship. He had done it, he thought with a pleasant smile. He had gotten the scholarship. Not his teammates, not anyone else; him.
He supposed he should smile more now. The worry of not going to college was gone, replaced by the needing feeling to tell the entire world that he had made it into Ohio State University with a full ride. Tony had to tell his team tomorrow, to get the worry and anxiety off the shoulders of the other seniors of the academy waiting for the same scholarship. Not only since he was the one to get the scholarship, but it was traditional for the football captain to make the announcements of the scholarship winners.
The couch had left an hour ago, but it felt like minutes. The handshake given to him the words spoken – you're the best damn athlete at this campus, DiNozzo – were replying over and over in his mind. He had done it.
He had a promising career as a NFL quarterback in his future. That was exciting. Though he liked soccer the best, and played basketball the most, he had gotten a fucking full ride into college. The seventeen year old, whose favorite school subject with Calculus II and enjoyed "nerdy" videogames on weekends, suddenly couldn't wait to graduate. He decided he would enjoy a fun recording of Rat Pack when he got back to his dorm. He deserved it.
Standing, he dressed slowly in jeans and a dark blue polo, once again staring at his right hand, words echoing into his head.
Best damn athlete at this campus.
Goosebumps lit up against his skin, a cold sweat dripping from his face despite a hot, deadly flame nearing his body. He had just ran into a burning apartment, hearing the fearful calls of a young child. Tony left his friends just seconds ago, not hesitating to leap to a run. He was in his second year of classes at Ohio State University, on the Dean's List, and almost at the top of his class. He hoped he wouldn't die…not that many people would miss him. His football team, a few of his nicer teachers, his last couple of girlfriends, sure, but not his family.
He jumped slightly when a flame danced closely around him. He could feel the searing pain of the heat everywhere. He was yelling, chocking on smoke that he breathed. His eyes watered as he called out, only to hear a small whimper from a room a few feet closer the stairs.
"Anyone here," he asked loudly, trying to speak over the roar of the fire, the crackle of wood burning. The whimper called to him again in a room that was once blue, now darkened from smoke damage.
Had his friends called 911 yet? Where were the firefighters?
"Here," a small boy crooked from the closet, his dark chocolate colored skin darker from the smoke and charcoal of the fire. Tony lifted him with ease, preparing his body to run as fast as he cold out of the burning house.
"Wait, my – my s- my sister!" The boy called wiggling his body towards the burning stairs. Another small yell, a new, girlish one, called from the room next to the stairs. A near impenetrable wall of fire stood between the two boys and the room, causing Tony to hesitate. He was no firefighter, and his gray Ohio State University sweatshirt wouldn't protect him and the child from the painful burns that would likely come if they were to save her.
She continued to beg for help, coughing over her sentences. She sounded no older than five. The fire was worsening from where he stood, the heat of the room becoming more intense, his thoughts taking seconds. Would he risk the small boy and himself for the girl? Death seemed certain, he thought, as he saw the wall of flames movie closer to the girl's room.
Then another noise, not from the small girl begging for her life, or the boy in his arms, screaming for his baby sister while kicking at Tony, biting and punching at him with small fists to escape the football captain's strong, unwavering grip, the sound of something crackling, something large moving, falling. It was the ceiling, he realized, jumping back and falling through flames with his body rounding around the child in his arms, Tony willing himself to protect the kid. He sprawled to the unsteady floor with the angry child still in his arms. He did not let go of the boy as he laid in a daze, too afraid of the child dying to save his sister. It took him a long four seconds, the girl's screaming getting louder and louder with each passing moment.
He felt genuine fear for the first time in years. He had to save the boy – the girl was a lost cause. They would both die if he went for her. Tony's fight or flight response kick in. He grabbed the kicking and screaming child in his arms and ran, burning his arms as he did so. It took him a total of two minutes to carefully make it back outside, breathing in fresh air for the first time in about six minutes. The now crying boy in his arms didn't have a scratch or burn on him. His friends that had stayed outside piled around him, approaching sirens in the background.
The football star was gasping for air, dropping to the ground with the fighting kid still in arms. His arms and legs felt like they were on fire, and he doubted he would be able to participate in the upcoming basketball season.
"My babies," a dark colored woman screamed loudly, running to the scene with her small purse bouncing behind her, her brown eyes watching her burning home with horror. "Where – my – my babies," she yelled again, getting closer to the teenagers.
"Mommy," the boy bellowed, his voice raw, finally escaping from Tony's grip.
The two reunited, the mother crying over the child as they hugged. Tony stayed where he was, adrenalin wearing off from where he sat. Medics arrived before the fire trucks, the two men running to the group of people. A fire engine pulled up by the fire hydrant down the street, dropping large five inch hose and connected it to the hydrant before driving up closer to the house. The ladder truck pulled up after that, parking right in front of the house. Both sets of apparatus got to work immediately with their respected jobs of the company.
"Check the boy," Tony muttered, slowly waving the two medics off of him, coughing as he did so. "He was – he was in there longer." He was still gasping for air, but the men in blue uniform shirts backed off. He looked towards the woman, now crying, hugging both her son and a large firefighter with his SCBA pack still on. The man blocked the view of a stretcher passing by, a small, lifeless body in a dark body bag loading onto one of the three awaiting ambulances.
Tony changed his view, finally listening to what his friends were saying.
"That was so wicked, man, like –"
"I can't believe that just happened –"
"Are you sure you're okay – "
"Dude, you are so getting laid – "
"Is that girl dead –"
He cringed, once again ignoring his friends. A two man ambulance crew made their way towards Tony, and he openly accepted the help. When on the ambulance, he went silent. With a non-rebreather pasted onto his pale charcoaled face, he closed his eyes, his body finally relaxing, cringing as a wet cloth was applied to his forearms to cover his dark pink burns, patches of skin still intact in between his painful injury. He had just begun to feel again, his adrenaline wearing thin. His previous numb limbs were now intensely scorching as the medics examined him.
He was attached to a twelve lead. He could see his blood pressure – horrifyingly low – his oxygen levels wavering more than a late ocean's tide, and his heart beeping like the drums of an orchestra from the heart monitor to his right. His chest was numb. One of the medics lifted his legs, putting a thickly folded white sheet under his feet and laying him back into the long stretcher. A blanket was carefully thrown over his warm body and around his shoulders. He wanted to kick away the cloth, but the medics insisted on keeping it on him. They began asking questions, but he could not hear them. What were they asking him?
He had saved a child…but at the same time, he allowed another one to die. He chose his own life over another. He was basically a murderer. Slowly, he dozed off into a deep state of unconsciousness, darkness overtaking his vision. Even through his exhaustion, Tony could still feel the intense heat of flames, still smell his own flesh burning, still hear the little girl crying for a savior over the loud roar of fire. Before entering his sleep, he wondered if he would ever be able to not remember this day.
Tony awoke to the smile of a female nurse with beautiful caramel colored skin and short, curly black hair. She began to speak in a low, pleasant tone. He couldn't understand her, his ears feeling as though they were filled with cotton. His heart skipped a beat when the woman took his hand into her own.
"-u're going to be okay," she said, her words sudden. Tony blinked at the unexpected noises of the hospital. His heart monitor was going strong next to him. The bustling utterance of hundreds of people talking and walking, speaking to each other, crying, laughing and joking was loud. He wondered when he gotten here, and more importantly, why.
"You're going to be in the burn unit for at least another week. The injuries were worse than originally thought by first responders," she was saying, her practiced smile large and teeth white. "The burns along your back and legs went unseen until you were brought into the ER." Her face was long, her nose short and chin round. Tony tried to smile charmingly at her, knowing he failed immediately when he made a strangled noise.
"I can only give you a few pieces of ice at a time. We had to ventilate you when the smoke inhalation made your throat swell. You're going to be sore for a while." The nurse lifted his non-rebreather, sending the sweet relief down his painfully dry throat. "We're going to keep you on high-flow oxygen therapy for the next few days."
The nurse – Sarah Smith, according to his white board that was on the wall directly in front of him – was walking around the room, adding new things to his IV. "Just a little something for the pain. Try not to move too much. You have third degree burns around your feet and calves, second and first degree buns along your lower back, and minor burning, cuts, bruises and deep bite marks on your forearms," she listed.
Why was he burned? His mind was numb. He felt strangely cold.
"What you did," she said, grabbing his right hand and smoothing his newly cut, short hair with her free hand. "It was brave. You're a hero."
The memories hit him all at once. The screaming, the crying, the burning of flesh and the smell of death in the air. He felt fearful, more so than he had ever felt before. A little girl was begging for help, a young boy clawing at his arms for escape. It was so hot, the flames loud and roaring, towering over himself and the boy. The noise, a lone whine and sudden crackling, was the only warning he had before the ceiling above him collapsed, forcing him to jump back for safety. He fell into flame, but through adrenaline and instinct, he kept the boy protected without feeling pain.
The path to the girl's room was blocked by an aflamed support beam.
We will die trying he saved her, he remembered thinking before tightening his grip on the child in his arms and running through flames and out to safety.
"You're fine, doll," Sarah said, holding down the college student's chest and desperately wishing him to stop flailing. "You're gonna hurt yourself if you keep this up and – doctor," she yelled, hoping one of the many doctors in the hospitals would hear her from the hallway. The man's blood pressure had begun to steadily drop, his face paling and his back, most certainly, bleeding from the rash movements.
The staff ran in, pumping the good stuff into the frantic man, immediately calming him. Sarah breathed in a sigh of relief when he stopped moving. Seventy-two hours ago, it had been unclear whether or not he would live. He was put into the intensive care unit for the past two days on heavy anesthetic to keep him unconscious in order to allow his freshly damaged lungs to heal. He was finally moved into the burn unit a mere fourteen hours ago, slowly let off of the drugs over the last day.
His green eyes were the first thing she had saw. She smiled when he blinked in confusion. Several minutes into their interaction, when he begun to – to…she couldn't explain what he was doing – running in a down position? It was truly a strange sight. She tried to hold him down to prevent damage, calling for help. It took twenty long seconds before her coworkers arrived. He struggled until the very last nerve in his body was relaxed, his eyes panicked until they closed and his heart rate evened.
The man did not awake for two more days. His body needed time to heal, both emotionally and physically. Sarah had bought the man a few books when she was let off of her shift…just because. The kid would be in the hospital for at least an addition week she had originally told him. He could use something to keep him busy – and, most importantly, away from mischief. The books were the top three best sellers of the year: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton, the first volume of a new comic called Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles by Kevin Eastman and Peter Laird, and a new fast seller, Eyes of a Predator by David Rossi.
She hoped it would keep him focused on anything other than the pain of his injuries and the death of that little girl.
He wanted to watch Rat Pack, a favorite comfort method of his dating back to his childhood, but had no means of doing so. There was no television in his hospital room, no VHS player. He couldn't even listen to music. Unread cards littered his room, multicolored balloons everywhere. Flowers had been sent in dozens, all different in breed, size and shape, sitting on desks lining the long, clear window outside of his room. The doctors justified that action to his still recovering throat and lungs.
The nurse – the twenty something year old woman with nice curves and a thin waist, Sarah – had left him three books stacked neatly on his tray. She had helped him sit up so he could read, which quickly became a painfully regretful process, causing him to wish to stay in that position for the rest of his life to prevent any and all farther movement. The first item on his agenda was Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles volume one, the comedy causing him to laugh through his mask every several minutes, and in retrospect, he should have known would have been painful – because what wasn't anymore?
Before long, he dozed off for the entirety of the day and well into the night, only half way through the comic. Sarah must had removed it from his hands before she left at the end of her shift. The older woman had become rather attached to Tony.
He rubbed the sleep out of his eyes, coughing through his non-rebreather. The nurse had been correct when she said he'd be sore for a while. His back, his legs, they were on fire. His arms hurt. Breathing was unusually difficult.
Tony grabbed the comic, finishing it before he once again feel asleep. He awoke the next day, the sun shining brightly into his room. Sarah's shirt wasn't set to start for another two hours, according to the clock, and a different, less empathetic nurse was on duty.
A man named Martin Robertson, a prude, angry forty or older guy with short, buzzed read hair and dark, narrowed blue eyes that contrasted well with his light blue scrubs. He was tall, with thick, semi-muscular arms. The man had freckles plastered at random along his face, a long nose and strong jaw. He had a dark brown leather watch strapped tightly to his left wrist.
"You have a visitor, if you're up to it," he stated simply, his tone uncaring. "I'm goin'ta change the non-rebreather – the uh – the oxygen mask of yours to a cannula. You need some water?"
"Yeah, I mean, er, yes," Tony said nervously. He hadn't dealt with a man like this since Senior. The exchange took place within seconds, and before he knew it, he had a small cup of water in his hand, a small table hovering over his bed, and a knock on his door. The new oxygen provider wasn't as strong as his non-rebreather. And Tony felt himself struggling to keep a steady breath. "Come in," he called lightly.
The already open door gave him the view of a young, dark skinned woman. She wore her hair naturally, with her long hair flowing gracefully and frizzy to her shoulders. She had a long face, her cheeks high, with dark brown eyes and a small chin. The woman stood straight, watching him hesitantly.
"I am Joanna King," she said. "I wanted to thank you." Her voice was flat, echoing off the quiet afternoon walls of the hospital. "You saved my son."
Tony visibly flinched. He could almost hear the unspoken sentence; but not my daughter. He moved his gaze to the dirty, white tiled floors. Joanna wore plain white shoes.
"I'm a nurse, I work sixteen hour shifts – I'm gone before my children rose for school and get home after they go to bed. That's where I was when my baby girl died – at work. Rosaline died alone."
The college student coughed, his back hissing in pain as he did so. His throat didn't care too much for the movements, either. He took a moment to pant before speaking, "I – I'm'a sorry," he said, looking up to see the woman's strong brown eyes.
Joanna moved closer to the young adult. "You have nothing to be sorry for," she said, crossing her arms, her black button up wrinkled at her movements. "It's only because of you that I am still a mother." She uncrossed her arms, seeing Tony's fearful, angsty green eyes watching her. "I'm grateful to you. You saved my son, child. You're a hero."
"I'm a murder," he told her, once again not meeting her gaze. He took a moment to notice the bare white walls of the burn unit. Joanna closed the gap between the two, pulling an uncomfortable and ugly sage green guest chair towards the bed. She used her long fingers to force him to stare into her eyes once she was seated.
"You are no murder, Tony DiNozzo. You, child, had two choices: to save yourself and my son, or die trying to save the three of you. I spoke to the firefighters. There was no possible way of saving my Rose. You made the right decision. I still have a child to call my own." Her tone faltered at the end of her speech, tears freely falling from her eyes. "Thank you for risking your life. You ran into a burning building without knowing who or what was inside – and no matter what you may choose to think – I am telling you now that you are a hero." She was still crying, her voice wavering yet stern as she spoke. She sounded like a mother commanding a young child to listen to her.
Tony felt tears prickle his own eyes. He had chosen. He wasn't a hero, but he wasn't a murder. He had gotten the forgiveness he needed, and for the first time in days, he felt like he could actually breathe. "Thank you," he whispered.
"I don't think you understand how saving a child's life actually works," she laughed, moving her hands to wipe away her tears. "I thank you. So…thank you."
He paused slightly, no used to praise. "You're welcome."
Tony David DiNozzo wanted to become a cop. He wanted to help people, to save people. He wanted to save everyone he could. It was nearly a week after his visit with Joanna King, three days after the funeral of Rosaline King – a funeral of which he could not attend. His estimated time of medically advised checkout of the hospital was still days away. He was healing faster than doctors had imagined.
He had denied several reporters interviews so far, and read the first volume to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and a book called Jurassic Park, both of which were amazing.
The third book, Eyes of a Predator, was strangely addicting. He became obsessed with the book, enjoying the way the author could wrote so vigilantly and yet still keep Tony fascinated on both the text and plot. By the end of the text, Tony wanted to take a psychology class during the soon to start spring term. He understood what the author was saying, agreeing where he was going on ideas of the criminals. Tony felt connected, somehow.
Rossi was such a strange name, Tony thought before putting down the book. He wondered when the next book signing was coming to Ohio. Baltimore was fine and all, but he didn't really like the place, not after everything that had happened. He didn't even know if he could play the end of basketball season.
God, he couldn't wait to go back to campus.
Tony wrote to David Rossi. He didn't know why; he just started to write about the fire, and then he started to write about psychology. Then he asked personal questions to the author. Then he signed his name, making the letter addressed to the man. He sighed from in his room, finally back at his university. Tony ran a hand through his short brown hair – he kinda liked it short, now that it had been burned and later cut by the nice nurses of Baltimore hospital – and he frowned, licking the envelope shut. He wasn't expecting anything out of sending the letter. Nothing at all. In fact, he felt stupid sending fan mail. He didn't think it was a good idea. At all. Which didn't explain why he felt a need to do so.
The letter, two pages in length, simply greeted the author of his new favorite book. It explained how he got a hold of the book, giving a large glimpse into that night in Baltimore and how Rossi quickly became a favorite author.
He really didn't know why he wrote it. With two addresses on the envelope, and a stamp, Tony left it on the table. It was a stupid idea. He sat back onto the blue, uncomfortable couch that belonged to his fraternity, leaving the letter where it was on the old wooden coffee table. He shouldn't send it. Rossi would think he was a predator like the men in the novel. He stiffly laid into the couch, his body still sore, weeks later, and put a bandaged forearm over his eyes.
He didn't know when he fell asleep, but it was dark when he awoke. One of the first things he noticed was the letter was gone. His stomach flipped, but he supposed it had been thrown away. That sucked, he thought, before dragging himself to his feet and rolling into bed. Sleep was always good.
Flashing forward two weeks, Tony no longer wore bandages around his back, legs, or arms, though he still applied ointment when it begun to sting. He was back on the basketball team, wearing a tang top with the number 23 and black gym shorts. His burns were healing nicely, and as the doctors said, there should be little to no scaring in the future.
He had added psychology 101 to his long class schedules. He couldn't wait for the start of the new term. Tony, in the privacy of the library, had already taken to studying the class material. It was an exciting field.
Four weeks after that, he was in his room, lying vertically on his bed. It helped not to lay on his back to often, even though all of his wounds were vertically healed. He was studying – once again – for his psychology class, the large hard back book held by his right hand as the other supported his head. He had a Play Boy magazine covering his study material in case a frat brother came barging in.
Since arriving back into Ohio from his hospital visit to Baltimore, he had gotten more women to hit on him than ever before. They piled towards him in flocks. Teachers were nicer, more understanding if he was late on an assignment when he said he had trouble sleeping and became distracted easily.
That excuse was, mostly, true.
There were nights when he began to sweat, his body becoming unbearably hot. He cold smell smoke, hear the loud roar of flames nearing him. He could feel his skin burning, listening helplessly to a dead girl scream for help she never received.
He always woke up when the ceiling beam fell in slow motion, panting and out of breath.
Tony shook his head. He hated that dream. He turned the page of his textbook, carelessly reading about the Milgram Experiment. His frat brother barged into his room moments later.
"Ton," he said, his voice drawing out with excitement. He wore a gray sweatshirt and black jeans, his ear length hair spiked up and gelled. Ron – his first name; Tony never learned his last name – wore a small, hooped earing on his right ear. "Is that the newest addition of Play Boy?!"
The quarterback stared in shock for a total of thirteen seconds before answering. "Uh…yeah, man!" He grinned back at his friend. "You can borrow it when I'm done," he said, laughing.
"You're amazing," Ron practically sung. He went to move from the room, only to pause at the door frame. "Oh, I forgot. This was in the mail box," he called, tossing a small, white folded envelope at his roommate before continuing into the other room.
Tony caught the envelope with a single hand, slightly crushing the paper. Unfolding it, he was surprised to see who sent him mail; David Rossi.
He is a student at the New York Police Academy. His days entailed gray t-shirts with his name printed neatly across his chest and black exercise shorts. He lived alone now, with his hair kept to academy standards and his green eyes bright. He wore a candidate hat whenever he went outside, and always listened closely whenever his instructors spoke. Tony was, surprisingly enough, in the top of his class, and might become, hopefully, Rookie of the Year.
He enjoyed his classes at the academy to the upmost extent. Just the year before he had graduated Ohio State with his Bachelor of Arts degree in Physical Education. He had moved to New York without hesitation, patiently awaiting his acceptance letter to the Police Academy. He later enrolled into a community college for night classes, eager to obtain a degree in psychology. He hoped he could get a masters in the field within the next decade.
Along with all of his studies, he was a regular handy man at the auto shop down the street from his apartment. He fixed things the mechanic couldn't – and for good money, too. He didn't really need to work, with all of the money his mother had left him years before, but he still did so regardless.
When he arrived home that night, exhausted beyond belief and barley able to hold his eyes open, Tony was happy to see several letters in his mail box. Four were, he was horrified to read, bills, but the other two were from the hospital and retired FBI agent and author David Rossi. The two men regularly wrote to each other, sending greetings, postcards, and occasionally, recipes.
Today's letter, it seemed, was an application to the already filled FBI Academy. He smiled, mentally thanking the man he had never met. Both knew he would never become a fed, but he was extremely thankful that the man was willing to pull suck strings. Tony, though, would rather carve his own path in life.
He threw away the application, turning to walk into his small kitchen. A small note was still in the envelope.
He rolled his eyes at the ever brief man. The two shared a strange bond. They had never met, yet Tony did not think he could live without talking to his friend. Rossi, since day one, was always helpful. He had helped Tony move on from the fire. He gave Tony advice and their relationship grew from there. Three years later, here they were. Friends who exchanged secret Italian recipes. They wished each other happy holidays whenever they could, and wrote, at least, once a month.
Birthdays were never a thing between the two. Tony didn't know why.
His second letter was opened within seconds. He was not at all surprised about the results of his resent hospital testing. Senior was not his father. Tony had doubts about his paternity since he was a child. He had finally gotten the test done during his mandatory yearly physical.
Tony wasn't disappointed, or angry, or even upset. No, he thought to himself, he was free. For the first time in years, he was able to laugh without a weight holding down his soul. He was not related to a monster.
Hey, guys! Second chapter, as long as it was, is finally finished. I would like to take this time and personally thank the 14 reviewers who were kind enough to answer my calls and pressed the button below. To TranceTony1228, Guest, fanfanfiction, clt, Guest, Yin7, Megth, LAG0802, singer-s-lament, Jesco123, leahk80, EvE79, female half – breed, and cflat, thank you! This was the most reviews in the first week of a published story I have ever received. I would also like to thank everyone who put the story in their favorites and/or is following this. Most importantly, thanks to every person who read the story!
Please point out any mistakes in the story so far. Reviews are always nice. I do enjoy criticism to the upmost degree.
I'll update either next week or the week after that. The plot is actually moving now. The next chapter will involve the teams meeting. Remember, reviews keep me motivated.
With hugs and much thanks,
The Reading Elf