Chapter 19: What Tony Doesn't Know

"Gibbs, there is more to Tony than just the playboy he pretends to be, you know."

Gibbs turned back toward Abby, having delivered the Caff-pow and received the information on the victim's blood type. He stayed silent, knowing that she would elaborate.

"I know you know that. Or I think you do. Usually. But you come in on Kate's side more often these days and I don't know," Abby seemed to lose steam, looked down at her shoe, kicking the base edge of the island, and then back up. "I just wanted to say that. I guess. To you." Her mouth quirked in an apologetic smirk and her eyes looked a little worried that she had offended him. "Okay?"

He nodded, smiled a small smile of reassurance. "Yeah, I know, Abby. It's okay." He moved forward and hugged her, kissed her cheek. As he moved away, she spoke again.

"Wait, how...how do you know? I mean, I know and I know you should know, but you seemed very definite. Gibbs? Gibbs!" This time he didn't follow up his smile with a kiss or a comment. Just left, letting his smile grow as he pushed the button to go up.

At home that night though, he interrupted Tony's regular dinner-time chatter.

"You have a defender, you know."

"What? I do? Who? Do I…" The younger man pulled a face. "Do I need one?"

Gibbs laughed, at Tony's outraged expression as much as at anything.

"I don't know. Abby seems to think so. Gave me hell for assuming you were the flighty playboy you pretend to be."

"I'm not a flighty playboy. I am an actual, dependable playboy."

Gibbs laughed outright. "That's what you are mad about?"

"Well, yeah. I work hard at being a playboy."

Now Gibbs was curious. "Why do you?"

"What do you mean?"

"Why do you work so hard at being a playboy?"

"Does it bother you?"

Gibbs started to sense the beginning of..something...knew that Tony was going dodge and weave to avoid talking about this. He was a little surprised, but he played along.

"What, your reputation as a playboy?"

"Yeah... and the fact that I am a playboy?" Tony focused on his food, carefully taking another bite or two, pretending this was a normal conversation.

"Are you?"

"Well, depends on your definition, I guess, but yeah. Are you going to answer my question?" He looked up, meeting Gibbs' eyes, but askance, keeping a little bit of distance.

Gibbs cleared his throat, sat back, stretching and crossing his legs in front of him and tossing his napkin on the table. Getting comfortable. He answered honestly. "Hell yes it would bother me if your reputation was all it is made out to be. I'm not sure that is all on you either. But I am a jealous bastard and have no intention of sharing what's mine."

Tony nodded, but for an instant, his face revealed that same mixture of pleasure and fear that Gibbs had seen once or twice since he had been drugged and Tony had his panic attack. "That's pretty possessive of you."

"Yep. You surprised by that?" Gibbs let incredulity creep into his voice.

Tony answered with another question, "And the playboy reputation? Does that bother you?"

"Not if it's not real, it doesn't." And Gibbs thought he saw an opening. He pushed his plate away, and leaned forward onto the table. He reached out for one of Tony's hands, the left one, and held it in his right, like shaking hands. Tony allowed it, pushed his own plate away, and watched as Jethro curled his calloused palm around his hand, stroking his thumb along the fingers and knuckles.

"Why do you do it?"

"Act like a playboy? Or be a playboy?"

"Either. Both."

"It's fun. I get laid a lot." He turned on the high wattage smile. Gibbs had felt for a long time now that part of why Tony's smile was so effective was that it wasn't entirely fake. There was an element of a real desire for connection that gave substance to the flirting.

Gibbs thought about answering—bullshit—but just kept stroking Tony's hand...which tightened then relaxed when Gibbs didn't answer.

Tony tried an equally true, but equally obfuscating, second answer. "People underestimate me because of that reputation. Always a good thing for a cop."

Gibbs nodded, met Tony's eyes. I'm listening. Kept stroking.

"People tell me things because of it."

Still waiting, listening, hand gentle but implacable.

"I am a playboy because I want…I want..." Gibbs felt as much as saw Tony's Adam's apple jump when he swallowed, looked away. "I want dessert. How about you?"

Coward. But Gibbs didn't say it, nor did he let Tony's hand go when the other man made to rise. He tried another tack.

"Tony we probably ought to talk about how we want this to play out at work, soon."

"What do you mean?"

"I mean that just because Rule #12 is mine, doesn't mean that Vance, and the Human Resources Department, isn't going to have something to say about a direct supervisor uh...dating...his subordinate."

"Do you...do you...want to break things off?"

Gibbs made a face. "Now who's jumping to conclusions? I have tried to get you to see reason before now but you keep insisting you want to be with me. I don't know," his hand tightened on Tony's this time, "how long this is going to last, but a good long while, if I have anything to say about it. We need to talk about what we are going to do and—"

"No." Tony pulled away for real this time. Stood up. Seemed surprised to find himself standing. Gibbs narrowed his eyes thoughtfully and deliberately stayed sitting. He looked up at Tony. "What's got you scared? What's it got to do with being a playboy? Why won't you talk about this?"

"Don't interrogate me!" Gibbs had heard that one before and it stung, just as it always did.

"Fine." He pushed back from the table and picked up his dishes. Practically tossed them in the sink. "You know where to find me." He stalked to the basement, and a while later, he heard the front door open and close.

That was Tuesday. Now it was Friday and he hadn't had a private moment with Tony since dinner that night. Tony seemed normal enough at work. Truly. He didn't seem like he was putting on a good face. He played jokes on McGee, needled Kate, and on Thursday, whenTony joined the three of them at the neighborhood block party they crashed to interview people who knew their latest victim, he came away with the names of two people with grudges against the deceased, a possible murder weapon, and if Kate was to be believed, the phone number for the party planner.

Gibbs didn't know what to think. He really didn't. He didn't...think that this was over, that they were broken up, any more than he thought that Tony would call the beautiful hostess even if it was true that he got her number. His gut told him Tony was running, but not far, not yet. Regrouping, circling. Gibbs hadn't tried hard to get Tony alone, but he had tried enough to know the younger man was carefully choreographing his movements to avoid him.

His gut also said it was even odds on Tony a) actually running; b) doing something to regain ground and go back to the status quo; and c) telling him what the hell was going on.

When he pulled up at home that night, he knew Tony had chosen either option b or c. Given the fact that Tony was sitting on his steps, a six pack and a bag from the Chinese restaurant Gibbs liked, Gibbs was banking on b. Alright, let's see what you've got, kid.


"Hey." Gibbs came to a stop in front of the other man. Not close but not far either.

Tony looked up at him from where he sat, clearly trying to seem vulnerable. The steely glint in the green eyes held a plan though. Gibbs was intrigued, impressed, and starting to be pissed in equal measure.

Gibbs' silence didn't seem to unnerve Tony.

"Brought dinner."

"I can see that."

"You hungry?"

"I could eat."

"Want a beer?" Tony pulled one out of the holder, popped the top on the step, and held it out to Gibbs. To take it, held close to Tony's body, Gibbs would have to get closer.

Still more intrigued than anything, Gibbs gamely moved a step closer, held out his hand for the bottle. As he stepped, Tony rose to step down himself, and the two men ended up chest to chest as Tony move the beer the few inches necessary to reach Gibbs' hand.

Oh, Gibbs thought, as he inhaled. Tony had showered and shaved, smelled fucking delicious. Gibbs eyes couldn't help but narrow in appreciation and shared humor at how well this man knew him. Tony's eyes twinkled back and his mouth, so close, quirked a challenge.

Gibbs let himself look his fill. It had been days since he'd been this close to the younger man and when his gaze dropped from Tony's lips, he could see Tony swallow and his pulse jump. Gibbs raised a hand, touched one finger lightly to the place on the skin where the blood beat. Tony's eyes darkened and at these signs of desire, at what he felt was submission, Gibbs body tensed, ready to take what was his.

But...this was what Tony wanted. Part of the play. More than ever, Gibbs wanted to know what Tony was hiding. Before Gibbs could decide how to counter, Tony broke the spell, bent and grabbed the food and beer, led the way into the house.

As the door shut behind Gibbs, he felt more than saw Tony in the sudden dark of the hallway. The days of separation, the other man's scent, the heat of his body, the way Gibbs could feel muscle under the hands that went, unbidden, to grip Tony's hips...all combined to test Gibbs' control.

Tony's mouth, hot and wet, was open on Gibbs' throat, but Tony had contrived somehow to make Gibbs feel in control, as if Tony was submitting to him, doing what he asked, wanted. The fact that Gibbs' hand had crept up to hold Tony's head where it was didn't help.

"Tony." Gibbs gasped.

"Shhhh." Tony's tongue licked and curled against the sensitive skin along his neck and upper shoulders, hands having unbuttoned enough buttons to give Tony more room.

Gibbs managed to get his hands to Tony's chest, although he hadn't pushed him away...just...yet. "Tony."

"Hmmm?" The younger man's hands left a trail of fire as they pulled Gibbs' shirt from his pants and slipped underneath to stroke and play.

Gibbs didn't try to pretend he wasn't aroused, but his voice was harsh and determined. "We need to talk."

"No, Gibbs, we don't." The younger man's mouth hovered over his own, the breath sweet and beery against his face. "Later, okay?" Tony's hand was hot where it cupped Jethro's jaw, and his lips moved temptingly around and above Gibbs' own, nuzzling and stroking but not kissing. He brushed his lips finally, once, twice, three times across Gibbs' before licking into his mouth shallowly.

Gibbs didn't bother to push him away, just repeated his question even as he longed for Tony to lick deeper, longer. "What's got you scared?"

Tony kissed his eyes closed. "Do I seem scared to you?"

Suddenly, Gibbs had had enough. Surprising even himself, he propelled both of them across the hallway to slam Tony against the wall, hand cradling Tony's head to cushion it from impact but otherwise an impulsive move driven by frustration and thwarted desire.

"Enough." He growled against Tony's lips. "Tell me."

Tony's body was pliant and loose beneath his, but it wasn't relaxed. There was a controlled submission that was of a piece with his seduction. Jethro wondered if he was still being played. He shook Tony a little. "Tell. Me."

Tony's eyes were wild, glittering with emotion. "I can't."

"Tony. Yes, you can. Tell me."

"No, I can't. I can't. I can't tell you, but—"

Tony curled forward, pressing his forehead hard to Jethro's shoulder and neck and throat, trying to disappear, and Jethro's arms came up to hold him, unable to deny such an appeal. Tony rocked a little against him and his arms felt like steel bands around Jethro's torso. Jethro just waited, one hand resting at Tony's neck. Finally, Tony straightened and pulled away.

He reached out, flicked a light on, and blinking in the sudden brightness, said, "I can't tell you, but I can show you."

Gibbs was more than ready to get to the bottom of this. "Show me."

"We're going to the gym." He smiled mirthlessly. "Grab your gear." Tony's voice held an unnerving blend of resignation and determination.

Jethro felt worried for Tony suddenly, and all but demanded, "Do you want to eat first?"

"No, I'm not hungry. We'd better get this over with."

The worry intensified. "Tony, nothing that could possibly happen at the gym would change how I feel." They hadn't told each other how they felt, at least not the big stuff, but god knows Jethro knew he loved Tony and he believed that Tony loved him. Why the hell else would they be practically living together and jesus, discovering that he was gay or bi whatever the hell this was called.

Tony only held his eyes for a moment before looking away, moving to put the food away. Gibbs wondered if Tony thought he'd be back to eat it. Confused and alarmed, but not sure what else to do, Gibbs went upstairs to get ready.

They got a spot right in front of Merce's gym. Unsurprising since it was closed and there wasn't much of anything else open this time of night in this part of town.

Gibbs glanced over. "I didn't know you went here."

"Since you hired me and I followed you here." With that cryptic statement, Tony got out, pulling his keyring out of his pocket to unlock the door. They stepped inside and Tony went to the alarm keypad but didn't press in the keycode when he saw that it wasn't armed.

"Merce!?" Tony called out. They heard a distant shout and eventually, footsteps to go with it. Merce came through a door upstairs, walked along the balcony and down the stairs to join the two men.

"Hey, Tony. Glad you are finally using that key." He looked at Gibbs. "Jethro. I didn't know that you two knew each other. Though I suppose NCIS isn't that big."

Tony glanced over at Gibbs and then back to Merce. "I work for him."

"You work for this bastard?" He grinned and punched Tony in the shoulder, hard enough to rock the younger man back. "I always said you had guts, Tony."

Tony smirked. "Thanks, Merce. You headed out?"

Merce held out his hand, shook first Tony's then Gibbs'. "Yep, just finished. You boys lock up after you finish beating the shit out of each other, okay?"

"You got it, Merce."

Merce grumbled as he hefted his own gear and squeezed through the door Gibbs' held for him. When Gibbs turned back to Tony, Tony was coming out from behind the plexiglass booth. "Turned the cameras off."

"Why, you planning on killing me, Tony?"

"Do you love me?"

Gibbs felt immune to surprise at this point and just answered honestly. "Yes. I do." After a pause, he added, "Do you love me?"

"Yeah." Tony nodded and then took a deep breath before sitting down on a folding chair to change his shoes. Gibbs followed suit, taking minute to acknowledge how weird this particular declaration of love had been, just how different it likely was from those moments with the exes. Not that he really remembered the details. And Shannon...come to think of it, he didn't know if it was the first time he said it to her, but he definitely remembered bellowing "I love you dammit!" at Shannon in the middle of one fight or another.

After a few minutes, they both started stretching. When he finally followed Tony into the big practice ring, Gibbs was relieved just to be getting on with it.

After Tony's strange behavior, Gibbs was surprised that their grappling seemed no different than any other time. And as they circled one another, took each other's measure, the pressures of the day melted away in the sweet burn of physical exertion.

The two were evenly matched, always were, although Gibbs' focus was much better. In the Navy Yard gym, Tony was more distracted and inattention his greatest weakness. Here, in the dark gym, the world had narrowed to the bright illumination of their practice area, the sound of the other's breath, and the anticipation of the next move.

Tony really was showing himself to be even quicker and more ruthless than usual and Gibbs stepped up his fighting accordingly. Over and over Tony met his attacks and while Tony launched some in return, they were almost always in response to Gibbs'. Tony was letting Gibbs set the pace and Gibbs figured, finally, it was time to push harder. Fast and brutal, Gibbs pressed Tony. Tony didn't back down but instead met him blow for blow. A small corner of Gibbs' mind registered the bruises he was giving and getting, but so far, no blood had been spilled.

Gibbs had no idea how much time had passed. He had long since sunk into a fighting trance of sorts; his stamina and focus both had always been extraordinary. Here and now his world was Tony, something he admitted he felt a lot lately and some part of him wanted to roar in satisfaction. Tony was tiring; Gibbs could tell, and he dialed it back a little. That pissed Tony off, though, and suddenly he was rushing Gibbs and taking the other man down. Gibbs flipped them and won through, immobilizing Tony and asking for surrender. Tony just looked up at him, mouth set.

"You give?"

"For now. Until I stand up."

"Tony, isn't this enough?"

"Let me up, Jethro." At least he wasn't calling him Gibbs anymore.

Jethro stood, held out his hand, sure Tony would refuse, but he didn't. They squared off and started again.

A long, long time later, Jethro had Tony pinned yet again to the mat. There was blood on Tony's face from when Jethro's elbow had knocked into his nose. Other than waiting for the bleeding to stop, however, Tony had insisted they keep fighting.


Tony was gasping for breath, but still, flipped over gamely and struggled to his feet. "No." He charged Jethro and it was all Jethro could do to keep the younger man from hurting them both in his adrenaline-driven rush.

More time passed and Jethro's muscles bunched in pain and he couldn't understand what was keeping Tony going. Tony had pinned him a few times in the beginning but no longer. Tony's control was such that it wouldn't show to most people but Gibbs could feel from the beginning the passion with which Tony fought. This was personal for him and that made him subtly rash, expending energy more quickly and recklessly than he should, giving the edge to Jethro now, in the final—please let this be almost over—minutes of the bout.

Jethro pinned Tony again and again. And still Tony levered himself up, got ready to fight.

In the end, Jethro could see that Tony was never going to give in. He had never seen Tony this single-minded before, this determined, this irrational. So Jethro pinned and straddled his partner, holding down Tony's arms. And then he panted and filled his lungs until he could speak.

"What is this, Tony? I don't understand. Why won't you give up? What does this have to do with us?"

Tony waited longer for his own breath, eyes squeezing shut tight in pain, sweat and maybe some tears mixed in. Finally his body was relatively quiet beneath Jethro and his voice was harsh. "This is what it will be like to love me, I think."

"What? Like a fight?"

"No, like a fight that neither of us can ever win. I'll never turn away or walk away from you. Never. No matter what you do. As long as you love me, you have me."

Jethro reared back and howled, angry, and for the first time, Tony flinched, his body jerking a little under the other man. Jethro leaned over again, put hands on both sides of Tony's cheeks. "Explain," he demanded. Tony shifted just a little and Jethro immediately got off him, stumbling to his feet and holding out his hand warily. "You aren't going to start fighting again are you?"

Tony took the hand, grunted as he pushed himself up, standing on shaky legs next to Jethro. "If you want to keep fighting, I will. That's what I'm trying to tell you."

It went against the grain. Hell, he had won this fight, though no one this confused and pissed and turned on could also feel victorious. Nevertheless, he conceded. "No, I'm done." Tony nodded wearily and walked back over to the folding chair.

"We'd better stretch and get dry, then we'll talk."

"Make it fast, Tony. I am just about done waiting." He in fact, couldn't stay here, anger pushing him to do and say things that he didn't want between them. Ironic, that he had become the one pushing his partner to talk, the one taking care to not just say whatever was easiest to say. This thought pissed him off even more.

He stalked off to the locker room and stretched the bare minimum, took a shower and changed into the jeans and sweatshirt he had brought. Uncharacteristically efficient, Tony joined him six minutes later in his own jeans and a fleece.

Tony joined Jethro where he leaned against the counter.

"Where do you want to go?" Tony asked.

"Anywhere there is food." Jethro answered, wondering if Tony would bring them back home to eat the chinese food. Instead, took them around the corner, and a few blocks later they were in a small business district with restaurants and bars, an art house theater and some all night tattoo parlours. Jethro recognized a coffee house that Abby had dragged him to.

"Abby bring you down here?"

Tony smiled a little, glancing his way. "Yeah. We go to the movies down here sometimes. There is a bar with good food next door...here." He pushed in on the door and Jethro followed.

The place was dimly lit and crowded, a perfect place to go unnoticed. They slid into a small corner booth toward the back and a waitress came by with water and menus but Tony held up a hand and just ordered two chicken pies with an order of fries to come out right away. She took their orders for beer too and then they were alone.

Jethro observed Tony and he knew the other man was aware. When Tony didn't say anything, just looked around the bar, Jethro waited. He realized suddenly that he was interrogating Tony, was using silence as a lever. Resisting the urge to wait for Tony to break, he ventured, "Why'd you have a key to the gym?"

Tony looked over, met Jethro's eyes. "I thought you'd ask why I followed you."

Jethro smiled a crooked smile, his own version of a charm smile. "Nah, I know that." He let his smile grow as the waitress approached with their beer. She smiled beneath long lashes, barely glanced at Tony as she handed the beer to first Jethro then Tony. Well, at least it worked on her.

Tony raised his brows, smirking as he took a long pull from his beer. "Maybe you can get your girlfriend to bring us two more?"

Jethro called out before she got too far away. She turned, smiled again. He held up two fingers, pointed to the beer. She nodded and sashayed off toward the bar.

Tony continued, "I used to go a lot on the weekends, trying to keep up with you and impress you during the week. Merce was short-handed at one point and I helped out spotting and at the desk and eventually, he gave me a key."

Jethro was starting to realize that there was always more to Tony's stories. He waited for the rest and Tony eventually gave in. "I don't always sleep well either. Having the key to the gym meant I had somewhere to go in the middle of the night. I haven't been in a while, though."

Jethro nodded. "And the rest?"

Tony began hesitantly, "I know I owe you an explanation but it really is hard to figure out how to say it. I'm usually pretty good at talking." He glanced at Jethro, but Jethro didn't smile.

Tony took a deep breath and repeated his earlier question, "So you love me?"

"You know I do."

"How would I know that?"

"Fair point, I guess, but I did tell you about two extremely painful hours ago."

"Gibbs, why do you love me?"

Gibbs was so damn tired of not knowing what was going on, but shouting at Tony wasn't going to get him what he needed so he just played along. He didn't hide his impatience, though.

"Tony there is no why to love, it just is. Why do you think I can't love you?"

"I know that I am good looking and fun to be around and good in bed, but other than being good at my job—and I do realize that you might be one of the few people who actually likes me because of that—I'm not sure what else I have to bring to the party. Not enough for real love."

"Oh because you know so much about it."

Tony shook his head, "That's just it. I don't. I don't know anything about it. I know that at some point, long before all of," he gestured between them, alluding to their relationship, "this, your opinion counted more than anyone else's. From the beginning, really. But now, it's not just that your opinion, your judgment matters, but your happiness matters, you matter. You matter the most. And you...you...who wouldn't love you?"

Jethro started to speak, to deny such a patently ridiculous statement. Tony cut him off.

"But I love you, I do. And so I have to make you understand, you have to know what that means, what a burden that is—"

"You think I'm going to walk away." Jethro couldn't believe it. "You think I'm going to walk away from you now?" Tony looked like he was going to flinch again. "Tony. How couldyou think that?"

Jethro didn't know if it was right but he had to add something good, something soft, to the harsh pounding of Tony's disbelief and doubt. He leaned forward, just barely held himself back from kissing the other man in public. Settled for taking his hand instead. He didn't care who saw. "When have I ever backed away from something tough?"

"Never, Jethro, but...I…" His eyes flicked over and around the room, as if checking to make sure no one could overhear them but Gibbs could tell the younger man was far away as the words finally came.

"I am not good at protecting myself. I don't know how much to give or when to pull back. When I was younger, I was one of those kids that other kids liked at first but then felt weird around because I was just too much, too friendly and helpful and funny. I would really want to be your friend and normal kids, with normal parents, could tell. The boarding schools, as much as I hated them at first, were where I finally kind of got it right. I kept reinventing myself until I figured out the right amount of friendly to be to seem normal. Sports helped because the rules were clearer.

"That was the first thing I remember about working for you. It was so quiet. All the background noise was just gone. I knew just where I stood, from the beginning. It was such a relief. You didn't care what I thought, if it wasn't about work. You didn't analyze me or care that I came from money or even why I hadn't stayed in a job more than two years. You only care about now. And if I was good, then I got more work. And if I was bad, I got more work.

"You have no idea. It was like a breakaway, just me and the basket ahead of me, everyone else just faded away or were behind me or in the stands, watching."

The waitress was back, her gaze bouncing between the two men and their clasped hands. Gibbs sat back, to make room on the table, but didn't let go of Tony's hand until the last second just to make sure the other man knew he wasn't ashamed. Hell, he didn't give a fuck who saw.

"Well, now. Here you go...two chicken pot pies and a big order of fries, extra napkins and ketchup. Can I get you two anything else?"

Jethro was watching Tony who was not watching him. In fact, he was doing everything but looking at him. Disappointed but not surprised—clearly it wasn't going to be easy—he turned toward the waitress, smiled again at her. "Thank you...Barbara. Appreciate it."

"You enjoy your meals, okay? I'll leave you alone but just give me a shout or wave me down if you need anything." He nodded his thanks and Barbara moved away.

The world shrunk to just the two of them again. And, for the next few minutes, food. Jethro wasn't sure how to start. Mentally shrugged and said what was on his mind.

"Tony. I am only going to say this once, so listen up. I haven't been this close with someone since Shannon. I think there are a lot of reasons for that, and they are all about you. But even without them, the fact is that if there is no reason for anyone to love you then there is no reason for anyone to love me."

"I am a bastard, a total asshole to people sometimes. I am that way and even if I wanted to deny it, enough people say it that I have to believe them. I can only believe them. There is a part of me that recognizes that being a bastard gives me great pleasure. There is a reason I'm good at my job. I am willing to shoot people. I am willing to make the—Mike used to call it the "unholy alliance"—that says I know better. I am willing to send you and Kate and McGee into dangerous situations. And I fail, but when I don't fail, the world rights itself. And that means I'm always going to be a bastard, and happy about it.

"And you don't seem to care and everyone else always has. And I don't know if it is because you are a bastard too or because there is something wrong with you that you could love someone like me."

And Tony laughed and said, "Damn, we are fucked up."

Gibbs shrugged. "Maybe. Or maybe everyone else is."

They sat, in the dim light of the bar, without speaking, until Barbara came back. The silence was comfortable, even though there was more to be said. Gibbs finished his second beer and stood, pulling out his wallet. "Let's get out of here."

In the dark of the car, Tony spoke again, and Jethro thought that they were finally getting somewhere.

"Playing Tony, playing the playboy, being the playboy isn't...putting myself down. It's a control mechanism. It's the way I have always gotten the connection to other people that I need. I get too close for other people, scare them away, so I have learned to like my life, lots of little connections. But you changed that by accepting me for what I was, for owning me. Your possessiveness is part of what I love about you. I don't have any problem being loved by you, but I didn't count on the constant worry that I'll hurt you. The way that I feel I own you too, that your safety is now dependent on mine."

Gibbs realized something. "You think that you are going to hurt me."

"I don't have a lot of control when I want something, someone. Best way to protect them is to not let it get too serious. I am in uncharted water here."

"So you're afraid you'll hurt me."

"Well, you'll hurt me and that will hurt you."

"Enough, Tony. Enough. Just...stop, okay? You are making my head hurt." Gibbs turned into the driveway, turned off the engine. "We'll talk about it tomorrow. Tonight, you are going to see just how possessive I can be."

The night air was cool, bordering on cold but it was the warmth of Gibbs touch on his back that made Tony shiver. The hand-shaped web of heat on his lower back, a little too low to be mistaken as platonic, propelled him up the drive and steps all the way into the foyer.

Gibbs didn't turn the light on, just pressed firmly on Tony's shoulders as they paused in the dark of the entryway. Stay. Tony stayed.

Jethro seemed to study him in the dark, but the gentle brush of fingers on his face, cheeks, lips, down his chin, confirmed that he probably needed other senses beside sight to see Tony. His hands were gentle. Not soft, like a woman's, but like strength controlled, deliberate, like Gibbs. Like a choice.

Gibbs slid Tony's jacket off and turned easily to hang it on a nearby hook. Not rushed. When he turned back, Tony could just make out Gibbs bent head. And then he felt those hands on the naked skin of his stomach and the muscles clenched. Tony breathed out, not sure how they got here from the manic playacting of the last few days, the sinking fear that he might not be allowed back.

"Hey." Gibbs voice was rough, like his cheek, pressed against Tony's own. "C'mere." And his lips caught Tony's, licked into his mouth, drew the younger man's face to his own with a hand to his cheek. He slipped an arm around Tony and ushered him into the living room, flicking on a small lamp as they entered. "Sit down."

Tony let the reality of being here in this room, on this couch, in this house he wanted to call home, settle in his tired body and mind. He had tried to tell Gibbs, had fought him—he raised his hand to his nose, felt the tenderness still—and done what he could. He was so tired, of being himself, of holding back. Gibbs was the strongest man he knew. Maybe he could handle it, him

Gibbs knew what he wanted now. All that was left was the compulsion to show Tony what happened to people who tried to take what was his.

But before he could do that he needed to start a fire. He lit the kindling and paper he had laid a few days ago, waited til it caught and added some small pieces to start. Well begun, he rose from where he crouched to where Tony sat, watching.

Gibbs stood by the arm of the couch and leaned over, taking Tony's mouth in another heated kiss. His palm once again cupped Tony's face, and his fingers stroked and carressed until Tony was making little noises of encouragement. Then Jethro drew away, straightened. He pulled his own shirt over his head and reached for Tony's hand. Tony seemed uncertain of what was wanated of him, but Jethro pressed that hand, lean and strong like his own, to his stomach.

"Touch me." Tony breathed in on a gasp but his touch was sure. Using both hands, but staying seated, he pulled Jethro to stand between his knees so that he could run his fingers over the other man's belly and the soft skin of his sides, reaching up as high as he could reach. Jethro shivered and tensed, not bothering to hide his own reaction and he even allowed Tony to lean forward and kiss his belly button, licking softly into the sensitive place. Jethro's head dropped back and he laughed, low and helpless, ticklish even when aroused.

"Stop." Jethro moved back a step and then leaned down for another kiss, pressing a little harder this time, forcing Tony to relax back into the cushions, his head bent back to receive the kiss.

"I'll be right back." The growl, against his mouth, made Tony ache. A quick detour to throw another small log on the fire, really starting to get going now, and then the pad of bare feet double-timing it up the stairs. Tony closed his eyes.

When he opened them, rolling his head from where it rested comfortably to watch what Gibbs was doing, he saw that Jethro had set up some kind of thin matress on the floor and was covering it with quilts and blankets in front of the fire. When he was satisfied, he crossed by Tony as he went to the kitchen, pausing to run his fingers through Tony's hair, letting his nails score gently along Tony's scalp, not letting up until Tony couldn't help but make a small sound of satisfaction. Again, the brief press of lips, the soft palm on his shoulder. Stay.

Water running in the tap. A cupboard opening. Then Gibbs was back, holding out a hand. Tony reached out and allowed himself to be helped up, hand gripping wrist, wrestler-style. Jethro held up a hand, palm up, four ibuprophen. "Here, take two. Two are for me." Well, if Gibbs was going to take them, no need for Tony to be all tough about it. He kicked two back and then drank half the water and waited while Gibbs drank the rest.

"Gibbs, I—" Tony tried to speak, uncomfortable suddenly with his own silence, his own capitulation. He was an active lover, never had any complaints, but now he just wanted to let Gibbs...Jethro...

"Shut up, Dinozzo." The harsh words softened by the hand on his neck, the press of lightly chapped lips. "Mine, Tony. That's what you said tonight. For as long as I wanted." Tony nodded; he didn't have any more words. They were facing each other, close enough to feel each other's heat, and Jethro reached out, squeezed Tony's fingers. "One more thing." This time Jethro only went a few steps away, just far enough to snap off the light, leaving them in a room illuminated only by firelight.

"Take your clothes off for me." The quiet words took his breath away.

This, he could do. Tony moved a step away, kicked off his shoes and then stretched as he pulled the t-shirt off over his head, knowing this muscles bunched and released as he did so. His hands were at the button of his jeans even as the shirt settled on the floor. He hooked his thumbs under the edge of his waistband and lowered his jeans slowly, revealing his lack of underwear. He watched Jethro watch him, enjoyed the intensity with which his partner followed his every move, knew by now how the prominent bones of his hips were triggers for Jethro. He stepped out of the jeans, kicked them aside. Waited.

Jethro moved in until he was skin to skin, or skin to jeans, with Tony. Rolled his hips until he could feel the length of Tony's hard cock against his own, through the denim, and heard Tony breathing out harshly through his nose.


"You're mine as long as I want you." His voice was dreamy and slow, as if he was speaking to himself. "And I want you."

"No." The denial was automatic and not what Tony wanted to say, he wanted to accept what Jethro was offering.

Gibbs ignored this, just pushed him gently into lying down on the blankets by the fire. It was warm and light and the blankets were soft and Tony felt cared for even as Jethro crawled over him, the possessive gleam in his eye, the uncompromising demand for obedience, familiar if not in this context.

"You don't get to choose tonight, Tony. Just me. I decide who I love. I decide how you are loved." He put Tony's hands above his head and forced a knee between Tony's legs, pushing them apart, until Tony was spread out below him.

Tony should have felt vulnerable.

"Mine." He leaned down and sucked, hard, at Tony's neck, bringing blood to the surface, pain. And it wasn't enough for Jethro to mark him; he continued the pressure until Tony gasped and made a small sound. Only then did he lick at the small wound.

"You should have known what would happen, Tony, when you told me I could have you for as long as I wanted you."

There was no time, just the heat of Jethro's mouth, laying sweet tracks down and across Tony's body. He made long wet swirls even as his continued to mark and soothe the soft skin of Tony's nipples, the soft skin under his arms, across his ribs. When he reached Tony's stomach and abdominals, he kept up the same steady pace, and he used his mouth in every way, caressing and marking with lips and teeth and tongue. Finally, he rubbed his rough cheeks against the thin skin of Tony's inner thighs and the sound of Jethro inhaling there and all that it implied, made Tony's body arch in want and demand.

The husky laugh denied him what he wanted even as Jethro's tongue started licking along the seam of his leg. "Mine, Tony." And his body arched again and this time Jethro's mouth closed over his cock and the hard length of him slid as far down Jethro's throat as he could get.

"Oh no. Oh no. Please oh fuck no. Jethro." Another husky laugh but he felt this one all down the length of his throbbing prick as Jethro pulled off. Jesus.

"Not yet? We'll see." Jethro shifted and stretched, reaching and coming back with a small bottle. "I was going to make you beg me."

Tony waited, but the other man didn't say anything more, just squeezed slippery gel on his palm.

"But you're not?"

"No. I'm just going to take what's mine. Say it, Tony." Tony couldn't look away from the shadowy hand moving on his cock. "Say it."

"I'm yours."

Jethro pushed Tony's legs up.

"Do you trust me?"

"Yes. Oh god just please do it, Jethro. Please fuck me. I need to feel you inside me. Please."

Jethro pushed Tony's legs, knees back and slid a finger in, two. Tony lay there and let the waves of pleasure race through him, felt his cock laying heavy and throbbing against his belly. Long minutes later, Jethro added another finger, rotated and played, curling and straightening his fingers until Tony fucking writhed beneath him.

"Tell me." He demanded as he pulled his fingers out quickly and started pushing the head of his cock inside the other man. Pressing between Tony's spread legs, Jethro let out a long, unrestrained moan and Tony said, "Yes."

"Say it, Tony."


"And I. fucking. love. you." He punctuated his words with short jabs that made Tony cry out.

"Jesus. Harder. Yes, you love me, yes, I'm yours, yes yes yes."

Jethro rammed all the way home and instead of holding back, holding on, he let the all his pent up desire to own the other man rise up and, pressing close to Tony's body anywhere he could, he came in a viscious rush, a haze of lust, and the sweet belief that he was where he should be.

He lost time while his body came down, softened and slipped from Tony's body. When he was aware again, when a new need intruded and brought him back, he could feel Tony's lips on his neck, and his fingers scraping through the shaved hair at the back of his head.

Muscles bunched-damn he was going to be sore tomorrow—and he flipped them. After he arched up to catch Tony's mouth in a kiss that he knew would ratchet the younger man's desire back up, Jethro spoke as if there had been no break. "—And you are safe with me. You can't hurt me, Tony, not this way, and you can't want me too much. Go ahead, boy. I'm all yours."

Tony's eyes glittered in the light from the fire. "Mine?"

"Yours. Do it."

And now it was Tony's turn. Jethro was a little worried when Tony moved off him, but it was only to reach and snag the lube and then to roll Jethro up on his side, facing the fire. Tony lay down behind him, had Jethro lift up to rest his head on the arm Tony slipped underneath. Tony's stomach tightened and swirled in pleasure at the way Jethro was allowing this, and he buried his face in Jethro's neck, brought his other arm around to stroke and caress Jethro's chest. Despite having just come, the other man grunted his approval, pushed back deeper into the curve of Tony's body.

Tony couldn't wait any longer and once he fumbled with the top of the bottle, there was no hesitation. Jethro was still new to this and Tony took his time. By the time he pushed the head of his cock in Jethro's ass, he had Jethro moaning almost continuously against him, cock already hardening in Tony's fist. The both moaned now, both beyond talking, as Tony's hips rolled and pressed, deeper and deeper until he bottomed out.

The sound Jethro uttered then never failed to engage Tony's own very male desire to dominate and possess. He was certain that no one—no one—had ever had Leroy Jethro Gibbs laid out beneath them, moaning in ecstacy at being taken. Tony growled in Jethro's ear, even as he continued to lazily stroke the hard flesh beneath his palm, tighter, harder. Jesus, he was hard. His fist tightened and played with just the head of the older man's cock and Jethro bucked.

"Mine." When all he got was a grunt and Jethro straining and thrusting against him, trying to get Tony's hand and cock to fucking move, Tony repeated, as he speared upward, started jacking Jethro's cock, "Mine, babe. Mine."

There was no answer but for the sweaty slide of muscle against muscle, of strength. But Tony knew, knew in his gut, that Jethro was letting him all the way in, that this surrender was part of his lover's care for him, and even though he had never had anyone care for him this way before, he recognized it and with his own small cry of wonder, muffled against the round knob of Jethro's shoulder, he came deep in Jethro's body, just barely aware of the world beyond him, just enough to feel the matching pulses against his hand, nestled tight in Jethro's groin.

The need to sleep was almost irresistible, but so was the desire to get this right.

"Tony. Tony." Jethro reached back, stroked down the long line of Tony's buttocks and thighs. The other man objected sleepily, kissed Jethro's neck. "C'mon. Get up. You are a lot younger than me, you should be waking me up."

Tony didn't stop kissing his neck. "Not that much younger."

"C'mon. Get up." Groaning, Tony slid to his back and levered himself to his feet. Jethro followed, stripping the messy top blanket and throwing it, in a ball, to the corner. "Go." Pushed him for the downstairs half-bath. "I'll be right back."

A few minutes later, cleaned up and teeth brushed, they crawled back into bed together. Jethro had thrown another log on the fire and moved the mattress so they wouldn't roast in the night. It was this, going to bed together, closing up together, that was most difficult for Jethro to get his mind around. Doing this with a man. It was so domestic, somehow womanly. And yet he'd been taking care of himself and his home for years. And he was too tired to think his way around it tonight. When he slid under the covers with Tony, he accepted his kiss without hesitation.

Usually, they fit their bodies together like spoons, although they often drifted apart during the night. Tonight though, when Jethro pulled back, they lay facing each other on their own pillows.

Tony's eyes were half closed already. "Missed you this week."

"Yeah." Me too.


"Why don't you stay then?"

Tony's eyes opened wider at that, but his body stayed relaxed. "Just like that?"

Jethro felt the smile on his face, knew Tony could hear it if he couldn't see it. But he must have been able to see it because Jethro caught his answering smile before the words were out of his mouth.

"If by "just like that" you mean everything that has happened in the last six months, then yeah, just like that."


Jethro answered that with a kiss.

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