Notes and disclaimers: Not for profit, characters, etc owned by large corporate entities who are not me. Title from the song by Neva Dinova. Thanks to Tigs and Dine for beta magic!



COME ON STORM LET'S FORM A CLOUD




"She lied, Tony," McGee said, as if it were very very important.

"We all know she lied," Tony said.

"Not her," McGee said, waving at the screen. He was definitely agitated. "Your hot ex, two months ago."

Tony debated saying all his exes were hot but Probie seemed really obsessed with spitting all this out. So he waited for him say more.

"Yesenia Volquez," McGee said. "She lied." He nodded for emphasis along with what seemed to be the fiftieth time he was going to say she lied.

"You said it wrong. You know, her dad picked her first name from a popular telenovela in the 70s," Tony said. "She hates her dad but not for that. Keep going."

"That wasn't her niece," McGee said. "That was her daughter. Uh, and yours. I did a paternity test to be sure. I didn't tell you but after what happened last week, I couldn't not tell you."

Ziva said, "It's like that Tom Selleck movie: 3 Men and A Baby. You didn't know you were a father until you opened the door and found the baby."

"Tom Selleck wasn't the father," Tony said. He looked at McGee. It was important to focus, Tony thought. There was one thing about that speech of McGee's that really stuck with him.

He said, "How did you get the DNA to do a paternity test on a six year old? Were you lurking outside her elementary school? Please tell me you didn't do a cheek swab on a 6 year old without her mother present. How do you not get arrested when you do that?"

McGee said, "No, no. I didn't lurk. I used the straw from her Capri Sun box. She threw it out. There's no expectation of privacy from garbage."

"You went through the garbage at her house? So instead of lurking outside her school, you lurked outside her house. That's, that's incredibly creepy, McGee. And it's not even your alleged child, it's mine."

"There's no alleged," McGee said. "I got Abby to run it. I just thought you should know."

"It is … creepy," Ziva said. Thankfully, that was all she said.

"You'd do it for me," McGee said. "Right?"

"No, Probie, I wouldn't." Tony said. "Let's get back to this murder." And with perfect timing, Gibbs walked up and they did, finally, get back to the murder. It was nasty and brutish and complicated and Tony could have kissed it if it were somehow a beautiful woman or an even more beautiful car.

*

It took him two days to go to Yesenia's house. She was sitting outside, right on the edge of her house's tiny porch, smoking. And glaring at him as soon as he parked his car. Glaring at him was a very familiar look on Yesenia.

"I know you're not here about my boss since he's now my former boss," Yesenia said. She didn't bother to stand up. "You arrested him and everything."

"You still have a job," Tony said. He'd checked. "And that's not why I'm here. You lied to me."

She shrugged and took a long drag on her cigarette. Some women managed to make smoking look very sexy. "You didn't used to smoke," he said.

"Yes, I did. I just didn't during those times we were together during those two months we dated."

He said, "And then you quit, I assume. Because of the baby."

Yesenia finished her cigarette and carefully stubbed it out in a Coke can. "Yeah, now I only smoke when Rosie's out. Do you really care?"

"Since it turns out she's mine, yeah, I do really care. And don't try to deny it, someone did a paternity test."

"You're fucking kidding me," she said. She looked up at that. "Did he come near Rosie? I'll fucking kill him."

"He came near your garbage, don't worry. Which is weird, I know."

Yesenia sighed. "And, okay. So what?"

"So what? You could have told me. You were, you were 20 and pregnant and I would have. I would have done something."

Yesenia rolled her eyes. "Please. Done what? I never needed your money."

"I wasn't just talking about money," he said. He knew he was lying. Six years ago, he would have given her money. And probably yesterday, too. He barely remembered what the little girl had looked like from that one meeting at the door two months ago. Dark hair, big eyes. Six years old and wearing a lot of yellow.

Yesenia said, "You know, my dad walked out when I was ten years old. It was the best fucking thing that ever happened to me. And I remember how you talked about your dad."

"I'm not like that," he said.

"No," she said. "You're not a drunk and you'd never hit me or a kid, but, come on. Is it to Rosie's benefit to have someone show up sometimes on weekends, drop off a gift or two or just not have any dad to worry about at all?"

"At some point, she's going to figure out this wasn't a virgin birth," Tony said. "She's your daughter, I bet she's really smart."

"I'll cross that bridge when I get to it," she said. "Do you, fine, what do you want to do, Tony?"

He couldn't think of an answer. She said, "That's what I thought. When you work that out, you give me a call."

*

"Stop standing over me," Tony said. "You're blocking my light, McGee."

"I just wanted to see if you'd done anything about that situation. The one we talked about. Besides changing the recipient of your death benefits."

"I thought that was private," Tony said. "Like DNA and email."

"Let's move on from that, okay? You read my email all the time."

"That's different," Tony said. "We're done talking about this."

"Talking about what?" Gibbs walked up like a cat or something. Like Gibbs.

Tony said, "This midshipman's phone records, Boss. It turns out it´s all calls to his mommy."

*

He called Yesenia at 8:15, during the first commercial break of the last game of round one of the NCAA Tourney. He was having flashbacks, the good kind that made him feel confident and smart. "I know one thing I can offer Rosie," he said. "Well, one more thing besides half her DNA."

"Wow, fire away," she said.

"College fund," he said.

She was quiet for a few seconds. "Huh," she said. "I was totally ready to shoot you down but, um. Her college fund is a coffee can of change right now. I bet it's up to $50 now."

Tony said, "I have more than $50. At least $500. And that's just this quarter. And she has really good grades, I hear."

"God, you people are so fucking creepy. Are you reading my mail now?"

"That's a federal offense. We just looked at the computer records which I don't think is a federal offense. Plus, I am her father."

"So cyberstalk away," she said. "Um, yes, for a first grader, she seems to be pretty smart. She's reading at a third grade level, but I think they decide that stuff using really dumb third graders." Yesenia sighed. Tony heard laughter in the background. She said, "I'll call you back, okay? Someone should be getting ready for bed right now."

He got as far as "Is there –" and then she'd hung up.

She did call back. Fifteen hours later when he was at a crime scene. Gibbs and Ducky were staring at him but Tony turned his back and said, "And here you are again."

"I was doing some research on tax write offs and these programs to encourage savings for college, like that," she said.

"Fantastic," he said. He would have added that he was unlikely to get any kind of write off for a child whose father was officially listed as "unknown" on the birth certificate but he could feel Gibbs and Ducky's eyes all over his back. "Email me that, okay?"

"Oh, fuck, you're at a crime scene, sorry."

"And I do want to see her," he said quietly. As quietly as he could. "I wanted to talk about that, too. Not at this very moment, but I'm putting that out there. I know you think drop ins are useless but I disagree. My drop ins will be beneficial to her education."

"I'll be nice," she said. "I won't ask you to repeat all that much much louder. We can talk about it."

When he turned back to photographing the pieces of the body scattered everywhere, Gibbs said, out of nowhere, "Good work, DiNozzo." It was a little disturbing.

*

"It's a video game," Tony said.

Rosie had already started poking at it after shaking it. "How do you win?"

"You don't really win. You make patterns and flowers. And bright things. See?" He reached around started the game at the easiest level.

Six year old girls were very touchy-feely, Tony was discovering. Or at least, this one was. With him. She scooted closer to him so they were playing the game together. Sort of. Even when he moved his hand away, she stayed wedged against him, making bright yellow flowers and green octagons floating over and over. It was like an acid trip with Barney which he did not say out loud. "See," he said, "it's fun."

"I think winning is fun. But this is cool," she said. "And I think if you do a bunch you move up a level. That's winning." She looked up at him and grinned. "See? I won."

He was pretty sure there was some sort of educational value to the game. McGee had sworn there was. He also said it was really fun and did not contain illegal activities or guns, which Yesenia had strictly forbidden. This was his second time being lackadaisical three hours on Saturday Dad. So far, he thought he was doing okay but he also thought the standards were very very low.

He could do better. He said, "Rosie, when you win the next level, we can do something else. The game's yours, you can play it whenever you want and your mom says it's okay. So, whenever your mom says it's okay."

"Good," she said, nodding. She was engrossed in making the flower on the screen even bigger. "I like, when, last time, we were playing horsey. That was fun. We could do that."

He had to fill two more hours with her, so playing Horse at the hoops sounded like a good idea. She liked to make up shots and jump around and she got really upset if she thought he was letting her win. He liked that in a girl.

He liked Rosie, he'd decided. Which was a good thing for all the obvious reasons. She sat forward and said, "I won, I totally won. I'm on level three." She stopped the game and put it in her backpack. "Thank you. I like it."

"It seemed right for a sophisticated girl like you."

She mouthed "sophisticated." He said, "Smart, elegant, classy. All those things."

She mouthed "elegant." He said, "Pretty. Basically."

"Okay," she said. She smiled and wriggled off the bench. When she was really pleased, Rosie's smile looked just like Tony's mother's smile. Thankfully, in every other way but the color of her eyes, Rosie resembled her mother. Tony didn't think his good looks would really translate on a woman. Too rugged and manly.

They'd played HORSE and catch and he'd heard about all her classmates and her teachers and the woman who ran her playgroup and there was still an hour to fill. Then Tony's phone buzzed.

"I really can't come in," Tony said.

Ziva said, "I'll tell Gibbs you said you can't come in, then."

Tony grimaced. Rosie was sitting on the ground in front of him, playing with his shoelaces. "I'll be there in ninety minutes, does that work?"

"I don't think so," Ziva said. "I'm here, McGee is here, Gibbs is on his way in and I will tell him you can't be bothered to come in."

"I have Rosie for the next hour," Tony said. "NCIS isn't exactly six year old friendly. And a crime scene most definitely isn't. It's Saturday, right, I can come in a little late. This one time."

"I will tell Gibbs," Ziva said and hung up.

Rosie said, "Do you want to go to the library? Sometimes, on Saturday, they have a guy who dresses up and read stories and he acts them out. Or puppets. But the puppets can be really creepy, like, they look like they're kinda alive and evil."

"Okay," he said. He was going to be late for work. Ziva was going to explain to Gibbs that Tony couldn't come in because whatever she decided to say of what he had said. Probably just the part where he said "this one time" and was possibly whining like a little girl.

Rosie didn't really whine that much.

When he got to the crime scene, Gibbs didn't yell at him. He also didn't acknowledge him for an hour. Tony knew he should have been upset but he was still in a good mood from Rosie reading him one of those stupid Berenstein Bears books. She was a really good reader.
 
*

Gibbs was looming over Tony's desk. "Is that a picture of your little girl?"

"No," Tony said. He hadn't said anything to Gibbs, but he assumed that Gibbs knew like he knew everything. Tony was looking at pictures of cars up coming up for auction. He probably shouldn't have even thought about buying any of them what with all the college fund contributing he had promised.

"On your phone," Gibbs said.

"Yes," Tony said. He flipped past the first one where she was rolling her eyes to the one from the previous weekend where she was at least smiling. She really disliked having her picture taken.

Gibbs took the phone and looked at the picture. "She doesn't really look like you," he said. "Except for the eyes."

"Thank goodness for that, right, Boss?"

"Cute kid," Gibbs said and handed back the phone.

"Thanks," Tony said.

"You don't really have much to do with that," Gibbs said, then walked off in his Gibbs way.

*

He was trapped in the truck between McGee and Ziva when Ziva said, "Are you using your daughter to pick up girls?" basically out of nowhere.

"You'd think that would work, but it really doesn't," Tony said. "Her mom won't let me take her to bars and when I show her picture" -- pictures, he had multiple pictures on his phone now of one six year old. He had eight different pictures of her. Just on his phone -- "I show her picture off and they start asking me about her and then I start talking about her."

"Which you never do at work," McGee said.

"Because I'm boring when I talk about her. Do you want to hear that I went to an assembly last Thursday night and she recited the entire Gettysburg Address word perfect?"

McGee said, "I'd like to hear about that."

"She was the only first grader who had their own little moment in the spotlight. There were fourth graders who couldn't even do two lines in a short little scene correctly. I bought an incredibly expensive digital camera and gave it to Yesenia and her stupid boyfriend in case at some point I might miss one of these assemblies. There are a lot of them. You're bored already, aren't you?"

Ziva said, "Yes."

McGee said, "What kind of camera was it?"

"So I start talking to these beautiful women and their eyes are clearly glazing over because they don't care about the Gettysburg address and instead of thinking about their bodies or their brains, I'm wondering if they braided their own hair and if they could show me how because two weeks ago Rosie's hair came out of its braid and she was upset and I could not fix it. I'm, I'm an adult and I have no idea how to braid hair. Why should I?"

"Tony," Ziva said. "Have you had Yesenia's boyfriend checked out?"

"He's a high school baseball coach. He's always wanted to coach baseball in high school, he's never been arrested, he's the kind of guy that cops only know because one time he called when he heard his elderly neighbor getting beat up back when he was in college," Tony said. "That's all they would tell me when I called, anyway."

"I can check his computer," McGee said. "Where does he coach?"

"Woodson," Tony said. "But he's totally clean."

McGee said, "WT or HD?" He was writing it down.

"WT," Tony said. "Rosie likes him. I bet he can braid hair."

"It's not that hard," Ziva said. "I'm sure even you could do it. What you seem to be saying, Tony, is that using your child to pick up women only works if you don't actually care about the child."

"I know," Tony said. "Sucks."

McGee sent him four different youtube links to demonstrations of hair braiding. He also emailed a brief summary of every single thing Yesenia's stupid boyfriend had ever done on the internet. The worst thing was a few trades in a free fantasy basketball league. Stupid Boyfriend hated having anyone who'd played for Duke or UNC on his teams.

When he saw Rosie on Wednesday, he was sort of hoping her hair would already be down so he could show off his new skills. He'd even bought a yellow ribbon. Rosie loved yellow. She always wore something yellow, like her shoes or her belt or her jacket or her headband. When he took her to Toys R Us and let her pick out one stuffed animal, she picked a big yellow duck. Tony was observant like that.

Her hair was already in pigtails. He offered to braid her hair anyway. She laughed and said, "Okay." She was polite like that.

*

He was at work, late in the evening, humming because he could tell McGee was fuming with every note when Yesenia called. It was blah blah car problems dropping off this picking up that please could he take Rosie just for an hour and Tony said, "Okay."

"Great," she said, "I'm at the gate, can you come get her?"

Rosie looked very very bored. She was also wearing a yellow jacket Tony had helped her pick out and paid for. He said, "Do you want to look at DMV records?"

She shrugged and looked around at the desks. She said, "Can I watch DVDs on the computer?"

"Do you have DVDs with you?"

"I have this one," she said and pulled out something called Hannah Montana. "It's my favorite. Mommy got me my own copy because I said I wanted to show you. We could watch it together. It's so good."

"I have to work, but you can watch at my desk," Tony said. They had reached his desk and McGee and Ziva were both peering over their desks at Rosie. "That's Ziva, that's McGee, and they're both working and can't be disturbed."

She was not permitted to meet Abby, he decided. Abby might make Rosie think tattoos were good or cool. Yesenia had four tattoos if Tony recalled correctly and he was very sure he did, especially that one on her hip with the vines. He was certain, though, that Yesenia would agree with him that Rosie was never ever ever to get a tattoo. Or think about tattoos.

Rosie said, "Have you seen Hannah Montana?" She climbed into his lap and he took the DVD from her. He opened his laptop and put the DVD in, set it all up for her to watch while he scrolled through the records on the work computer.

"I haven't," he said.

"Tony, it's so so so good," she said. "I've seen it a million times, I think. That's what Mommy says. But it's really good."

"You call him Tony," Ziva said.

Rosie looked up. "Uh huh. Your hair is pretty," she said.

"Thank you," Ziva said.

"We're not disturbing the other people, Rosie," Tony said.

Rosie nodded. "I wish I had hair like yours." She turned to Tony and said, "We should watch it on quiet, right?"

Tony nodded and glared at McGee when he opened his mouth. Yesenia was true to her word and she showed up an hour later. "Thank you," she said. "I mean it."

"Anytime," he said. "Hannah Montana, huh?"

"I'm starting to really like it," Yesenia said. "Shoot me."

"I can't wait to see the whole season," Tony said.

*

Yesenia turned sideways in the seat to look back at Rosie and said, "What are you thinking back there?"

"That went quick," Rosie said. She was sitting in her newly purchased booster seat. McGee had forwarded three different studies about what age and weight kids should move to regular seats. Turns out six was only a suggestion and Rosie was on the small side. You couldn't take chances with that sort of thing.

McGee would not stop sending him all these studies and suggestions. At some point, Tony would reach the end of his rope and tell Probie to get his own secret love child. But it felt like an unspoken deal: Tony didn't complain about McGee's mothering and Rosie didn't show up in McGee's next book. Tony was going to make it a spoken deal pretty damn soon.

Tony said, "Court goes fast when it's not contested. When there's no fighting."

"What's there to fight about?"

"Nothing in our case," Yesenia said. "We were just getting the birth certificate stuff settled. So you can get some of that awesome government health insurance."

Rosie nodded. "What do I say when people ask me what you do?"

"I work for NCIS," Tony said. "That means I fight crime. I'm like Batman."

"Batman isn't real," Rosie said.

Yesenia did the fake cough cover her laughter thing, badly, on purpose. Tony said, "When I was six, I thought Batman was real."

"Maybe my school is better than yours," Rosie said.

"Maybe," Tony said. "Anyway, you can tell them I fight crime."

"Like policemen," Rosie said.

"Right, but for the military," Yesenia said. "Like, you remember your cousin Mario, the one who sent you those pictures? He's in the military."

"He's Army, though," Tony said. "And that's more nuance than you need. Hey, you got the afternoon off from school, that's fun for you."

"Do I have to change my name?"

"No, absolutely not," Yesenia said. "Still Rosaly Volquez."

"Do I have to call you Dad now?"

Tony said, "You should call me whatever you feel comfortable with, just don't call me late for dinner." Yesenia rolled her eyes.

That was the moment when Tony realized the car following them wasn't tailgating because of the almost non-existent traffic.

He didn't speed up fast enough to avoid the collision.

*

Yesenia said, "They're keeping me for five days?" She looked miserable and pale which was pretty typical for someone in a hospital bed with a broken leg and two cracked ribs.

"Yes. And Rosie is fine, you got that, right?"

She sat up slightly and looked over his shoulder. Tony glanced outside the hospital room where Rosie was sitting with McGee. She sank back down and said, "Your friends really think he was after you?"

"That's the working theory, yeah, he was trying to kill me. He didn't do very well, if that's any consolation."

"You've never had Rosie overnight and now you'll have to take her for four days and while she's staying with you, someone will still be trying to kill you?" Yesenia took a deep breath and tried to sit up. "You have to get me out of here."

"It'll be fine," Tony said. He was pretty sure it would be fine. "We were going to start the overnight visits this weekend."

"When is the bed coming?"

"Thursday," Tony said. "I have a couch, it's a futon. She'll be fine. I'll drive her to school in the morning and then the bus takes her to daycare and then I'll pick her up for dinner. It'll be fine. I called your boyfriend, by the way."

"Thanks," Yesenia said. "You and your creepy friends have checked him out, haven't you?"

Tony smiled.

"And you're not saying anything so I'll assume he's a good guy. Like I think he is."

"He is. Just don't let him run your fantasy basketball team."

"He gambles?" She looked even paler.

"No, he doesn't even buy lottery tickets. He's a profoundly good guy." Tony thought he could have said something like, let the boyfriend take Rosie and maybe Yesenia would have said okay. He could get out of this. He kept his mouth shut. No way Coach Perfect was going to be the one who took care of Rosie when Tony was right there.

"Okay, so you'll have to go to the house and get her things. Make sure to take a couple of books, she's gotten really picky lately about those. And you'll need to get the pad off her bed."

"Pad?"

"For when she wets the bed. She has nightmares, Tony. Sometimes when she has nightmares, she wets the bed. I think this whole day was pretty stressful for her and I wouldn't be surprised if she had a nightmare. Don't make that face."

Tony said, "What face?"

"She's six. Sometimes when she has a nightmare she wets the bed. Making her feel bad won't stop her so don't make that face. Just take the pad off her bed and put it on the futon." Yesenia sat up again and smiled. "Who's that with her now?"

Tony looked over his shoulder. Gibbs was now sitting with Rosie. Who was playing with her hair while she talked in a very animated fashion.

"That's my boss," Tony said.

"Huh," she said. "Look. I know you care about her, but she's, she's my everything." Yesenia smoothed the blanket on her lap and didn't look at Tony. "Please take care."

"Of course I will," Tony said.
 
*

Left to her own slightly sniffly devices, Rosie picked out six dresses, eight pairs of socks, every pair of shoes she owned and no underwear. Tony said, "You are not growing up to be Paris Hilton." He emptied her underwear drawer into the duffel bag and put half the shoes back in her closet.

Rosie said, "Who's Paris Hilton?"

"Good," Tony said. "Good answer."

She was sitting on her bed, holding the bright yellow duck he'd bought her four months ago. She still looked a little sniffly, like she'd looked every second since the car accident. Except for the ten minutes Gibbs had sat with her, but Tony didn't have those mysterious powers.

He looked around to see if he'd missed anything. "Do you have all your school books and things?"

She shrugged and clutched the duck tighter. "Rosie, your mom's going to be okay."

"I know," she said. "M'hungry."

"Well, we managed to miss lunch and dinner, so that makes a lot of sense. Some place you want to stop on the way back to my place? For dinner."

She shrugged again.

"Well, since you don't have a preference I'm going to make the decision of what we eat for dinner. What do you think about hippo feet?"

She looked up. "You're making that up."

"I am. But wouldn't you be sorry if I weren't?"

"Mac and cheese," Rosie said quickly.

"Ooh, good choice."

The loaner car NCIS had given them didn't have the proper booster seat and it pained Tony. Abby had kept the one Tony had purchased and wouldn't give it back. So they drove unsafely to a diner near Tony's apartment and got the mac and cheese as takeout. Tony started to sit down on the couch with his box on his lap when Rosie said, "Mommy says we eat dinner like people."

"Do you want to eat at the table?"

"That's what people do."

After dinner, there was teeth brushing and hair brushing and then he made up her futon and put the flowery pad under the top sheet. Rosie said, "Now we should sing."

"You want a song?"

"Mommy has a special song for when we've had a hard day. This is a hard day, right?"

"Absolutely. Why don't you start?"

He didn't recognize it until Rosie got to the chorus. She was singing "Mommy be there – oooo-oooh" and he had to stop himself from laughing. Rosie stopped. "Do you know the song?"

"I do. Your mom changed the words." Ya Mo Be There, Tony thought. He would be nice and not tease Yesenia about her previously secret affection for Michael McDonald and James Ingram.

*

"Someone had a nightmare last night but didn't wet the bed. Take that," Tony said.

Ziva said, "Is the take that addressed to one of us?"

"It was addressed to the world," Tony said. "Sorry I wasn't in last night. But I got my girl back in her bed and calmed her down after her nightmare and then fed her a complete breakfast plus got her to school on time and updated her records to reflect my existence. And I'm here on time. Without getting killed."

"You're amazing," Ziva said and still didn't look up from her computer screen. "The list of people who'd want to kill you remains incredibly long, Tony."

"But we can eliminate the two from last time this time. And Yesenia, if she was on the list last time."

They got absolutely nowhere with the investigation though Abby swore she'd learned a ton from taking apart Tony's car. She still wouldn't let him have the booster seat so Tony didn't believe her.

He picked Rosie up from daycare and brought her to the hospital to spend some time with her mother. Stupid Boyfriend was sitting with Yesenia, looking young and spit cleaned. Rosie perked right up and climbed up on the bed to sit between the two of them. "I'll be back in an hour," Tony said.

When Tony looked back, Rosie was hugging her mother and looking ten times happier than any single second she'd been in his company for the past twenty-four hours. She caught his eye and waved goodbye, grinning.

*

That night she had a nightmare and did wet the bed. Thanks to the pad, though, the futon didn't get soaked. Just the sheets and Rosie's nightgown and Rosie. He tried to think of some way to calm her down from her crying and embarrassment and decided it was time for a bath. Girls liked baths. Kate had liked baths. Jeanne had, too. If either of them could see him now, Tony thought.

Once he had her in the bath, she just stared at him or her hands. Calm and ready to go back to sleep was not being achieved. He'd tried repeating "It's okay" a few times already and that wasn't working.

He said, "Hey, I was thinking of buying a house. What kind of house do you think I should get?"

"Would I have my own room?"

"Definitely. You have your own room here, you know. The bed's coming tomorrow. Your very own bed, too. It's a racecar bed," Tony said.

"Okay," Rosie said. "I think you should get a house on a hill. Like, you have to climb stairs to get to the front door. Lots of stairs. And you go up and up and you're so tired and there are, um, flowers. Plants all over like a garden. And you go up the stairs and there's a porch with a railing kind of. And at the very top, there's Mommy looking over the railing." Rosie smiled at him. "Or Daddy. And the gate opens at the top and you're on the porch and then the rest is easy. And there's lots of windows. And three floors and the top floor is a garret."

Tony was fairly sure his pay grade couldn't afford that kind of house in the DC area. And unlike Rosie, he wasn't looking forward to climbing stairs for ten minutes at the end of a long day of work. Maybe if he tried looking in West Virginia, how long a commute could that be?

Rosie finally yawned and Tony helped her out of the bathtub. He wrapped her in the biggest towel he had and spun her around once so she laughed. "I'm sorry I had an accident," she said.

"Not your fault," Tony said. He wasn't even angry.

*

First thing when Tony finally got to work the next day, Ziva said, "Did she once again not wet the bed?"

Tony said, "Nope, she had an accident. She's only six. Accidents happen. She had a nightmare. She has night terrors, you know. It's not like there's something wrong when a six year old is stressed out with all that's happening to her. We're not talking about this."

*

"And then Mommy said she didn't like basketball," Rosie said. He was carrying her into his apartment because she liked being carried. She was already getting too big for Yesenia to carry, but Tony figured he had a few years more. He was big and strong.

"How could anyone say they don't like basketball?"

"That's what Mommy said. That she doesn't like it. And I was like, I like playing Horse."

"That's not technically basketball," Tony said.

Then the lights went out.

*

"That was a good move, shooting out the window," Gibbs said.

"Had to get out of the apartment," Tony said. He was watching the paramedic minister to Rosie. Who was totally fine except for a bruise on her arm. "She was really scared. Especially after the shots rang out. She kept whimpering, even after I said quiet would be good. Which I said quietly."

"She's fine now."

"And it was really painful, that scared little noise she kept making." Gibbs raised his hand and Tony said, "Don't. Let me finish. I know I should been thinking angry and I'm gonna get that bastard who tried to kill me and upset my little girl but all I could think about was getting her to stop. I just wanted her to feel better. Also, she called me 'Daddy' for the first time. So I wasn't very focused from that and from being shot at. So I shot the window to set off the alarm and broke the glass and jumped out and figured I'd wait out here for you guys to show up. Instead of being focused on some guy who wanted to kill me and swore in front of my kid, I was thinking about making her feel better."

"Huh," Gibbs said. "The guy was after McGee, he confused the two of you. He was obsessed with McGee's books, another one."

"And now I'm angry," Tony said. The paramedic helped Rosie down from the back of the ambulance and made a thumbs up gesture at Tony. "Nope, back to just wanting her to feel better. My God, I've become a parent."

Gibbs smacked him on the back of the head. "You were always a parent. As soon as she took a breath. You're on the way to being a decent parent."

"Stop looking surprised," Tony said.

"Sorry," Gibbs said. He shouted up at Tony's window for Ziva.

Ziva smiled as she looked out and then threw the stuffed duck at Tony. Rosie came running and took it from Tony. "Thank you for Jethro," she said.

"You named the duck Jethro," Tony said.

"That's her name," Rosie said.

Tony picked her up and said, "How do you feel about going to see your mom? After you spend some time with her, you and me are going to get a hotel room for tonight."

"That's a good plan," Rosie said. "I want a sophisticated hotel," she added. She even laughed a little.

*

"It's a racecar," Rosie said. "A yellow one."

"And it's all yours. Your very own bed in your very own room whenever you stay over," Tony said. "Which is every weekend starting now."

"I know," she said. "Mommy told me."

"You know that if you want to talk about what happened on Wednesday, you can talk to me. Or your mom." Tony rubbed his hands together. "Or the Coach."

"That's not his name," Rosie said.

"Funny, I don't remember his name. Anyway. He seems like a good person to talk to."

"I know," she said. "Mommy said that, too."

"Well, I can also offer my boss."

Rosie smiled. "Okay."

"He likes you," Tony said. "Anyway, you might have noticed that there are no sheets or any decoration in this room."

She nodded.

Tony said, "Because this is your room, I thought why don't we go to Target? And you can pick out everything you want in here."

"Yay, Target!!" She jumped up and hugged him. "Good idea, Daddy."

"I even thought of it myself," Tony said. Right after Ducky suggested it.

THE END


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