“Tony, I won’t tell you again. Eat.”
“I’m not hungry.” Tony pouted.
“No!” Tony screamed and kicked the table.
“Fine. Time out, ten minutes.” Gibbs stood and picked Tony up. Tony thrashed and kicked but Gibbs had no trouble securing the three-year old.
Gibbs settled Tony into the timeout chair. “Stay. When the timer goes off you can come back to the table.” He set the timer as Tony continued to cry.
“I hate you!” Tony yelled. Gibbs left the room and returned to the table. He could see Tony clearly from where he sat.
When the timer went off, Tony approached Gibbs slowly as he rubbed at his red, watery eyes and sniffled.
Gibbs smiled gently at how innocent Tony could look. “Come here Tony.” He said gently and opened his arms.
Tony didn’t hesitate as he crawled into Gibbs’ lap. In the last three months since Tony was downsized there had been many adjustments. While Tony embraced his new life, there were moments when he got frustrated. Tony was wearing out his time-out chair.
“I’m sorry boss. I don’t really hate you.” Tony snuggled close to Gibbs and sighed.
“I know Tony. You want to tell me what the problem is this evening?”
Tony shrugged his shoulders and stuck his thumb in his mouth.
“What did you do at daycare today?” Gibbs asked.
“Hate daycare.” Tony mumbled around his thumb.
“Hard? What’s hard about playing all day?”
“The teacher hates me.”
“No one hates you son.” Gibbs carried Tony into the living room and settled into his rocking recliner. “Want to tell me about it?”
“There’s that word again.”
Tony sighed again. “I wanted to play on the computer and Miss Jane told me I was too young. Too young!” Tony was getting upset again.
“Sh, breathe. It’s okay.” When he calmed down again, Gibbs asked, “What happened next?”
“I got mad.”
“Ah. How long?” Gibbs smiled as he kept rocking.
“Forever.” Tony sighed. “She made me sit in time away for almost two hours. She wouldn’t even let me go to the head.” Tony paused.
Gibbs had observed that Tony was in different pants than he was dressed in this morning. He suspected Tony was embarrassed about having an accident.
“I’m sorry you had a bad day. Did you eat lunch?”
“No. Miss Jane made me sit alone thru lunch.”
“What! She wouldn’t let you eat?”
“If I check…” He left the rest knowing Tony would understand.
“I’m not lying boss.”
“I believe you Tony.” They rocked for a few more minutes. “You ready to eat some dinner?”
Tony shook his head and hid his face in Gibbs’s shoulder.
“Don’t like turkey.” Tony mumbled.
“What would you like?”
Gibbs smiled. “Not tonight. Pick something already in the house.”
Tony shook his head and started to cry again. Gibbs rubbed his back and sighed. He knew Tony needed to eat or he would be awake at midnight hungry.
“Sh, son. Calm down. What about a grilled cheese sandwich and some tomato soup?”
Tony tried to stop crying and nodded. He hiccupped an “okay.”
“You want to help me or rock here until it’s ready?”
“What can I do? I’m too little.”
“Come on. There’s plenty you can do.” Gibbs carried Tony into the kitchen and got his step stool. With them both working, side-by-side, Tony was eating in no time. When they finished, Gibbs let Tony help with the dishes.
“How about an early night. You also need a bath.” Gibbs said as he tweaked Tony’s nose.
“I stink?” Tears welled in his eyes.
“Hey. That’s not what I said, but if you had an accident today, you should have a bath. Okay?”
Tony shrugged and wiped his eyes with his sleeve.
“Come on.” Gibbs helped Tony get into the tub and into his PJ’s. They settled in the rocker as Gibbs read Tony a story.
Tony was able to stay awake thru the whole story but was fading fast. Gibbs rocked him until he went limp. Gibbs tucked in his ‘senior agent’ and kissed his forehead. “Tomorrow we’ll have a talk with Miss Jane. Sleep well Tony.”
Gibbs went back to the living room and called the director.
The next morning Tony woke up hungry. He got up and used the bathroom then went into the kitchen for breakfast. He carefully got the stool Gibbs had for him and set it by the counter. He got a plastic bowl and a spoon and set them on the counter. He retrieved the box of Fruit Loops and got down. He carried each item to the table and poured the cereal into the bowl. He put the cereal on the counter and headed for the fridge.
The fridge was a little harder because it stuck, but Tony put all of his weight behind it. Gibbs kept the milk and juice boxes at Tony’s level since he was downsized. Tony took the milk and climbed into a chair. Kneeling, he carefully poured the milk and was very proud of himself when he didn’t spill a drop.
Gibbs smiled from the doorway as Tony ate his breakfast. He knew Tony needed some independence since becoming a child and he worked hard to give him what he could. He went to get the paper from out front and joined Tony at the table.
“Morning Tony.” Gibbs grabbed a mug and got some coffee from the pot on the counter. “You want any juice son?”
Gibbs settled with his paper and they sat in comfortable silence.
“Can I have the sports page?” Tony asked.
“Sure.” Gibbs separated the section and handed it to Tony.
“You’re welcome. When you’re done go get dressed so we can head out.”
“Can I go in with you today? Please?” Tony asked.
“You always get into trouble at the office.”
“I hate that daycare boss.” Tony moaned.
“I know. We’re going to go talk to the director of the daycare and retrieve your things. Then we are going to go to the daycare at NCIS.”
“I thought they had no place for me?”
“I called Director Shepard last night and she made some calls and got you in. She’s also starting an investigation into the other daycare.”
“Really? Thanks boss.” Tony got down from his chair and went and hugged Gibbs.
“You’re welcome. Are you finished?”
Gibbs smiled. “Go get dressed and I’ll clean up in here.”
Tony ran upstairs to get dressed.
“No running in the house.”
“Sorry.” Tony yelled back.
“Kids.” Gibbs mumbled.
Tony was dressed in record time. Gibbs helped him into his booster seat and they headed to the soon to be ex-daycare. When they got there they talked to the director and then headed for the pre-school class.
“Jethro.” Miss Jane said sweetly.
“Jane.” Gibbs turned to Tony. “Son, go get your stuff.”
“Sure dad.” Tony ran off to fill his backpack.
“Jane, I’m taking Tony out of your care. He told me about yesterday.”
“I don’t know what he said Jethro, but three-year old boys have quite an imagination.”
“Tony doesn’t lie. Either way I’m removing Tony.”
“I assure you I have done nothing wrong.”
Tony came rushing toward them and stood slightly behind Gibbs. “All ready dad.”
“Say good-bye Tony.” Gibbs took Tony’s bag in one hand and Tony’s hand in the other.
“Bye Miss Jane.” Tony said quickly as he tugged on Gibbs’s hand to make him move.
“Tony stop pulling please.” Tony stopped. “Jane, good day.” Gibbs turned and walked out with Tony.
“That was cool dad.” Tony bounced.
Gibbs laughed out loud. “You do realize that being in the same building you better behave better.” Gibbs buckled Tony into his seat and got into the car.
“You told me to be a kid. I’m only three.” Tony smiled.
“And they say the two’s are terrible. Three’s are far worse.”
Gibbs got Tony settled into the NCIS daycare and then headed up to the bullpen. He knew Tony would be trouble, but he wouldn’t have it any other way.