Series: Semper Fi #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 4442
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo
Category(ies): Episode Related, Unresolved Sexual Tension
Episode(s): 2-10 Chained
Summary: Tony got out of the car, wincing slightly. His back was stiff, his legs ached, his wrist hurt, and the cut on his chin was starting to sting. He wanted a shower and bed. And not necessarily in that order. What fresh hell did Gibbs have in mind?
Tony let his gun hand fall to his lap and hung his head. Holy fuck. Relief. Fear. Regret. And relief again. Then a sick feeling of failure.
When Gibbs opened the car door he looked up slowly. Gibbs's eyes blazed with his own mix of fear and relief.
"I really liked him."
"Yeah." Gibbs's tone was carefully casual. "I can see that."
"You look like hell."
"Glad to see you too, Boss." DiNozzo had shaken Gibbs off when he tried to help him out of the beat-up Ford. He was all right. And he was all business. He dropped his weapon into an evidence bag for the local CSI, then stepped off to let the team process the scene. Abby had called out the cavalry when they'd figured out where he was.
His ears were ringing. A gunshot at close quarters would do that to you. It would wear off in a while. Probably.
Tony watched as Gibbs won the jurisdictional pissing contest--although the Newport News cops hadn't put up much of a fight; the locals were more than happy to turn this mess over to the Feds. He gave a brief statement to the detective, replied to Kate's concern by asking if she needed a hug (that got him an elbow in the gut), and saw the local coroner sign Jeffrey White's body away to Ducky.
It was weird being at a scene with nothing to do. No pictures to take, no sketches, nothing to measure or bag. So when the paramedic came back to check on him--she was cute, with red hair not found in nature and funky eyeglasses--he followed her to the ambo, let her examine him and clean the cut on his chin. He accepted the bottle of water (and phone number) that she pressed on him.
He was all right. He was fine.
He was...numb. The shaking and puking would come later. Self-defense or not--the healthy human mind recoils from using deadly force. Leaving aside his own experiences, DiNozzo had sat through enough CopShock seminars to know what to expect. Stir that mess up with the adrenaline crash that hit after any undercover assignment, and you get a delightful cocktail of crap for a good few days and nights to come. Attaboy, Tony!
Training and routine took over as Tony headed toward the sedan and mentally composed his incident report. There'd be a pro forma hearing; he'd be cleared and back in the field within a week. Maybe less. He remembered the horror stories from the Balto PD about good police getting hung up in bureaucracy for months over a righteous shooting. This kind of thing was simpler for the Navy: they were used to warfare. No press. No prosecutors. A clean shoot was a clean shoot.
Gibbs seemed ready to start debriefing as soon as they got into the sedan. Tony stretched to work the tension out of his neck and massaged the raw spot on his wrist where the handcuff had chafed.
"You need a medic?" Gibbs watched Tony's face, no doubt looking for signs of weakness.
He rubbed a hand over his stubble. It itched. "I could use a razor."
The car bumped over something and stopped. Tony's eyes clicked open. It was dark. Had he dozed off? Had Gibbs let him doze off?
"Uh...this is your house, Boss."
"Yup." Gibbs got out of the car and headed up the walk.
Tony waited. Was Gibbs coming back or would he have to find a bus stop? Could you even get a bus from Takoma Park to SWDC?
"Yeah, Boss?" He opened the car door. Gibbs was standing--waiting?--on the front steps.
"You gonna sit out there all night?"
Tony got out of the car, wincing slightly. His back was stiff, his legs ached, his wrist hurt, and the cut on his chin was starting to sting. He wanted a shower and bed. And not necessarily in that order. What fresh hell did Gibbs have in mind?
"You know where the head is," Gibbs said, hanging his jacket in the closet. "I'll leave some fresh gear out for you."
The idea of being in Gibbs's house had been on his mind a lot lately, just not under these circumstances. "Yeah, but why...?"
"Get cleaned up first, DiNozzo. Then we'll talk."
With a sigh, Tony climbed the stairs. This was the only house he'd ever been in where the stairs didn't mark your passage with squeaks and creaks. It was a good house. Craftsman style. Lots of wood. Solid. Tony trailed his fingers along the bannister. Solid. Like a ship.
The bathroom was shipshape too--got to remember not to leave my towel on the floor this time--small but functional. White tile with black trim. Original lavatory-style sink and clawfoot tub. The toilet was relatively new, but a good reproduction; Gibbs, or possibly the most recent Mrs. Gibbs, had obviously taken a lot of care to keep as close to the original design of the house as possible.
He rolled the kinks out of his shoulders and eyed himself in the medicine cabinet mirror. He did look like hell. The slicked-back hair had been Abby's idea. She'd assured him that all hardened criminals wore their hair this way.
It had worked on Jeffrey White. Almost.
Tony kicked his clothes into a pile by the door--to hell with Gibbs's ideas of neatness. He started the water running and adjusted the temperature until it was as hot as he could stand it. Stepping into the tub, he pulled the curtain around and flipped the lever for the shower.
The hot water felt good as it rained down on him and splashed against the porcelain. It drowned out the gunshot ringing in his ears. He could almost fall asleep standing here--except for the image of Jeffrey, sprawled and bloody on the backseat of the old Ford, that swam up every time he closed his eyes.
It shouldn't have ended like that. He'd missed so many clues. He should have seen that there was more to Jeffrey White than the weak, clinging, damaged little-boy persona he'd shown Tony. But he'd let his guard down and taken Jeffrey at face value.
Tony, of all people, knew how easy it was to hide yourself behind whatever mask would work. You show people what they expect to see and they stop looking at you. He'd learned that a long time ago. It was the key to a successful cover--you had to believe in it. The truth was always easier to remember and easier to sell, so you worked a lot of your truth into the character you were playing.
Of course, Tony played some kind of character every day. Sometimes it was hard to keep track. And, since Jeffrey apparently made him as a cop from the get-go, maybe he was losing his touch.
He shampooed the goo out of his hair and let the hot water rain down on his back. Lathering up a facecloth, he wiped grime from his neck. The soap smelled good. It smelled...clean. Well duh, soap should smell clean. Smelled like Gibbs. Was it some kind of special super clean Marine soap? Whatever. It felt good.
Tony winced as he passed the washcloth over his ribs. Now that was a fugly bruise. When had that happened? Of course--the tumble down the hill into the stream. Nothing broken, the cute paramedic had said. He'd just have to ease up on the crunches for awhile.
He pulled back the shower curtain. A disposable razor and a can of shaving cream were laid out on the vanity. They hadn't been there when he got into the shower. And his clothes were gone. How did Gibbs do that? Tony shaved gingerly, avoiding the cut on his chin. It wasn't deep, but would probably leave a scar. Another one for the collection.
With a towel around his waist, he made his way to the spare room. You could bounce a quarter off the bed. Tony knew this because he'd tried it last time he was here. He found the grey sweats and white NCIS duty t-shirt folded on the dresser. They were soft and well-worn. And they had that clean smell, too.
Gibbs closed the lid of the barbecue and took a swig from his beer bottle. Just two more minutes...or maybe not. He realized he had no idea how Tony liked a steak done. He gave it another 90 seconds, then turned off the grill.
This one had been too close.
On the long drive back from Virginia, with DiNozzo twitching in his sleep in the passenger seat, Gibbs had gone over all the mistakes they'd made.
Abby should have insisted that Tony swallow the GPS thing, or Ducky could have implanted it under his skin somewhere, and the hell with Tony's objections. Gibbs would make sure next time, even if he had to insert it in a suppository himself.
Heads were going to roll at Norfolk. They were supposed to vet all civilian employees - fingerprints, criminal records, the works. How had they not known that the guy crating up those Iraqi antiquities was wanted for murder in Seattle? Gibbs didn't even want to think about how many Bin Laden brother-in-laws could be lurking around the base, if security was that lax.
McGee? Well. He had to admit McGee had done a good job. Gibbs wished he could have seen Deputy Secretary Elliot's face when McGee told her to stick it.
Then there was DiNozzo. Okay, Tony had screwed up some. He'd underestimated White. That wasn't something you could afford to do very often in this business. But the trick with the cell phone had been clever. And if I'd figured it out the first time he called instead of the third...
Gibbs cursed himself, silently. They'd laid this operation on too fast. They'd knuckled under to pressure from the politicians. He should have insisted on interrogating White himself while they had him in custody. Even if he wouldn't tell them where the stuff was, Gibbs was sure he would have sensed something hinky about the guy. He'd come way too close to losing an agent. Losing DiNozzo. They'd relied too heavily on technology and gadgets. Gadgets could fail. Tony could have died. But people--at least good people, the kind he tried to surround himself with--could usually catch a mistake.
And Tony was good. He was a good agent, amazing with undercover work. Gibbs smirked, remembering the hazing he'd given DiNozzo when he let Abby pierce his ear for that arms dealer case last year. But he knew that was what he needed to play the part, so he did it. Didn't matter what I thought or how I ragged him. The smirk abruptly disappeared, as he realized once more just how much had been riding on Tony's instincts.
He opened a tub of cole slaw and set it and some plates on the table outside. It was a nice night. Late season fireflies winking at the end of the yard, music drifting over from down the block somewhere, and a hint of woodsmoke mingling with a crispness in the air to remind you that winter wasn't far off.
Okay, so Gibbs hadn't ripped him a new one...yet. Instead, he'd grilled them both steaks. Sure, they were a little bloodier than Tony liked, especially after today. But still--steak! Tony sliced another chunk of meat, then took as long as he possibly could to chew and swallow. He didn't know what he was supposed to say. How do you make conversation when you're waiting for the hammer to fall?
"Great steak, Boss."
"You use charcoal or..."
"Hmm." Tony nodded, suddenly registering the presence of a large grey tank attached to the grill, and wondering if Gibbs would chalk him off as unobservant or just stupid.
Gibbs shifted a little and took a long pull on his beer. This wasn't supposed to be like this. He'd wanted...well, he wasn't really sure what he wanted. He just felt like he should keep an eye on DiNozzo tonight. There was a big difference between killing someone in combat and killing someone in law enforcement--in combat, you usually had your buddies with you. Cops just went home.
But he hadn't expected these awkward silences. Tony was always distracting him with his chatter about women, movies, cars, tea, women...but not tonight. Gibbs cast around for something to say, but everything he thought of seemed wrong. What was a good safe subject?
"Nice night, huh?" Weather? Christ.
"Yeah." DiNozzo put his fork down, picked it up, put it down again and took a sip of beer. "Lot of stars. I don't see this many from my place. Light pollution."
Gibbs agreed. "Never really gets dark anymore."
Tony picked at his cole slaw and took a deep breath. Might as well get this over with. "I screwed up, Boss."
"Yeah, Tony. You did."
"Je--White conned me. I should have been more suspicious when Danielson--Collins, whatever his name was--disappeared."
"Why do think he didn't just kill you in your sleep?"
"Well, for one thing, I didn't actually go to sleep." Tony sliced another piece of steak. It was pretty good this way. "And he...liked me, Boss."
Tony's inflection told Gibbs all he needed to know about that. It was part of going undercover. You used whatever you could to earn the dirtbags' trust.
"Lucky for me, he figured I'd be a better wingman than Lane," DiNozzo continued with an ironic smile. "At least until he got the money. Then he'd have cut my throat."
"It's better to be good than lucky, DiNozzo." Gibbs turned back to his dinner. "Don't let it happen again."
That's it? He tensed up, waiting for the other shoe to drop, but Gibbs seemed to think the discussion was over. Tony jumped as something brushed by his leg. A small striped grey cat mewed at him pitifully. "I didn't know you had a cat, Gibbs."
"I don't." Gibbs scooped the cat up and allowed her to rub her head against his jaw. "She just likes to hang out back here."
Tony hid a smile as Gibbs petted the cat, told her she was a good girl, and fed her a small piece of meat. Second B Is For Bastard Gibbs going all oogie over a cat. That? Was way funny. The cat jumped from his lap to the table and promptly rolled over to have her belly rubbed.
As Gibbs stroked the cat, his expression softened and she began to purr loudly. Tony wasn't much of a cat person, but he knew they only showed their soft spots like that when they trusted you. When they felt--safe.
With no warning, what started out as a laugh threatened to turn into a--get a grip, Tony. He was not doing this. He was not going to lose it in front of Gibbs.
If Gibbs noticed anything, he gave no sign. His attention was focused on the cat, whispering the same dumb stuff that everyone says to cats, dogs, and babies.
Tony held his breath, trying to quiet the trembling feeling in his chest, then took refuge in a large gulp of beer. It hit his stomach in a sharp, acid splash. Okay, bad idea. Clamping a hand over his mouth, he sprinted to the kitchen; he knew he'd never make it to the bathroom. With a wrenching spasm, Tony emptied his stomach contents into Gibbs's--thankfully empty--kitchen sink.
"It's okay." Gibbs had arrived next to him without a sound, as usual. "Just get it out, Tony." Wrapping one hand around Tony's bicep as he rubbed his back with the other, he continued in the same low voice he had used with the tabby, "You're all right. You're gonna be fine."
A few dry heaves and it was over, leaving him raw and turned inside out. Tony swiped a hand across his mouth.
Still rubbing circles between his shoulder blades, Gibbs reached for a glass from the cupboard next to the sink and filled it from the tap.
"Boss, I'm sorry. I don't know..."
"I do know. Just drink this."
Tony rinsed his mouth, and stayed braced against the counter. He fucking hated this part. He hated losing control. Hated feeling helpless. He closed his eyes, momentarily mesmerized by the soothing warmth of Gibbs's hand on his back. With a shaky breath, he straightened up. "Lemme clean this up..."
"You go on up to bed. I'll take care of it."
DiNozzo nodded, too wrung out to argue or wonder when this had turned into a sleepover. Don't go there, Tony. Probably a good idea to get closer to the bathroom, though. And if he'd been tired before, it was nothing compared to how he felt now. Not to mention embarrassed...although if he had to choose between bawling in front of Gibbs and puking in front of Gibbs, puking would win. Hands down. He'd rather puke on Gibbs than cry anywhere near him. He still wasn't sure what he was doing here, but it beat the hell out of sitting in the dark at home.
"Put the garbage pail next to your bed, will you?"
Tony grinned, weakly, and tossed Gibbs a mock salute.
Gibbs ran some water in the sink and flipped the switch for the garbage disposal. His hand still tingled a bit from the friction of Tony's shirt.
Tony didn't think he had anything left in his stomach, but he brought the bathroom wastebasket into the spare room, just in case. He crawled into bed, turning over on his left side. No good. The bruise over his ribs was throbbing. He flipped over to his right side, fluffed the pillows a bit, and closed his eyes. Still no good.
His body ached for sleep but his brain wouldn't call it a night. This is how we punish ourselves. He tried playing a movie in his mind. That usually worked. But, right now, he couldn't think of a single film that didn't involve guns, violence, and very bad men.
Finally admitting defeat, Tony switched on the bedside lamp and surveyed the corner bookshelf. He'd been amazed at the number of books in Gibbs's house the first time he stayed here. Every room had shelves of them--even the kitchen. Then there was the towering stack he'd seen through the open door of Gibbs's bedroom. He didn't know when Gibbs had time to do all this reading, though; as far as Tony had been able to tell, if Gibbs wasn't working, he was down in that basement playing Noah.
But there was the time the boiler in his apartment building blew and Gibbs had let him stay for what turned out to be nearly six weeks. He'd gotten up once in the middle of the night to take a leak and peeked in when he saw the light in Gibbs's bedroom. Gibbs wasn't in bed. He was sitting on the rug, leaning against the side of the bed, head thrown back, fast asleep, still wearing his reading glasses. There was a book in his lap, a finger marking his place.
DiNozzo had leaned further into the doorway, cocking his head to read the title of the book. Failure Is Not An Option, by Gene Kranz. Gene Kranz. DiNozzo remembered him from Apollo 13. Ed Harris, with his micrometered brush cut and spotless white vest. Definitely a Gibbs-type personality. He wondered, briefly, if Gibbs was suing this Kranz dude for stealing his personal credo.
Then he'd backed out slowly, reflecting that it was no wonder Gibbs was so cranky. Did the man ever just sleep in the damn bed? Nocturnal habits like that might explain a lot about his three divorces.
And there was the very book Tony was thinking of, right on the shelf in front of him. He took it back to bed with him, shifting in a vain attempt to find a comfortable position.
Gibbs used a rubber mallet to hammer the crossbeam in place. It had rained almost every day for the last two weeks, and the wood was swollen and difficult to work. It would be easier when winter came and he could put the furnace on.
He was tired, but he knew sleep wouldn't come for a long time. Too many sounds and images that wouldn't go away. Like Lieutenant Cameron's sucking chest wound. Like the day we went back to Brcko. Like Tony lying in that ditch instead of Lane Danielson.
He poured some bourbon into his mug and sat on the old kitchen chair by the workbench, his feet propped on the milk crate he kept for that purpose. He stared at the boat. She was going to be beautiful. Someday. He looked up when he heard a soft tread on the basement steps.
"Hey, Boss?" Tony padded down in bare feet.
"What do you need, Tony?"
"Do you have an aspirin or something? I looked in the medicine cabinet." Tony stayed by the stairs, one foot still on the last step.
"You have a headache?"
"No. I bruised my ribs yesterday. I didn't really feel it then but it hurts like a son of a bitch now."
"You sure nothing's broken?"
"Yeah. That EMT checked me out and said I was okay."
"Yeah, I saw her check you out, Tony." Gibbs smiled. "Lemme have a look."
Tony moved toward the workbench and raised his shirt a little. Gibbs turned in his chair and pushed the shirt further up, out of the way.
"Hell of a bruise you got there. Get Ducky to look at it tomorrow." Gibbs looked up at Tony. "He won't be distracted like that paramedic was."
"So. Aspirin, Vicodin...novocaine?"
"Nope. Got something better." Gibbs let Tony's shirt fall back in place and pulled a small blue glass jar from the workbench drawer. "Horse liniment."
"Best thing for bruises, muscle aches---"
"Horse liniment?" Tony took a step back. The trainer had used liniment on sports injuries in college, but Tony was pretty sure it was people liniment.
"Jesus, DiNozzo, you don't eat it, you rub it on." Gibbs grabbed a handful of Tony's shirt and pulled him closer. He raised the shirt with one hand and started applying the ointment with the other.
DiNozzo flinched. "That's cold, Boss!"
"That'll warm you up." Gibbs nodded toward the mug on the workbench.
The bourbon burned Tony's throat a bit on the way down. Despite his shaky stomach, it felt good. Between this and the coffee, Tony was amazed that Gibbs had any stomach lining left. He must--Whoa.
Gibbs paused when he heard Tony's indrawn breath and felt the hard point that slid under his hand as he pushed the shirt higher. As if by reflex, he continued rubbing the liniment in, slowly, not pressing too hard, but firmly enough to penetrate. Tony's skin was smooth and hot to the touch. Gibbs's hand seemed to have grown a mind of its own because every logic circuit in his brain was telling him to stop. Now.
Tony closed his eyes. How many times had he thought about this? How many times had he cursed himself for not making an opportunity like this when he had that six-week chance before? He was here. Alone with Gibbs. The feel of Gibbs's hands on him like that--warm, a little calloused, and unbelievably good. Gibbs would have no idea what he was doing to him. Would he? Tony could feel the blood rushing south as Gibbs's hand moved in slow circles. Just like when he'd been sick. Just like with the cat.
He opened his eyes and bit the inside of his cheek. Hard. He's just taking care of you, you sick son of a bitch. "That--that feels better, Boss," his voice cracked a little as he backed off. Tony couldn't hide much in these sweats and he'd embarrassed himself enough for one day.
There was a long moment of humming tension as Gibbs fought the urge to pull Tony close again. DiNozzo had been to hell and back in the last 24 hours. They both had. And it didn't matter how good it felt to have his hands on Tony like that. Tony couldn't be thinking straight. And neither am I. It was a bad, bad idea. Especially right now. He stood and picked up a rag to wipe the liniment off his hand, turning his back to Tony. "Be sure and get Ducky to look at that."
"I will, Boss." Tony put the cup back on the workbench. "Thanks." He should go upstairs. He should turn around and get back into that narrow bed with Ed Harris and read about the McGeeks of an earlier generation. But he wasn't going to be able to sleep. And he didn't want to be alone with his thoughts, because they would show him things that he really didn't want to see right now. Gibbs was still fiddling with things on the workbench.
"Mind if I watch a little TV?"
"Not really. You?"
Gibbs smiled as he turned around. "Not really."
DiNozzo settled himself on the floor in front of the TV, leaning back against the frame of the boat. He sat on an old piece of carpet that he guessed Gibbs knelt on when he was working close to the floor. That concrete wouldn't do his knee any good. It was more comfortable than Tony expected. His ribs still ached, but the pain was growing dull and distant. Horse liniment. Who knew?
He resigned himself to watching the all-news channel that kept Gibbs company on these late nights. But after a little while, the low voices of the television talking heads and the rasping sound of Gibbs filing down some rough edges on the planking blended together into a soft rhythm which began to lull Tony to sleep.
Gibbs gripped the handles of the rasp. Slow and steady, nice even pressure, moving with the grain of the wood. She would be beautiful. But it would take time. You couldn't rush with something like this. You had to choose your materials and your tools carefully. You had to know what you were doing if you wanted a boat to be seaworthy and weatherly.
He glanced over at DiNozzo, sound asleep now, with his head resting against a timber. His breathing was slow and even as the light from the television played over his face.
Gibbs didn't think about how the finished boat would get from his basement to the water. In his experience, things like that just had a way of working out.