Chapter 1: What Tony Knew
"You will make all kinds of mistakes; but as long as you are generous and true and also fierce you cannot hurt the world or even seriously distress her." Winston Churchill
Cases involving kids were hard on everyone. This was probably true on almost any law enforcement team in the world, just like a hurt child is excruciating to most teachers. Teachers, cops...people who chose these professions, among others, would be attuned to such pain.
Abby barricaded herself in her lab, letting her surroundings, certain activity, and the inanimate regard of her Artiodactylan muse, remind her of who she was and would remain.
Ducky retreated into memory and the reassuring recitation of narrative, rebuilding the world of reason and hope around him brick by brick.
Kate probably had her own way, but she hadn't been with the team long enough for them to know.
Tony, in the case of a child's death, would seek oblivion in the sweet touch of another's body, skin on skin, the rush and hum and the late night departure. The get-away. Clean, with everything good left behind and no disappointment to come. He loved going home in the dark, replete, the cool air on his face as he parked and went up to his apartment to his empty bed with its clean sheets. For Tony, it was almost worse—and he felt no small amount of shame for this—when the child was abused or neglected. Those cases were followed by an obscenely dark night, despair having its way and clawing a fresh channel out of his body. These nights are not something he has shared with anyone ever. Except maybe Gibbs, he thought, Maybe Gibbs. Someday.
Gibbs. Well, Gibbs.
It began with a fight and ended with an abduction, the father trying to make the mother pay but he got it wrong, even more wrong than it would have been already with so little concern for what is best for a child. He abducted the wrong kid, or at least his buddy did, and by the time it all unraveled, both men were locked up angry and protesting, and the poor boy who had spent a night fearing the worst, was returned to his own father. But this father had been hard to find, and the mother had died years ago, and the nanny was the one poking Tony in the chest, demanding that he find the boy.
Standing in the Commander's office after having returned the 9 year-old to his nanny, Gibbs had cause to wonder if maybe he should have left Tony behind for the conclusion. The signs of luxurious neglect were like a red flag to the bulls in Tony's heart and his running commentary and wisecracking irreverence had a cruel edge and hid his fury badly. Gibbs wrapped up quickly, his coolness the only sign of his own contempt for such an ungrateful parent. He turned and made his way to the door, expecting Tony to follow, but even before he heard the harsh tenor of Tony's voice, he realized his mistake.
"You should spend time with your son." Not what Tony had planned to say but no plan survived first contact with the enemy.
Gibbs was once again too slow to stop Tony and the younger man stepped one aggressive foot forward and barked, "I will, if you spend time with him. That's what he needs."
The father, an older man and a powerful one, unused to being challenged, looked at Gibbs. "Get him out of here."
The three men stood in a tense triangle, deadlocked. Gibbs jerked his head toward the door. Let's go. Tony's mouth set in sullen refusal. The father, whose face showed definite signs of fatigue—at least one point in his favor, Gibbs thought—waited impatiently.
Tony's green eyes glittered, shiny with anger, maybe tears, and caught Gibbs'. His Adam's apple bobbed as he swallowed and Gibbs waited for the younger man to give in rather than repeat the order. Tony was right and that was worth pissing the asshole off for ten more seconds.
"Please." Tony, to Gibbs.
And now Gibbs was angry. But Tony held his gaze. Gibbs could hear their loud breathing. All three of them now, angry or irritated or scared.
But still the green eyes held his, didn't back down. And the shine in them was old, from old pain, but it was also young, the sheen of a boy's tears. Gibbs couldn't look away. Couldn't refuse. Wouldn't, anyway. Tony would pay the price, just like he would. But that was for later.
As if it was his idea, Gibbs moved back into the room, got closer to the father than before and rasped out,
"Do you remember when he was a baby?"
The voice Gibbs used as an interrogator got a quick response even here, now.
"Of course I do."
"Do you remember when you kissed him, on the neck, in the folds of baby fat on his belly, on his little feet, on his soft hair? Remember what it smelled like, what he smelled like?" More words than Gibbs had spoken on some weekend days.
"Wha—" Outrage swelling.
"Do you remember?" Implacable.
"Yes." Truculent but truthful, Gibbs judged.
"He still smells like that. You can still kiss him, protect him." Gibbs met the man's eyes, let him see the emptiness in his own. "I can't." Gibbs saw something in the man's eyes, not sure what but something. It would have to be enough. He jerked his head toward the door again. Not fucking around now, Tony.
Tony flicked one more angry glance at the boy's father and followed Gibbs out.
"Not now, DiNozzo."
When they got to the car, Tony got in quickly, knowing that if he wasn't in by the time Gibbs tore out of the parking lot, he would be left behind. Over the roar of the engine, the wind skipping along the open windows, and the thumping of his heart, Tony tried again.
"NOT NOW, DiNozzo!" Gibbs yell was harsh and final. Even so, Tony could hear the crack in it, the downward progression from his earlier utterance palpable. Tony wondered if they would get home in time. In time for what?
They didn't get home in time. Gibbs swung into his driveway, parked, turned of the engine with an aggressive flick of his wrist. But he didn't move. He knew he didn't have time. Tony's presence faded from his awareness. He leaned his head back against the seat, so far back that his body bowed a little and if his eyes were still open, he would be looking straight up toward the sky. Praying, maybe. But his eyes were closed, closed so that he could see the images of his little girl, the painful barrage of memory. It felt like he remembered every time he held her, dressed her, wiped her face, lifted her, held her hand, kissed her. And Shannon. No not Shannon too. And the smell and sound and feel of Kelly came back, pushing the loss of Shannon off for another day. He shook and cried until it was over.
Tony didn't recognize the harsh grunting sounds for crying at first, but the water on Gibbs face gave it away. Sitting in the car like this, close to Gibbs and turned toward him, he wondered what he should do. The man shivered as if freezing and his jaw was locked down tight. Tony reached a hand out...to...to...what? Stroke Gibbs' face or rub his shoulder? Like he would with a woman? Gibbs would break his hand. The percussive sounds were painful to listen to and Tony had to do something. He reached out and took one of Gibbs' hands in his. Where it had been lying, pressed white against the other man's leg, it now latched on to Tony's, so hard it hurt, it really fucking hurt. Tony ignored this and just held on, his eyes never leaving Gibbs' tortured profile, tears now streaming down the sides of his face and neck.
After some time, Gibbs quieted. Muscles released, he slumped back into the seat. There was a long moment filled only with the sound of their breathing, their hands gripping one another. Suddenly, Gibbs released Tony's hand and got out of the car, the door slamming loud in the late afternoon drone of the quiet neighborhood. Gibbs moved fast, Tony knew that, but he was scrambling to get out of the car to follow. He thought Gibbs might try to stop him but the other man didn't seem to even register his presence. By the time that Tony caught up with him, Gibbs was in the kitchen, face dry—when did that happen?—and drinking a glass of water.
"You never drink water."
Gibbs squinted at Tony around the glass titled against his face.
"I won't be as hung over tomorrow," he said when he finished.
Tony didn't know why he was trying to stop him. God knows he was planning on drinking when he got home later. "Gibbs—"
"You got a better idea, DiNozzo?" Gibbs said, hinting at the hypocrisy.
Tony's eyes held Gibbs' as long as he could, but eventually he shifted away from the piercing blue gaze. Gibbs placed the empty glass on the counter carefully and turned just as carefully, the movements of a man who knew he was slightly impaired. His pale face and the small shake in his hands was consistent with mild shock, in Tony's experience, and the care and calculation made it clear that the older man had been through this before. Gibbs walked by Tony to cross into the living room without touching him. The late afternoon light was deepening to twilight.
"Taking a shower to warm up. I'm fine, Tony."
The use of his given name was a surprise and Tony's hand shot out, hot against the cool skin of Gibbs' forearm. Gibbs paused, glancing over. His face gave nothing away, but his eyebrow quirked and he repeated hoarsely, "You got a better idea?" And then, when Tony didn't speak, just held him in place, clearly trying to think what to say, Gibbs asked, "What do you do?"
This surprised a harsh bark of laughter from Tony. "I have sex. That's always my answer."
Gibbs shook his hand off and strode through the door to the stairs. "You wanna have sex with me, DiNozzo?" Rhetorical but not sarcastic. He looked back to find Tony leaning in the kitchen doorway. What Gibbs said next was heavy, heavy with all the hours still before him drinking and remembering and forgetting, heavy with the tears that were probably not finished, heavy like a body without life is heavy.
"See you tomorrow." And marched up the stairs like a marine. A tired one, but a marine nonetheless.
If Gibbs was surprised to see Tony sitting on the edge of the bed when he came out of the bathroom, it didn't show. And Tony wasn't looking at him anyway. He had turned on a small light next to the bed and Gibbs could see that his body was slumped forward, elbows on knees.
"Tony." Gibbs' voice was low, questioning.
Tony straightened and looked up at the older man.
"Yeah?" Like it wasn't unusual for him to be where he was.
Gibbs remembered suddenly that his own forced participation earlier was because of Tony's own emotional baggage and indeed, the low light showed the faint lines of pain etched into the young man's face. Gibbs walked and stood closer to the bed he didn't sleep in, white towel wrapped around his waist.
"What are you—" Before Gibbs could finish his question, Tony reached out and the towel fell on the floor at his feet. His hand, hot against the cool damp skin of Gibbs' ass, pulled Gibbs forward between his parted legs and his forehead came to rest against Gibbs' stomach even as he slid off the edge of the bed to land on his knees.
Feeling warm breath and lips nuzzling into the soft skin of his inner thigh, the wet stroke of a tongue in the seam of his leg, Gibbs breathed out on a moan. His hands sought purchase and balance against Tony's shoulders, still covered in smooth cotton, and then one slipped behind Tony's head involuntarily to grip and hold, and a good thing too, because the full flush of arousal, his cock suddenly and completely hard, made him dizzy, and he couldn't think but really needed to think but jesus Tony was about to—
"Goddamn! Ah, fuck, Tony, oh fuck oh jesus oh fuck don't stop don't stop don't stop—" Gibbs wasn't sure if he said this out loud or not, but then it didn't matter because the heat from one of Tony's hands stroking down his ass and the other reaching up from below to hold and roll his balls not to mention the heat and tight suction of his fucking mouth combined to take him far far away, somewhere really really good with only the feel of the other man against him, safe with him. And Tony...Tony was down low in his own need, sucking deep and long and moaning and hell, he needed it, needed it. Him.
Gibbs' first flood of words had turned to grunts and moans and in the end, he was completely silent when he came, body bowing in a small parody of his earlier emotional outpouring in the car. Tony, so turned on that he was on the fucking edge of coming even though he still had his jeans on, spared a thought for the small circles Gibbs was making on the edge of his jaw, the older man's thumb loose and gentle despite the heavy breathing and now strong hands were pushing and pulling him up, up, up and his shirt too up and off. Gibbs hands were rough and they seemed to scrape against his chest, his belly, his nipples and the small pain ratcheted Tony's arousal even higher. Someone unbuttoned Tony's pants and pushed them down but Tony knew that it was his own body standing and then bending over to slip off his shoes and socks, his stiff cock jutting and getting in his way and then he was falling over, pushed onto the bed by Gibbs. Gibbs crawled onto the bed, over Tony and then, then, Tony felt the hand on his cock, squeezing and high urgent sounds came from his own mouth. The hand on his cock released and stroked a palm up his length and then rotated slightly so that fingers could touch and stroke down low even as the pressure on his cock was relentless. And that was all, just that, barely two strokes and he seized, ecstasy spearing through him and driving like a spike up and out of his body, into the shirt that Gibbs pressed around him.
Afraid that this was all, that Gibbs would make him leave, Tony turned into Gibbs, clutching, nose and eyes and lips pressed against the warm, salty skin of his neck. When Tony felt the small movement of Gibbs' fingertips moving gently at the base of his neck, he relaxed and let his breath calm, realized at some point that their breathing had synchronized. And while other parts of their bodies shifted a little here and there to get comfortable, Tony kept his face pressed tight against Gibbs, proof against change. When Gibbs finally pushed harder, tried to move and Tony made a small sound of objection, Gibbs gave him a low laugh.
"Move, DiNozzo. I'm cold." This seemed promising so Tony risked it, shifting so that Gibbs turn out the light, slip under the covers to settle on his side. Tony joined him, and they ended up face to face but not actually touching.
"This is better than drinking myself into oblivion?" Gibbs tried.
Tony shrugged and Gibbs could feel it better than he could see it.
"Tony..." Gibbs made his voice stern.
"You gonna freak out?" He blurted out his fear.
"Do you do this a lot? Have I...missed something? All those women really men?"
"No." Gibbs could make out Tony's features in the dark now that his eyes had adjusted: the hard masculine planes, adam's apple, the rough cheeks. He'd never been with a man, never really thought about it. He could smell Tony's sweat, familiar from time spent together on the road, in the field. He realized with surprise that he was hardening again, that they had only just begun. "No, not often, but sex is sex." Tony reached out a stroked a finger up Gibbs' cock, a flash of white and a satisfied smirk when he found the other man warm and hard. I want to feel that pressed against me. Tony let his hips roll until his own cock rubbed against Gibbs'. Gibbs eyes and mouth pressed shut and Tony was even turned on by the startled rush of air through the other man's nose.
"Just let me—" Tony gave in, stopped worrying that Gibbs would push him away—he either would or he wouldn't—and just made Gibbs feel good.
"Fuck," the other man whispered in dazed disbelief. "Tony—"
"I'll be gone by morning, Gibbs. It's just—" Sex. He couldn't make himself finish the sentence he whispered into Gibbs' ear. Gibbs' body shuddered and Tony's blood sang.
Tony would have smiled, but he was too busy nipping at Gibbs' mouth until finally, the older man's hand threaded hard into Tony's hair and leaned in from above, hard and uncompromising, so that it hurt, the brutal kiss. And now Tony shuddered and let Gibbs take him all the way under.
Tony's internal Don't-Ever-Stay-the-Night alarm clock woke him up at 1 am, rousing him out of his sated doze. He sat up slowly, slipping his legs out from under the covers but as he stood, he felt the bed shift as Gibbs too, rose. The two men dressed together in the dark, Tony grabbing his balled up dress shirt, ready to go home shirtless, but Gibbs opened a drawer, tossed him an NCIS t-shirt, indistinguishable from his own but for the smell of Gibbs.
They didn't touch again, and at the bottom of the stairs they parted. Tony headed for the door and Gibbs for the basement. When Tony turned back, he saw that Gibbs had paused at the head of the stairs. He hadn't yet flicked on the light so it was hard to make out any expression.
"Night, Gibbs." It was all Tony could think of.
Gibbs didn't stoop to small talk and with a muttered "Yep," and a indecipherable wave of his hand in the early morning gloom, Tony was left listening to the creak of the old pine boards beneath Gibbs' bare feet.