Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 2506
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo, Ducky Mallard
Category(ies): Angst/Drama, Friendship
Summary: Gibbs. Sprawled on the living room couch. Head thrown back. Humming. Empty chip bags and soda cans scattered around him. Tony approached the couch cautiously.
"Gibbs?" Tony kicked off his shoes and hung his tie and jacket on a hook. He was tired. It had been a long, painful day of inactivity. He'd spent the morning going over his testimony for the Villiers case with Lieutenant Commander Coleman, one of his favourite people--not. Then, for his sins, he'd spent four hours sitting in a JAG witness room until they told him he could leave because the case had been pled out.
As he unbuttoned and untucked his shirt, he could hear some old--Kansas?--song on the living room stereo. Odd. And what was that--"Hey, Gibbs! Why does this place smell like--" Tony froze.
Gibbs. Sprawled on the living room couch. Head thrown back. Humming. Humming? Empty chip bags and soda cans scattered around him. Tony approached the couch cautiously. "Uh, Gibbs?"
"Yeah." Gibbs didn't open his eyes. He continued humming along to the song.
"Are you okay?" He squatted next to the couch.
"Fine. Why?" Gibbs sat up a little and opened his eyes.
"Uh...because this place smells like a Deadhead convention?" Tony didn't know whether to laugh or hit somebody. "What the hell's going on?"
"God, Tony, you sound like my mother. Chill out."
"'Chill out'? Did you just tell me to chill out?" He blinked a few times then stood up, stunned. "Gibbs, you--you're stoned!" He took a step back. "You're lit!" He looked around at the snack food detritus. "You're Woody freakin' Harrelson sitting here! And you want me to chill out?"
"Hey. Turn the volume down, DiNozzo." He shifted his legs and patted a spot on the couch next to him. "Sit down. Have a Dorito...no, wait, I ate them all. Uhh…here's another bag...nope, ate them too."
Tony took a deep breath and perched next to Gibbs. There had to be a rational explanation for this. He examined Gibbs's eyes--slightly bloodshot, and the pupils were dilated. Could someone have slipped him-—but then why would that smell be everywhere?
"Are you sitting on my Doritos?"
"I'm not sitting on anything. Now, Gibbs," DiNozzo spoke slowly and softly as he laid two fingers on Gibbs's neck. Pulse was a little fast, but nothing dangerous. "I want you to tell me how you got this way. Did you--I don't know--wander into to a Zeppelin tribute concert or bust some Rastafarians?"
"Well, what do you think, DiNozzo? I was at work all day. You think I had time to go bust some Rasta...Fasta...whatever it was you said?" Gibbs glanced around the room, then patted around Tony's legs and inside his shirt, sliding a hand under his ass. "And if you're not sitting on my Doritos, then where are they?"
"Hey!" Tony grabbed Gibbs's wrist. "They're all gone. You must have eaten every Dorito east of the Mississippi."
Gibbs gave his ass a squeeze and smiled. "Fritos. I still have Fritos."
"Don't try to distract me." Gibbs's hand moved up Tony's back and under his t-shirt. "Where did you get the pot, Gibbs?"
"Pot?" Gibbs snickered and moved his hand back under Tony's ass. "I don't know what you're talking about, Officer."
"Hey!" Tony's voice went up an octave when Gibbs goosed him.
"Never mind." Tony opened his cell phone and started dialing. "Just stay right here. I'm calling Ducky."
"Oh, good idea." Gibbs smiled and nestled closer to Tony. "He can bring us some more."
"More?" He snapped the phone closed. Nightmare? Elaborate joke? "Please tell me you're talking about Doritos, Boss."
"Hey, that's a thought." Gibbs made a grab for the phone. "He can bring more Doritos, too."
Tony held the phone out of Gibbs's reach, then clipped it back on his belt when he realized Gibbs had lost interest. "Okay. Focus, Gibbs. Look at me."
"Okay." He frowned intelligently. "Why?"
"I need you to concentrate. Are you telling me that Ducky gave you pot?"
"He prescribed it. He's a doctor." Gibbs started feeling around Tony again. "Are you sure you haven't seen a bag of Doritos?"
Tony handed him the bag of Fritos from the coffee table. Gibbs smiled and dug in. "Ducky prescribed it for you? Has he gone senile? This is illegal, Gibbs. And worse, it's freaking me out!"
"Here, have a Frito." Gibbs paused and thought for a minute, licking salt from his fingers. "They're not Doritos, but they're pretty good. I keep forgetting how much I like junk food. You gonna to call Ducky or what?"
"I'm not gonna call him, I'm gonna kill him!" He stared at Gibbs. "Why would he do this? Why would you do this?"
"You know what? You're really, really tense." He brushed his fingers along Tony’s neck and then started massaging with both hands. "You need to relax. I'd say you should take a hit, but it's all gone."
Against his better judgment, Tony relaxed a fraction. Gibbs had the best hands. "I think you're relaxed enough for the both of us."
Gibbs leaned in and kissed the back of Tony's neck. "I just feel good." His voice lowered. "I know you like to feel good too, Tony."
He pulled away slightly. "I do like to feel good. But I like to know what the hell is going on, too."
Gibbs pulled him closer and continued the massage. "You're a trained investigator. You figure it out." He blinked slowly. "Hey, did you know you have blonde neck hairs?"
"My mother was blonde." Don't go there. "Look Gibbs, you're scaring me. If we were on a base or shipboard I'd have to arrest you like some dope-smoking petty officer."
He felt Gibbs move in closer, wrapping his arms around him and resting his chin on Tony's shoulder. "Yeah, but you wouldn't." Tony shivered as Gibbs blew on the back of his neck. "Hey, that's neat! All those little blonde hairs."
Resigned to the fact that he wasn't going to get any reasonable answers anytime soon, Tony leaned back against Gibbs and sighed. "So, is this a regular thing with you? Should I learn how to do tie dye?"
"Mmmm." Gibbs nuzzled Tony. "You smell really good. Like chicken."
"I do not smell like chicken." Tony smiled, despite himself.
"Hey, let's get some chicken!" He pushed Tony forward and started off the couch. "Remember that place we went that time?"
"Okay, relax." I'm telling him to relax now? "I'll go phone and get them to deliver." He put the Fritos back in Gibbs's lap and headed for the kitchen.
"You're kind of cute when you're humouring the stoned guy."
"Yeah. I get very cute when I'm confused." He turned up the stereo as Gibbs started to hum again.
He hit the speed dial as soon as he was out of earshot.
"Okay, Doctor Mallard, and I use the title very loosely, you wanna tell me what the hell you did to Gibbs?" Tony pulled a glass from the cupboard and poured some orange juice—Vitamin C was good for bringing somebody down.
"Ah, Tony. Yes. I tried to reach you earlier, but you were incommunicado. This isn't really the kind of conversation we should have on the telephone."
"Well, we better have some kind of conversation, Ducky. What the hell were you thinking?"
"I'll explain it all to you, but not on the telephone. We'll speak tomorrow. Come and see me."
"Ducky, you've gotta—"
"Just, er, 'go with it'. See that he doesn't come to any harm."
"Till tomorrow, then!"
Tony stared at the phone. So it was true. Ducky. Gave Gibbs pot. On purpose. Which Gibbs then, apparently, smoked. And, given the profusion of munchie-food, he'd obviously planned it. And had done it before. Gibbs. Stoned. It didn't fit. 'Go with it', huh? He looked at the orange juice and then drained the glass himself.
"Hey! I missed you! Where's the chicken?" Gibbs joined him in the kitchen. His gait was loose and easy, he wasn't overcompensating like a drunk. He seemed to be completely unimpaired. Physically, anyway.
"Right. Chicken. What do you want?" Tony rooted around in the kitchen drawer looking for the take-out menu.
Gibbs hoisted himself on the kitchen counter next to Tony. "A bucket of fried chicken, extra crispy, mashed potatoes, six biscuits, coleslaw, and a baked potato with extra sour cream. And a large diet Coke." He patted Tony's shoulder affectionately. "And you can have whatever you want. My treat."
"Diet Coke. Nice touch." He unearthed the menu and went to the wall phone. He was half-finished dialing when Gibbs pulled the receiver out of his hand and hung up.
He slipped his arms around Tony and murmured against his neck, "I changed my mind. Let's take the Fritos and go to bed. Oh, and the Hostess Snowballs. And the frosting."
Tony tilted his head to give Gibbs better access. "We have Hostess Snowballs?"
"If you're nice to me," Gibbs's arm came around Tony's shoulders as he urged him toward the stairs, "I might even share."
"Ducky!" DiNozzo's tone was menacing as he entered Autopsy.
"Not here!" Mallard picked up his hat and overcoat and gestured for DiNozzo to follow him. The boy was distraught, and Ducky didn't want to have a scene in front of the deceased. Or Mister Palmer.
DiNozzo followed him out the front door and into the Yard. The rhythmic click of the Marine drill team's rifles punctuated their steps and echoed across the river.
Mallard paused by a cannon and watched the Marines. Such precision. Such dedication. Even if it was really just for show. "Tell me, Tony. Are there things in your life that you wish you'd never seen? Things you wouldn't wish on your worst enemy?"
"I've been a cop for a long time, Ducky." Tony sighed and put his hands in his pockets. "Working Homicide was not exactly a G-rated experience."
"And what about outside of your job? Have you ever done something, experienced something that you would give anything to just wipe from your memory?" Grey and white clouds scudded over the river. A smell of ozone, freshening after the early morning thunderstorm.
Tony nodded, slowly, but didn't volunteer any examples.
Just as I suspected. Mallard breathed deeply. "Do you smell that, Tony?"
"Yes. It is a form of elemental oxygen. It is a reactive gas and, even at low concentrations, is irritating and toxic. Yet," Ducky gestured and Tony walked along the path with him, "we think of it as a fresh, clean smell that comes when the storm is over." He paused and took another lungful. "It is both cleansing and toxic. It's used as a bleach, as a deodorizing agent. It's even used to sterilize air and drinking water."
Tony laid a restraining hand on Mallard's arm. "You didn't give Gibbs a bottle of ozone last night, Ducky."
"Did you read Caitlin's report on the case that came in while you were in court yesterday?"
"She and Agent McGee were here with Abby half the night processing evidence and going over that bastard's statement."
Mallard's voice became bitter, "A young Marine lieutenant and her two daughters were brutally murdered yesterday morning. Stabbed to death. It was the ex-husband, of course. Open and shut. The bastard was still at the scene when the MPs arrived."
Tony's jaw tightened. "How old?"
"Four and seven." Mallard watched as Tony processed the information.
"Oh, he managed all right until he tried to take the bastard's statement. When he said that he'd 'killed the bitches and would do it again', Jethro became, well, I'm sure you know. To his credit, he left Kate to take the statement and assisted McGee with the photographs and such." Mallard eyed Tony carefully. "And he became very quiet."
When DiNozzo didn't respond, Mallard continued, "Tony, for all you know about him—and don't think for a moment that your more recent…involvement has escaped my notice—" Tony looked at him sharply and flushed a little, but said nothing. "You really don't know what it's like in his mind. And, please God, you never will."
"But that still doesn't explain--"
"I'm trying to tell you!" They'd reached the fence. Mallard paused and collected himself for a moment, then turned back on the path. "When you're Leroy Jethro Gibbs, you take a lot on yourself. He wants to fix things. He wants to keep people safe. And when something like this happens, irrational as it may seem to you and I, he takes it as a personal failure." Ducky rubbed a hand over his forehead. "There's obviously more to it than that, but it's not my place to tell you any more than I have. You must simply understand that, occasionally--no more once or twice a year--he reaches a breaking point. And when I see the signs, I do what I feel I must to keep him whole."
He stopped and and turned to face Tony. "To keep him here, Tony."
Tony paled and went quiet for a moment. "Why can't he just—"
"Just what? Talk about it? If you think it's hard to work with Gibbs, think about what it's like to be Gibbs." Mallard pulled his collar in a little and continued walking. "To demand that kind of perfection from oneself… Look, Tony, I'm not going to justify myself to you. I've already said more than I should. When I feel it's medically necessary, I help Jethro take a little holiday from himself."
"By rolling a joint for him?" Tony was subdued, but still a little incredulous.
Ducky chuckled. "I would much prefer to use opium, but it's dreadfully hard to come by and when you can procure it, it's often highly adulterated. I like to use cannabis sativa because it induces mild euphoria without serious impairment and with almost non-existent aftereffects. And, unlike opium, it's not at all addictive."
Tony stared at him. His mouth opened, but no words came out.
"I can assure you that what I provide him is of the highest quality. Grown under strictly organic conditions." He looked out toward the river, musing. "It is rather less potent than what one can get 'on the corner' these days, but it does the job nicely." They were almost back at NCIS. He laid a restraining hand on Tony's arm.
"I get it. Don't worry. I just wish…"
"You're a lot like him, aren't you?" Mallard mused. "You want to fix everything. Make everyone safe." He squeezed Tony's arm lightly. "You do make a difference, Tony. You have made a difference." Reaching for the door, he held it open and gestured for Tony to go ahead of him. "And for that, dear boy, you have my thanks."
"DiNozzo!" Tony hadn't actually set foot outside the elevator when he heard Gibbs's voice.
"Where the hell have you been?" Gibbs tossed a ring of keys to Tony and headed for the elevator. "Gas up the truck and meet me out front. Gear up. We're goin' to Norfolk."