Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 3833
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo
Category(ies): Character Study, Established Relationship, Humor
Summary: Gibbs gets even with Tony for a prank. This is part eleven in my Home Is...Series.
Author Notes: A/N: The idea of Tony playing the piano was inspired by KSL's brilliant "Adagio" and "Con Affeto", two of my all-time favorite NCIS stories. If you haven't read them, I can't recommend them strongly enough!
“At the Eleventh Hour
The Home Is…Series
“Trust allows you to give. Giving is abundant. Trust allows the experience of bliss. Bliss is awakefulness. Trust allows you to laugh. Laugh at the richness, the beauty and the playfulness of the universe. Apply consciousness to this process and all roads will lead to home.” Gary Zukav
Gibbs stood in the basement, sedately sanding away on his boat while he watched Tony out of the corner of his eye, as he sat in the rocker playing some game on his phone, fidgeting from one position to another. His…….. ‘Just what in the hell is Tony?’ Gibbs asked himself. ‘Significant other? Lover? ‘Friend’? Roommate? Reason for coming home every night?’ Tony was all those things to Gibbs, and more. Tony was a host of nouns and adjectives that Gibbs couldn’t, or wouldn’t, put into words; a collection of words whose sum total added up to the definition of Tony. And tonight, his…….Tony was antsy.
He’d been that way all day. It had been one of those rare slow days at work when they hadn’t caught a new case, and all the paperwork from recent cases had already been typed, approved, and filed, so they were left with the mundane, tedious chores that had been put off for months – filing, restocking the truck, checking equipment, and when truly desperate, reviewing cold cases. Tony had spent the day flitting from one task to another, never settling down into just one, a ball of barely contained energy that threatened to spontaneously combust at any moment; Gibbs had spent the day ignoring it. There had been an air of expectancy surrounding Tony all day, and every time the elevator doors had opened, he’d looked up hopefully, eyes following those that exited until it became clear that they were busy going about their own private tasks, tasks that didn’t involve Tony. Once he realized that, he would sigh quietly, glance at Gibbs, then turn his rather limited attention back to whatever he had been doing moments before. When lunchtime had rolled round, Tony had asked everyone on the team if they wanted to go out to lunch, only to have each person tell him they already had plans. After striking out with Ducky and Palmer, too, he had wandered back to his desk dejectedly. Gibbs had sat at his desk, watching all of this, without comment.
On the ride home that night, Tony had tried to talk Gibbs into going and seeing a movie, and Gibbs had put him off, saying he just wanted to go home and have a quiet, uneventful evening. Tony had then suggested they go out to eat. “What in the hell’s up with you today?” Gibbs had asked. “Is there something I should know? You haven’t been able to focus on anything for longer than fifteen minutes all day long. Now you don’t seem to want to go home. It’s Friday, Tony. We’ll have all weekend to do something. I just want to work on the boat tonight.”
“Nothing’s up,” Tony had told him, all but pouting. “I just thought it would be nice to do something tonight, but if you don’t want to, that’s fine. No big deal. Let’s just go home,” he’d said as he slumped down in the car seat.
It had taken all Gibbs’ self control to keep from grinning right then and there.
When they’d gotten home, Tony had headed straight for the electric keyboard they had bought the month before, and spent over an hour playing mournful, bluesy music that he improvised as he sat in the dimly lit study. Before adjourning to the basement and his boat, Gibbs had spent several minutes standing in the doorway, content to just listen, and watch Tony as he lost himself in the music. He hadn’t realized Tony even knew how to play the piano until several weeks ago when they had been called out on a case. The body of an eighteen year old sailor had been found in a jazz club on the south side of the city, and once they had processed the scene, Tony had strayed over to the old upright piano tucked in the corner of the club, and reverently run his hands across the old ivory keys, now yellow with age. From there he had progressed to playing a haunting little melody that he later told Gibbs was a Brahms lullaby he’d learned when he first started playing, as a child. Gibbs had asked him why he had never mentioned it before. Tony had given a little laugh and pointed out that there hadn’t been much point, since he didn’t have a piano anymore, and that besides, it had been so many years since he’d really practiced, he wasn’t sure if you could truly say he played the piano anymore. The following weekend, at Gibbs’ insistence, they had gone to a local music store and bought the keyboard.
It had taken Tony a solid week of practicing before he would let Gibbs officially listen to him play anything, and even then he had apologized for being so rusty. Gibbs, on the other hand, had been impressed by Tony’s skill, and had told him so. Gibbs wasn’t a music aficionado, but he knew enough to recognize true talent when he heard it, and even on that little electric keyboard, the music Tony had played was compelling and sweet. Ever since then, Tony would spend at least an hour each day playing. Gibbs had been surprised by the type of music Tony seemed to gravitate towards. Somehow or the other, he’d expected Tony to favor loud, up tempo jazzy music, yet instead, Tony was now the proud owner of book after book of sheet music, most of it made up of movements for piano by various classical composers. The only times he played what would be considered contemporary music were moments like that night, when he would sit at the piano and let himself sink into the music, improvising and giving voice to the music that played in his head. When Tony had started to play sad, dirge like variations on the birthday song, Gibbs had choked back his laughter and headed down the stairs.
Tony had drifted down the stairs around seven o’clock, carrying two plates of warmed over lasagna. “Thought you might be hungry,” he’d said, as he placed one of the plates on the counter beside Gibbs.
“Thanks. Was getting that way. Done practicing?” Gibbs asked.
“Yeah, couldn’t seem to get into it tonight,” Tony explained, as he’d eased himself down into his rocking chair. “How’s it going down here?” he’d asked, although he’d sounded rather indifferent. The comment had been more to have something to say, rather than to satisfy any real curiosity, Gibbs suspected.
“Going fine. May be able to get that new support beam laid in tonight,” he’d told Tony. “I’ll know in a couple more hours.”
Tony had winced and looked at his watch at that point, then sighed deeply and resumed eating the rapidly cooling lasagna. “Want to go for ice cream? I really feel like cake, but I could settle for ice cream. How about you?” he’d asked Gibbs when they were both done with their dinner.
“Nah, probably shouldn’t. Need to watch my weight,” Gibbs had answered. “If you’re bored why don’t you go watch a movie?” he’d then suggested.
“Not in the mood,” Tony muttered. “I’ll just sit here and watch you work for awhile.”
“Suit yourself,” Gibbs had grunted, and resumed working on his boat.
Tony had sat silent for about ten minutes before the urge to do something had become too great, so he’d pulled out his cell phone and begun playing Tetris. Now, an hour later, he was showing signs of restlessness again. Putting the phone away, he sat and rocked, as he regarded Gibbs.
“Almost done?” he asked Gibbs.
“I told you I wanted to work a couple more hours, at least,” Gibbs said, privately amused when Tony rolled his eyes.
“I can think of something more entertaining to do,” Tony said in a low and seductive voice.
“Not in the mood right now,” Gibbs told him, even though that was a bald faced lie.
Tony looked at him, stunned. Gibbs was almost never ‘not in the mood’, especially on a Friday night, when they didn’t have to get up the next day at the crack of dawn. “Think you might be in the mood later?” he tried again. “What if I were standing here in my birthday suit?”
“Then you’d probably be cold,” Gibbs cracked. “Maybe later, Tony. Why don’t you go find something to do,” he suggested.
“I’m fine here,” Tony muttered.
Gibbs covertly watched as Tony repositioned himself, this time sitting sideways in the chair, his long legs dangling over one arm.
“Hey, remember your birthday?” Tony asked Gibbs after a while, from out of the blue.
Gibbs wanted to smirk. He’d wondered when Tony would get more direct. “Kinda hard to forget,” he’d growled, as he recalled what had happened.
Tony had gotten everyone at NCIS to dress in black that day, and must have, at some prior time, passed out black mourning bands for their arms, because when he and Tony had arrived that morning the bullpen looked more like a viewing at a funeral home than a federal agency. McGee and Abby had obviously been co-opted into the plan, because black crepe paper streamers had been draped from the light fixtures which hung over the team’s desks, and a bouquet of black helium filled balloons – with an assortment of disparaging remarks about old age and being over the hill printed on them - were tied to the back of Gibbs’ chair. An inflatable hernia cushion had been placed on the seat. When he’d turned his computer on, he’d discovered that someone had readjusted his monitor, zooming the images 25%, and he’d had to bark for McGee to come over and restore the original settings, something he’d secretly regretted. He hadn’t been aware that you could do that to a monitor, but he wasn’t willing to admit that it had been easier to read his email with the image size enlarged. His phone had been tinkered with, as well. The volume had been turned up all the way; it was so loud that everyone within a ten foot radius could hear the callers.
All through the day, every time Gibbs had stepped out of the bullpen for any length of time, anonymous, unwrapped gifts would mysteriously appear on his desk, just waiting for his return. Among the offerings, he’d received a bottle of geriatric vitamins, a box of adult diapers, denture cleaner, a package of prunes, a hot water bottle, a large print copy of a book called “Social Security and You”, and a small box that contained a set of hearing aids. Gibbs had refused to comment, and had spent the day picking up the offending objects and piling them on Tony’s desk. Tony had spent the day watching the goings on with a self satisfied smirk on his face. Everywhere Gibbs went in the building that day, he’d been bombarded by birthday wishes; even the janitors seemed to know what day it was. Gibbs could only assume that Tony had sent out a companywide email, announcing the ‘momentous’ event to one and all. At the end of the work day, Tony had led Gibbs down to the morgue, where Abby, the rest of the team, Jimmy Palmer, Ducky, and even Vance stood waiting, and they’d had an informal birthday party, where real gifts were finally given. On the drive home that night, Gibbs had reminded Tony that turnabout was fair play.
He’d never mentioned it again, but he hadn’t forgotten, either. That was what Gibbs was doing today. He was finally getting his turnabout. Rather than make a big deal about Tony’s birthday, he’d decided to do just the opposite. He’d chosen to ignore it, and he’d made everyone else at NCIS pretend as if they didn’t know it was Tony’s birthday either. Gibbs had known that would drive Tony crazy, and he was just enough of a bastard to do it. He also knew Tony well enough to know that much as he wanted people to acknowledge his birthday, he had too much pride to directly remind anyone of what the day was. So he was forced to suffer in relative silence. It wasn’t as if he necessarily wanted everyone to make a big deal out of the day, but Tony would have been expecting Abby, and of course Gibbs, to wish him well, and give him some sort of memento in honor of his birthday. Instead, he hadn’t even gotten one single “Happy Birthday”.
“Gotta admit, I got you good. Bet you never got that much attention on your birthday before, Jethro,” Tony persisted. “I doubt if you’ll be able to top it,” he challenged, and looked at Gibbs expectantly.
The almost naked appeal in Tony’s eyes made Gibbs momentarily regret his plot. If he didn’t know the rest of the plan, he’d be worried that Tony’s birthday would be completely ruined. As it was, he told himself it would be okay for Tony to fret just a while longer, that everything would turn out alright in the end. “Not even gonna try,” Gibbs answered Tony, and then resumed sanding on the boat, signaling the end of that conversation.
The sigh Tony released was equal parts frustration and irritation. He couldn’t believe that Gibbs had forgotten his birthday! If this had happened a couple of years ago, Tony would have been convinced that this was proof that Gibbs didn’t really care about him. But their relationship had changed over the last year, and Tony no longer doubted the depth of Gibbs’ feeling for him. They might not spend a lot of time pledging their undying love to each other, but enough had been said that there was no mistaking that they were both in it for the long haul. That was what made today so unfathomable for Tony. He just couldn’t understand how the date could have slipped Gibbs’ mind, but none of his nudging and hints had done any good. Finally, deciding there was no point in sitting down there any longer, Tony pushed himself up onto his feet. Going over to the cabinets, he grabbed Gibbs’ dirty plate.
“Where are you going?” Gibbs asked him.
“Gonna take these up to the kitchen, then figure I might as well go to bed. Feel free to wake me when you come up,” Tony told him, as he bent to retrieve his own discarded plate and silverware.
Gibbs snuck a look at his watch. It was almost nine o’clock. He just needed Tony to hold on for a little while longer. Putting the sander down, he went over to where Tony was straightening back up, and put his arms around the younger man, muzzling at the back of his neck. “This how you want me to wake you up?” he asked, as he ran his tongue along the edge of Tony’s earlobe.
Tony shivered, and leaned back into the embrace. “That might work,” he allowed, “but what would you try if it didn’t?”
“Maybe this,” Gibbs whispered, as he slid a hand up and ran it along Tony’s chest, while he pressed little kisses along his jaw line.
“I am feeling a bit more alert,” Tony said huskily, wishing he didn’t have the dirty dishes in his hands.
“That’s good,” Gibbs said, as his other hand slid downwards onto Tony’s hip.
Tony rocked back into Gibbs, trying to deepen the contact, as he let his head fall backwards onto Gibbs’ shoulder. Gibbs took advantage of the new position, and began to kiss and lick his way down Tony’s neck. “Need to put the plates down,” Tony finally managed to moan, wanting to be able to return Gibbs’ touch.
“Let’s take them up to the kitchen,” Gibbs said, after he gave a little nibble to the join between Tony’s neck and shoulder. Tony had shakily agreed, and Gibbs had followed him up the stairs. Once Tony had placed the plates in the sink and turned back around, Gibbs had placed his hands on either side of him, effectively trapping Tony against the counter, then he’d leaned in and captured Tony’s mouth with his own.
Tony had just grabbed hold of Gibbs, pulling him even closer, when the doorbell rang. “Who in the hell can that be?” Tony had growled, not wanting to stop what they were doing.
“No idea. Why don’t you go and see,” Gibbs suggested.
“Maybe if we don’t answer they’ll go away,” Tony breathed as he tilted his head and kissed Gibbs again.
When the doorbell sounded again, this time in a series of insistent, rapidly repeated beeps, Gibbs pulled away from Tony and said, “Looks like they’re not taking the hint. Might as well go answer it.”
Tony gave a frustrated little groan. “Alright, alright,” he said, as he straightened up and began to head towards the front door. “But this had better be real important.”
He stalked through the living room and flung open the door. Crowded together on the other side of the threshold stood Abby, McGee, Ducky, and Jimmy Palmer, all laden down with bags and presents. “Happy birthday,” they all crooned, as soon as the door was open all the way.
Gibbs, who had followed Tony in, not wanting to miss his reaction when he saw who was there, smiled broadly at Tony’s shocked expression. Tony stood, his mouth hanging open, processing what he was seeing.
Abby had balanced everything she was carrying in one arm, and she threw her spare one around Tony and kissed him soundly. “Hey there Birthday Boy. You didn’t really think I could forget what today was, did you? So, are you going to invite us in or what?” she demanded. “We come bearing gifts, champagne, cake and ice cream.”
“Of course,” Tony managed to say. Once they were all in, and Tony had closed the door again, he spun and looked Gibbs in the eye. “I can’t believe you did this. All day long I thought you’d forgotten!”
Gibbs just smirked at him. “Told you, turnabout. It can really be a bitch sometimes, Tony. Think we’re even now,” he said, as they trailed behind the others, as Abby led the way to the dining room where she intended to set up the refreshments.
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Tony said quickly.
“Are you admitting that I got you better?” Gibbs pounced on him.
“Not likely,” Tony snorted. “I’m saying that what I did on your birthday got under your skin more than this did mine. I barely noticed that you hadn’t said anything about my birthday.”
Gibbs laughed outright at that assertion. He then proceeded to regale the others with the hints Tony had dropped all night; telling them how Tony had said he was in the mood for cake, how he’d tried to get them to go out to dinner, and about the improvisations on “Happy Birthday” that he’d played when they first got home. The only comment he neglected to mention was Tony’s threat to appear in his “birthday” suit, although he intended to demand payment on that particular threat later. By the time he was done, everyone, including Tony, was laughing good naturedly.
It was close to midnight by the time the others left for their own homes. The presents had been opened, the cake eaten, the champagne drunk, and Tony was feeling good when he closed the door behind Abby, promising to call her in the morning. “So there’s still fifteen minutes left of my birthday. Want to go upstairs and continue celebrating?” he asked Gibbs archly.
“I haven’t given you my present yet,” Gibbs pointed out.
“That’s what I’m suggesting,” Tony said. “You were just getting warmed up when they arrived.”
“I’ll give you that, too,” Gibbs promised. “But first why don’t you go look out in the garage?”
Glee and anticipation transformed Tony from a mature federal agent into an overgrown kid, as he spun on his heels and headed for the door in the kitchen that led out to the garage. When he got the door open and the light switch on, he saw something tall, rectangular and large, covered by a tarp, standing alone in the middle of the garage.
“Go on, pull off the cloth,” Gibbs urged him from behind.
Tony stepped down, and crossed over to the mysterious object. As he pulled at the tarp slowly, he began to see the glint of highly polished wood. Tony tugged harder and the tarp fell away to reveal a beautiful, stunningly polished, mahogany upright grand piano. Tony’s breath caught in his throat, and he couldn’t make a sound.
“The piano movers are coming back tomorrow to move it into the living room, and so is the tuner, but I wanted it here today so that you could see it on your birthday, even if it was in the eleventh hour,” Gibbs said quietly, watching Tony.
Still Tony made no sound. He just stood, his back to Gibbs, staring at the piano.
“If you don’t like it, or it’s the wrong kind, we can exchange it for one the better suits you,” Gibbs offered, unable to read Tony’s silence since he couldn’t see his face.
Tony spun to face him, his eyes luminous and swimming in unshed tears. “It’s perfect,” he managed to choke out.
Gibbs relaxed visibly. “I wasn’t sure. The salesman assured me this was the best I could do, short of buying a baby grand, and I just couldn’t figure out where we’d put that.”
“You didn’t need to do this,” Tony said softly.
“I know, but I wanted to,” Gibbs told him, as he moved closer. Reaching out, he put a hand behind Tony’s head, letting his fingers slid through the luxuriously thick hair, and pulled him in for a kiss. “Happy Birthday, Tony,” he whispered, when their lips finally parted, then he’d leaned back over, and kissed him again.