Distress

Chapter 11: Jethro, Tony

Gibbs moved closer to Tony. Closer than he already was. Only inches separated their faces.

"Oh, you thought? You thought, DiNozzo? What exactly were you thinking?"

Tony didn't answer. Wisely, in McGee's opinion. Just held himself at attention and waited for it to be over, or for there to be a question Gibbs actually wanted answered.

Gibbs must practice close yelling...er, growling...uh, hissing?...no not quite a hiss, McGee...dammit I am even calling myself by my last name now...well whatever it is...intense scary speaking...he must practice because I have never seen even the smallest bit of spit come out of his mouth. No one ever wipes their face. But maybe they are just too scared. Tony looks scared but he isn't really. That FBI woman the other day, she had been actually scared, or alarmed at least. She had backed up when Gibbs stepped in. Most people usually do. Was Tony always not scared or did he get used to it?

McGee had learned to steel himself. He had overheard Tony and Kate discussing this once—and he wondered later, if they had meant him to overhear it, which sometimes meant they were setting him up but also could have meant they were helping him out indirectly—and Kate said she let her eyes go unfocused and thought about flowers while it was happening. She said the important thing was not to back up and not to go somewhere so far away your head that you didn't remember what he said. Tony said that he counted backwards in his head from 500. It had to be something tricky enough to occupy the piece of your mind that wanted to scream like a teenager at a horror movie. McGee thought that he might write the code for "Hello, World" in every computer code he knew.

Hours later, when the case had been resolved, and everything seemed fine between Gibbs and Tony...McGee, Kate, and Tony stood together in the parking garage watching in unanimous witness as Gibbs tore out of his spot. They watched the taillights disappearing around a tight turn, listened to the squeal of wheels on the corner, winced when they heard an unsuspecting innocent slam on the brakes to avoid a collision. The sound of Gibbs engine never faltered.

After a minute, Tony and Kate shrugged at each other, and while they didn't actually include him, they didn't exclude him either and he understood that this was acceptance, or the beginnings anyway. Tony hefted his backpack and Kate strode in the opposite direction toward her car. "Night, Probie."

As McGee climbed into the car, he couldn't help but smile. He took a deep breath and leaned back against the seat, not bothering to start the car just yet. He wasn't in a hurry. He was grateful every day for this job. Every day. Sometimes he didn't think about it during the day, but he always took a minute in his car to be grateful for being part of a team like he had always wanted, for getting to learn from someone like Gibbs. His eyes closed.

BANG! BANG! BANG! His eyes flew open and he turned to see Tony's grinning face peering in the window, sunglasses on even in the dim of the garage.. Even with Tony, he reminded himself. It was worth it. He turned the key and rolled down the window.

"What, Tony?"

Tony smirked and McGee braced himself for one last put down.

"Bunch of us are going out for drinks later, Probie. 8 o'clock at Lula's. See ya." Tony slapped his palm against the window frame and loped off toward his own car.

The guy was just so cool. And underneath all the juvenile pranks and comments and behavior, a really good agent. Tim suspectedalready that he might even be a great one. Despite it all. Maybe because of it all. Tim shrugged. You couldn't know as much as he did about things that no one else knew about to know how little he knew about all the things that other people knew about. That sounded more confusing than it was, even in the privacy of his head. He buckled up, turned the key all the way, and backed out of his space carefully.


The phone rang and Gibbs glared at it.

Sometimes after a complicated case, with lots of running around and phone calls from putting the pieces together on the fly, in the field, or on a stake out, the sound of his phone made him want to throw the fucking thing. Or crush it in a clamp. Run over it. Drop it in a bowl of water.

"Gibbs."

"Don't get snippy with me. I'm not the one that called you a thousand times this week. I was with you."

"What do you want, DiNozzo?"

"Ah, DiNozzo, is it? I take it from that 'DiNozzo', you are still all business, boss. Well, I just called to say that I'm going out with everyone else at 8 o'clock at Lula's. Would you like to come?" This last was said a little more softly as Tony tried to tell the man that he wanted him to come. But Gibbs, who was so good at reading his every thought at work, usually pretended he couldn't when they weren't at work. Tony hadn't figured out why yet.

"Not tonight." Gibbs swallowed, looked out the window while he blew down the highway going over 80. He didn't feel as though he was racing home. He felt like he was running away. Two weeks. He hadn't touched Tony in two weeks. His left hand gripped the wheel and his right gripped the phone. Hard. Harder, as he thought about where he wanted to touch Tony. Jesus, what was he doing?

He realized that Tony had not responded, that they both sat on open lines, not saying anything. "You still there?" Could they just get this call over?

"Yeah, boss." The answer was automatic.

Jethro,Tony. Jethro,Tony. Jethro,Tony.

As if Gibbs had spoken out loud, Tony corrected himself. "Jethro."

"Is that all you wanted?" Waited for Tony to ask the follow up question, knew he was being a bastard for making him ask. Why not just tell him? Did he want Tony to come over later, or did he want to go over to Tony's or did he want a night alone?

"Yeah, that's all." Tony did not ask the question about whether they would be together tonight. And his voice was unreadable. Jethro felt a wild flush of rage rip through him. How dare he hide from me?! His hands and jaw were set so tight that he ached. With sudden reassuring insight—it wasn't much, but it was something—Gibbs knew that Tony was angry. Wanted to hang up on him. But wouldn't. You didn't hang up on Gibbs. In savage satisfaction, Gibbs let the silence spool out until he knew, knew, within a fraction of a second, that Tony was about to break it.

And only then did he hang up.

Gut roiling, feeling worse even than he had when he got into the car, Gibbs pressed the accelerator harder and drove by the exit for his house.


Damn it, he didn't know what he wanted. Or at least he didn't know what he wanted to do about what he wanted.

He wanted drag the fingers of his left hand down Tony's spine, as the younger man was spread out below him on his stomach, Gibbs' right hand pressing hard into the small of his back, holding him down. He knew that if he stroked him long enough, working on the spaces between vertebrae that eventually Tony's skin would get hypersensitive and he would be moaning and shifting under Jethro's weight. And Gibbs thought that he wanted to take it further this time, wanted Tony to give all the way in.

Tony made a lot of noise usually and Jethro liked hearing it, liked being the cause of it. But when Jethro was being a bit or more than a bit of a bastard, Tony was silent. LIke a spigot shut off. And his face was hard, blank, the way Gibbs only saw it in his most serious moments, and just before and after he went undercover. But naked in Gibbs' bed, in those final moments, Tony face was taut and exaltant.

Stripped of his masks, natural and contrived, Tony was breathtakingly beautiful. To Gibbs. Tony's beauty was so...so...present, so evident, so striking, he was often struck dumb himself. He had never picked up any hint that anyone else saw it. And that worried him. A lot.

Objectively, Tony was an attractive man. Subjectively, he was beautiful. When the warmth and light, the natural good humor and skill on display with people were let out, he was rakish and charming, even when playing pranks or employing sarcasm. This is what people saw, and those closest to him, saw more of it, received more of it, and also a glimpse into his pain. Jethro had come to believe that Tony's pain, what he shared of it, was actually a second line of defense.

Tony knew how to lie better than anyone. His lies were 99% truth and only a little bit lie. Jethro had been revelling in the feeling of being needed by Tony. Even when Tony had sat with him and talked about Mark, went to the funeral with him, Gibbs had thought that Tony had needed that too. And he probably did. That was the truth part. But the little bit of lie that Tony told him—him! —every fucking day, and every fucking time they were together, was that he was holding back. There was something there that he had hidden away and had no fucking plan to ever show Gibbs.

Gibbs wanted it for himself. Would have it, that part of Tony, for himself. Not having it was unacceptable, but so was wanting it. Needing it.

There was something below even the pain of the lost boy. Something both terrible and glorious.

Gibbs drove faster.


He drove to a gym he knew on the west side. The two guys who owned it taught fighting. Real fighting. He didn't go so often as he had at one time but still he got a nod from the guy behind the scratched Plexiglas booth, didn't have to show ID. He went in and waited till Merce was free. When the other man came over, he took one look at the set of Gibbs' mouth, his clenched fists, and nodded.

"You want a partner?"

"I don't want to hurt anyone."

"Okay." Looked him up and down. "You need clothes?"

Gibbs held his gym bag up. "I won't win any contests for hygiene but yeah, I have what I need. I'll need gloves, if that's the way things go."

"Okay...Been a while since we partnered up." At these words, a little bit of tension went out of Gibbs' body. The other man's eyes were bright with his own secrets, his own dark thoughts, and he was strong, quick, and fought dirty. Merce wasn't his given name and Gibbs was probably one of the few people who knew it. Since he recognized a Marine when he saw one, even without the haircut, he had looked up his record when he first came to the gym.

Gibbs let his lips curl in a real smile for the first time all day. "Let's do this, then."


An hour and a half later, Gibbs left the gym and headed home in his car. He hadn't bothered to shower since he didn't have clean clothes, but it wasn't a good idea to sit still without stretching more and showering. He couldn't bring himself to care, knowing he could put the time in at home, and he just wanted to get away from people as quickly as possible. His sparring—what they did seemed too brutal to be called that—with Merce was just what he needed and he felt...better. Calmer, certainly, and not as angry.

At home, he stretched. He showered. He shaved. He put on decent clothes. A pair of jeans that fit. A navy blue button-down that women seemed to like. A leather belt with a silver buckle. He rolled up his sleeves. In a small burst of defiance, he put his boots on. Beat up and rugged, they were mostly hidden by his jeans, but he felt more himself, more grounded in them.

He considered sitting out back with a cup of coffee, to think, but knew it was pointless. Instead he just stood at the kitchen sink and ate a couple pieces of cold pizza. All the sitting and thinking in the world wasn't going to change the fact that he was in the wrong, that he owed Tony something and hadn't been giving him what he needed. That's why he was so angry. No one fought harder than at a trap of their own making, he knew that.

Tony had worked out the timing, how Gibbs needed space and time on the weekends. He had worked out how he, Tony, could reach Gibbs physically and Gibbs had never felt so known in his whole life. Cared for, even. Cared for, even though he didn't need to be cared for. The way Tony stayed with him the night before Mark's funeral, the way he had come to the funeral. Gibbs even suspected that Tony had to do with Fornell showing up that same night.

And what had Gibbs done? Just demanded more, had been even more intractable. Even so, he trusted his gut too well to discount it now: Tony was holding back but it was so far in Jethro didn't know if Tony was even aware of it, if what the other man protected was so deep that protecting it was second nature, maybe even first nature. And right now, Jethro couldn't even pretend to himself that he wanted what Tony was hiding in order to help the other man. He just wanted it, all of it, all of Tony, for himself.

He felt exposed and known for the first time in his life since Shannon and the longer he was with him, the less he felt certain of what he knew about Tony.

The less he felt certain of what he knew about himself.

It was a problem. But when in doubt, do the right thing. No matter who it hurt, and tonight that was him. He'd do right by Tony tonight and then tomorrow, he'd see.

Gibbs grabbed his keys from the table, shrugged on an old leather jacket, and headed back into the city.

He got lucky, parked in a meter only a few blocks away from the bar, enjoyed the walk outside on pavement wet from a shower earlier this evening.

Gibbs could see as he approached that the bar was popular: people milling outside, a small line, two bouncers checking IDs. He didn't flash his badge, just waited with the others, barely rated a glance from the men more concerned with keeping out teenagers. If anything, the inside of the bar was a little brighter than the street outside. He wouldn't have had any trouble finding his people, though. Some combination of sounds...Abby's laugh, McGee's indignation, Kate's sarcastic comments...called like a beacon and had him heading to a corner where several tall tables had been pushed together. His team and their friends looked cozy and happy under the amber lights, and Abby's squeal when she spotted him caused heads to jerk all over the seating area. With everyone looking at him, no one was looking at Tony, who looked dumbfounded even as a happy grin lit up his face.

Gibbs tried carefully to meet everyone's gaze, not to stare just at Tony, but his one glimpse was burned into his retinas. Uncharacteristically casual for a night out, Tony wore a plaid shirt, hanging loose and open over what was some kind of undershirt, maybe a tank. The thought of easy access to Tony's back and waist made Gibbs' hands itch. Abby stood up and came around to launch herself at him.

With the inexplicable ease he felt with Abby, he leaned over and brushed his lips over her cheek, glad for the familiar touch of her hand on his arm. She hummed and leaned her head against his shoulder, letting him pull her close. She pulled away enough to say in his ear, "I'm so glad you came, Gibbs. Everyone seems a little low. Even Tony."

"This a new bar?" Gibbs said as he sat in a chair McGee had pulled up from another table. Kate laughed, at what he wasn't sure. "Gibbs. It's...good to see you out of the office."

He nodded, smiled a little, looked around even as he made some kind of response.

McGee volunteered, "Tony was telling us about the Russian circus act performing on the metro on the way here.

Now that was interesting. "You took the metro, DiNozzo?" Tony never took the metro if he could help it. "Car in the shop?"

Tony met his eyes but Gibbs could tell he wanted to look away. A sure sign he was about to lie. "No, just thought I'd try something new."

Gibbs eyebrows went up dubiously and he felt the smile grow wider and more genuine even as Tony took a drink of beer to keep his mouth occupied. This worked against him because it gave the rest of the group time to see that Gibbs had figured something out that they hadn't. Their own faces showed interest and a little bit of delight that they were about to see an encore performance of the Gibbs and Tony show. Tony slammed the empty beer bottle on the table theatrically. "Oooopah! That's what they shouted and there was this girl all wrapped around one of the poles. Right there on the subway she did a full somersault kind of thingy, like all—" he waved and wiggled his hands around over the table, eyes wide—"slinky and boneless. It was so cool. I have never seen a subway act ever get more than a buck or two, but people were pulling out their wallets and asking for them to do it again—"

He trailed off when he saw the smirking faces around him. "What?" He stood up, "Where is our waitress? I'm going to go get another beer. Anyone else?"

Since it was clear he wasn't going to say any more about the Metro, they all put in their orders. Gibbs stood and followed Tony, winking at Abby and smiling at the others as he slipped through the crowd..

Tony towered over a bunch of women sitting at the bar together, some kind of party from the small gift bags littered around the table. Despite the height advantage, Tony was having a hard time getting the bartender's attention.

Gibbs stood next to Tony, something inside relaxing at the proximity. Tony looked nervous, though, glancing over and then back to the bar, waving his arm over his head.

"Tony."

"Oh, hey, boss, want to change your order?" Tony's eyes stayed forward, his chin up and Gibbs found himself mesmerized by Tony's profile, skin tan and gleaming in the shifting lights.

"Tony." Gibbs watched as Tony set his mouth, lips pursed a little. He dropped his hand, and the pretense, and turned his body to face Gibbs.

"So," he said, going on the offensive, leaning casually against the bar, shirt swinging open, "I didn't think you were planning to come tonight. What made you change your mind?" Gibbs was careful to keep his eyes on Tony's face, his mouth, even though he wanted to check to see if the pulse in the man's neck had picked up at all.

Gibbs swallowed, looked down and back up again, Tony's eyes widened at this show of insecurity. Gibbs figured, What the hell, really give him something to be surprised about...

"I came because I thought you would want me to." He refused to drop his eyes again, to blink. "And because I wanted to see you."

Gibbs really felt like no one else, other than he and Tony, in that moment, was real. The people around him were just a blur of sound and color. Everything about Tony was in high relief. The planes of his face, the twitch of his mouth, the green eyes that held his now. Gibbs still felt that the closer he got to the younger man, the harder it was to read him. His eyes were bright and soft on his, and it didn't take a mind-reader, or Gibbs, to know that he was pleased, but other than that, Gibbs didn't know. And he felt just as exposed and uncomfortable as he had thought he would. If they were alone, he'd kiss Tony, get in his space, force him to close his eyes. He'd be in control and Tony's eyes would be closed. But tonight he was here to give Tony some of what he needed, or wanted anyway, and Gibbs wasn't going to take the easy way.

"Gibbs—" Whatever Tony was going to say was interrupted by a bartender asking for their order. Tony turned slightly to tell him what they wanted and Gibbs could see the fast pulse at his throat, hear the breathlessness in his senior agent's voice as he spoke. Tony was being handed bottles even as the bartender pulled the handles for the beer on tap. Gibbs helped carry the ones Tony couldn't get easily and turned to go back to the table. Tony stopped him with the touch of a pinky, the only digit available with all the bottles he was carrying.

Gibbs paused.

"I took the Metro because I had a Metro card with four free rides still on it." Tony's smile was a gift, he was sharing a secret. Gibbs remembered suddenly and laughed.

"You took Ernie Yost's metrocard?"

Tony grinned at him. "Hey, he said he would have scouted me for the majors."

"You're too old to play baseball!" Gibbs didn't know he was echoing Ducky's comment, but Tony laughed anyway. "When did you see him?"

Tony started muscling his way through the crowd. Gibbs couldn't help but watch his ass. Jesus, he had it bad. Tony called back, "we had dinner on Wednesday." He swung around, walking backwards through the crowd as if he had eyes in the back of his head. "Don't tell anyone. Okay?"

Gibbs eyebrows shot up in question, playful.

"Gibbs…"

Gibbs gave in. He wasn't here to torture Tony tonight. "Fine. I won't tell." They were almost to the table and Tony was just turning around again when Gibbs said, "What other secrets are you keeping?"


They pulled into Gibbs' driveway and Gibbs shut the truck off. He slammed the door behind him and it felt good, better than it should, the shock of sound and the flex of his arm that made it happen. When he came around the front of the truck, Tony was waiting for him, leaning against the cool metal of the cab's door. He didn't know, until then, didn't know that he wouldn't be able to hold it in anymore and before he could check himself, he was pressed up against Tony, one arm pressed against the younger man's chest to keep him in place, to keep him just where he wanted him. Just barely, he managed to growl out, against his lover's mouth, "Tony, you have this one last chance to stop me. I...this night was supposed to be about you. But I can't," his head dipped, swung a little back and forth as he smelled the other man's smell, pressed his nose near Tony's neck and throat, let his lips graze the rough skin of his cheeks, "I am not going to be able to stop again, later, and," he gripped Tony's chin in his hand and pressed, hard, until Tony's eyes raised to his, "and I want you, I want, I need to hear you say you want this. Now."

It was dark, but he had left the outside light on, so there was enough light to see the glittering challenge that Tony's eyes presented to him. Tony's voice was smooth and light as ever, and Gibbs almost bit him at the implied indifference when he himself was so undone.

"Gibbs, I don't know what I did to make you think I didn't want this, want you any way I could get you. Any way. I'm not fragile, or sheltered. I am more experienced, sexually, than you, I'm sure. I want you to fuck me," and he straightened against the truck, against Gibbs' continued hold, making it clear that he had been held with permission only. He leaned forward and whispered in Gibbs' ear, "just like when I fuck you, I am going to want you the way that I want you. I'm going to take you the way I want to take you. But," but now, Tony leaned forward and almost delicately kissed along Gibbs' lips, pressing sweet, loving kisses along the curves, lingering at the corners, before finishing his statement, "tonight you bought and paid for me. With your time," —kiss— "with your good behavior," —kiss— "your fingers on my skin," —kiss—"and in the way that those touches were so carefully hidden from our friends and were just for me. I was very," and now Tony reached up and pulled Jethro's hand down, slipped his lover's cool hand beneath his shirt, still over his tank but pressed against the small of his back, an echo to his touch in the bar, "very, impressed, babe," and his eyes flared even in the deepening dark, "and turned on and I thought then that I was in trouble. That I would do anything to go home with you tonight." At these final words, Tony dropped his head back, baring his throat.

Jethro fell on him, no reason now to stop, to take what was his. He wanted Tony inside, in his house, in his bed, but he would mark him, out here in the dark, first. Tony's endearment was working its way inside of him, cocky and sweet. He pressed his lips against Tony's naked throat and kissed, bit, and sucked until he knew that his mark would be visible for days. Tony's breathing, in contrast to the control he showed in speaking just a few moments ago, was harsh and quick, like he couldn't get enough air and when Jethro threaded his hands into the other man's hair and pulled him back down to take his kiss, Tony's head felt heavy and uncoordinated, loose on his neck, he was already dipping low into the well of desire that would drown him tonight, if he was lucky, and he wanted to shiver at his own voice whispering "Please, Jethro, please," with its implicit capitulation and surrender and its explicit entreaty. Please.

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