A Little Liquid Courage

by: slashscribe (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 4277
Rating: TEEN
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo, Other Male Character
Category(ies): Angst/Drama, Character Study, Fluff, Humor
Pairing(s): Tony/OMC
Summary: Tony has something he really wants to tell Gibbs, so he visits him in the basement with some beer. A coming out fic.

Chapter 1

The night air was balmy and warm as Tony pulled into Gibbs' driveway, his hands clammy where they rested on the steering wheel and his heart beating just a hair faster than usual. He turned his car off, flipped off his headlights, and took a deep breath before grabbing the six-pack beside him and getting out of his car.

He blinked when a lightning bug flashed fleetingly in front of his face, and resisted the childish urge to reach out and catch it. Instead, he made his way to Gibbs' front door with determination, his quiet steps on Gibbs' walk reverberating in the calm summer air. He stood in front of Gibbs' door for a moment, still as a statue, ignoring the little part of his mind that told him to turn right back around, before finally wrapping his hand around the warm metal of the doorknob and opening the door. The familiar creak of Gibbs' front door eased some of the tension building in his spine, but it came back tenfold as he stepped into the house and heard Gibbs moving around in the basement.

Now or never, DiNozzo, he thought, schooling his expression and making his way to the basement door. He fought the urge to run, and instead, opened the door and made his way down the stairs.

"Hey, Boss," he said, not surprised to see Gibbs standing in front of the shell of a boat, patiently sanding.

Gibbs looked up when Tony came down the stairs, dropping his sander and wiping some sweat off his brow with the back of his arm.

"DiNozzo," he greeted, taking in Tony's carefully neutral expression and guarded body language with curiosity.

"I brought some beer," Tony said, leaning against one of Gibbs' workbenches and hoping he didn't sound as nervous as he felt.

Gibbs looked him over carefully, taking note of all of the signs that told him something was up, knowing that whatever it was Tony was so tense about he'd get to on his own time. "Sounds good," he said, opening a beer and handing it to Tony before taking one for himself. "Could use a break," he added, gesturing towards the boat with the neck of his beer bottle.

He set his beer down and grabbed a couple lawn chairs from where they rested against the wall and unfolded them. Tony quirked a grin despite himself at the faded moss-green pattern on the chairs before taking a seat, letting out a sigh as his body relaxed into the chair.

"It's pretty hot out," Tony commented, before taking a rather longer than usual sip of his beer and cursing himself for making such an obviously awkward remark. Gibbs regarded him with mild amusement as he took a sip of his own.

"Sure is," Gibbs said dryly. He was never one for small talk, and that was something Tony knew very well.

"The boat looks good," Tony continued, before taking another long sip, trying to get his heart to stop pounding.

Gibbs noticed the obvious anxiety Tony was displaying, and decided to take pity on him and play along with whatever inane conversation Tony decided to start. "Yeah," he said. "It's coming along. Got a lot of work left, though."

Tony was fidgeting endlessly, picking at a string of nylon coming loose from the chair and rubbing his thumb over the edge of the label on his bottle.

"No date tonight?" Gibbs finally asked, watching Tony for his reaction. It was a Friday night, after all, and Gibbs would've thought that his basement was the last place Tony would want to be.

Tony froze for a moment, then took another long pull of his beer. He was already more than halfway through, Gibbs noticed, as he took another long sip of his own, deciding that if Tony needed beer to give him the courage to say whatever it was he went there to say, Gibbs would probably need some beer of his own to listen. He resisted the urge to just pour some bourbon for the both of them and get it over with; he'd let Tony go at his own speed.

"No date," Tony finally said. He wasn't looking at Gibbs-instead, his eyes were trained on the basement floor.

"Hey, Boss," Tony finally began, voice too high and too fast, "did you know it's Sean Connery's birthday? I didn't realize it until I got home. I wish I knew earlier so I could've celebrated. Don't you think he was the best Bond? Probie tried to tell me Roger Moore was better, but he doesn't know what he's talking about. Stupid Elf Lord; he doesn't know James Bond. Did you know-"

"DiNozzo," Gibbs said in exasperation.

Tony instantly stopped talking, and when he convulsively took his next sip (chug) of beer, he emptied the bottle. Gibbs sighed and grabbed another one for him, popping it open before taking Tony's empty.

"Thanks," Tony said, voice thinner than he would've liked. He wiped a sweaty palm against his jeans and tried to act like he wasn't freaking out, but even with the calming warmth of the beer, he could feel his heart hammering.

"Tough case today," Gibbs finally said, wondering if Tony's mood had something to do with the rather mundane homicide they'd worked the past couple days. He searched his memory for anything about the case that was unusual, that might have triggered some kind of nervous reaction in Tony, but he couldn't think of anything.

"Yeah, I guess," Tony said, taking another sip of beer. He tried to get himself to start talking, but it wasn't working. Help me out here, Gibbs, he thought, even though he knew there was nothing Gibbs could do to make this easier; Gibbs didn't know what was going on in Tony's mind, after all. He knew that he was behaving strangely, and he knew that Gibbs had to be curious and mildly frustrated with him, but he just couldn't get his lips to form the right words, and he could feel panic rising.

Gibbs watched Tony silently for a moment as he drank his beer, and then decided that this level of agitation usually had only one source.

"I talked to my dad yesterday," Gibbs said conversationally. Tony's head snapped up, and he looked at Gibbs in surprise.

"Oh yeah?" Tony said, clutching his beer bottle like a lifeline.

Gibbs nodded fractionally. "Yeah," he said. "He's worried; said some big name supermarket's moving into Stillwater and he doesn't want to go out of business."

"Oh," Tony said, unable to think of much else to say.

"You talk to your father lately?" Gibbs continued, still observing him like he would a panicked witness.

Tony swallowed nervously and then took a sip of beer.

"Yeah," he said.

"What'd he want?" Gibbs asked, knowing Tony wouldn't have initiated the conversation himself.

Tony sighed and kept his eyes anywhere but Gibbs. "The usual," Tony said.

"The usual?" Gibbs asked. "I thought he never calls."

Tony paused. "Well," he began, "the usual if he did call."

"Oh," Gibbs said, well aware that DiNozzo wasn't making much sense.

"He wants me to get married," Tony finally blurted out.

Gibbs waited a moment, giving Tony time to continue, but that appeared to be all Tony wanted to say, so he said, "Got a girlfriend?"

Tony stilled for a moment, and Gibbs began to get the feeling that this was going to be a long conversation, so he drained his beer and reached for another.

"No," Tony finally said, "no, I don't have a girlfriend."

"So what does he want you to do, then?" Gibbs asked.

"He said he'll find me a suitable woman," Tony said, and he sounded disgusted. He took another long sip of his beer and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand. "He's been asking around, trying to find someone with good breeding so we can make him an heir. I don't know why he thinks he can ask me that now, when he's made it completely clear I'm out of his fucking-"

Tony cut himself off to drink more beer, and Gibbs sat silently, willing to wait this one out.

Tony sighed and ran a hand through his hair.

"I don't want to get married to some girl my father handpicks," Tony finally said. "I don't know why he thinks he can pull shit like this," he added, and then took another long pull of beer.

"He won't let you do it on your own time?" Gibbs asked, prompting Tony to try to get to the real issue here. He knew it was more than just this.

Tony looked at Gibbs for a moment, and hesitated before choosing his words. "No," he finally said. "It's not-he-"

Again, Tony cut himself off and scrubbed a hand over his face in frustration.

"I don't know how to say this," he finally said, slumping in his chair and resting his chin against his palm. "I don't know why it's so hard. Well, I do know why," he continued, straightening up again as his nervous energy took hold, "but I would've thought it'd be different." He suddenly stood up and moved to stand against the workbench. "I mean, I'm not a kid anymore, Boss," he said, gesturing grandly and then taking another long pull of his beer. Gibbs looked away from Tony for a moment to open another beer. Whatever this was, DiNozzo would need a third pretty quickly.

"I mean, you're not him," Tony continued, and Gibbs' brow furrowed and he resisted the urge to interject with a "damn right I'm not him" and let Tony go on. "You're not him, but I still-I mean, what if-"

Again, Tony cut himself off and drained the rest of his beer before pacing around for a minute, and then finally dropping his empty bottle onto the workbench and taking the fresh beer Gibbs held out.

He slumped back into the lawnchair, setting the beer on the floor for a moment, and put his head in his hands. "Why is this so hard?" he mumbled.

Gibbs reached out and gave him a firm slap to the back of the head. "You're the one making this hard, DiNozzo," he said as Tony looked up at him questioningly. "Start over."

Tony sighed and grabbed his beer off of the floor before leaning back in his chair.

"I don't want to get married," he finally said.

"Don't blame you," Gibbs replied. "Look where it got me."

Tony managed a slight grin before he focused back on what he was trying to say.

"I don't want to have kids," he continued.

"You never were that great with 'em," Gibbs said with a shrug, taking another sip of beer and observing Tony shrewdly.

"Thanks, Boss," Tony said sarcastically, taking another drink. Liquid courage, he thought.

"Do you know why my dad sent me to military school?" Tony finally asked.

Gibbs' brows shot up in surprise; this was a subject Tony had always avoided in the past, regardless of how much he'd had to drink or how many painkillers he'd been given after another injury. "No," Gibbs said.

"Of course you don't," Tony said, and Gibbs wondered if the beer was beginning to get to him. "He caught me making out."

"That's it?" Gibbs asked. "He sent you away for kissing?"

Tony nodded, swallowing thickly.

"He pretty much disowned me that day," he said. "My ass was sore for almost a week after that one," he added. He drank some more beer. "And-and he said I might as well change my name because there was no way in hell he would want to be associated with someone like me."

Tony's face was darkening, and Gibbs thought he must have been leaving something out. Something wasn't adding up.

"Gibbs," Tony finally said. "I kind of lied to you."

"Kind of lied to me?" Gibbs said, irritated. "Either you did or you didn't."

Tony swallowed, and his fingers were twisting that loose thread of nylon again, and he took another long sip of beer.

"I kind of lied to you," he repeated, "when you asked if I had a girlfriend."

Gibbs' patience was wearing thin, and he resisted the urge to tell DiNozzo to spit it out, already, and let his worry override his desire to throttle whatever the hell he was trying to say out of him.

"What," Gibbs said, "friends with benefits?"

Tony laughed and ran a hand over his face. "No," he said. "I'm seeing someone. I just didn't want to tell you."

A thought occurred to Gibbs, and he set his beer down. "You seeing Ziva?" he asked, his voice dangerous and edgy.

"What?" Tony said, "No, no of course not. God." He laughed for a second, and ran his hand through his hair.

"Jesus," he finally said. "Why can't I just fucking say this?"

Gibbs felt a strange feeling in his gut, a twisting sensation that told him this conversation was about to go in a difficult direction. He'd never seen Tony quite like this, and he leaned forward.

"Tony," he said, trying to sound gentle and not alarmed or impatient. "Whatever it is, you can tell me. Are you in trouble?" he asked.

"'m not in trouble," Tony said wearily. "It's not like that."

"Then what is it?" Gibbs replied.

Tony sighed heavily, drank more beer, and set the bottle down resolutely. Any more "liquid courage" and he would be drunk, and he didn't want that. He just wanted to say his piece.

"I'm..." Tony hesitated, eyes on the ground. "I'm in a relationship," he finally said.

"Yeah, I got that part," Gibbs said.

"A really serious relationship," Tony emphasized. "Like, a ten-month relationship, we're-moving-in-together relationship," he added.

"Ten months?" Gibbs said, honestly shocked, and while he didn't want to admit it, hurt to be kept in the dark for so long. "You've been seeing someone for ten months and you didn't say anything?"

Tony swallowed and ran a hand over his eyes. "I couldn't," he said, and Gibbs couldn't understand why he sounded so miserable.

"I didn't want you to hate me," Tony added, burying his face in his hands, and he realized that maybe he was just a tiny bit drunk, because he didn't mean to actually say that out loud.

"Why the hell would I-"

Gibbs stopped midsentence as the conversation played back in his mind. "Kind of lying" about a girlfriend, sent to military school for making out, "in a relationship" for ten months-

Something clicked and Gibbs sighed and ran a weary hand over his face.

"Aw, hell, DiNozzo," he said, and he sounded honestly sympathetic.

Tony looked up in surprise, his cheeks reddened from a combination of alcohol and embarrassment.

"What's his name?" Gibbs continued.

Tony's eyes widened and suddenly this was real, he was actually telling Gibbs, and he shot out of his chair again, grabbing onto the workbench for support and biting his lip nervously-Gibbs was going to kill him.

"Hey, DiNozzo," Gibbs said sharply, standing up and putting his hands on Tony's shoulders, forcing him to make eye contact. "Calm down, and sit down. I don't give a shit if you're..." Gibbs paused and swallowed, knowing that he had to be very careful to say the right thing for once. "Tony, you're the best agent I've ever worked with," he said. "You know that."

"You're firing me?" Tony said, and he was dismayed that it came out as a very un-manly squeak. "You're really-"

"Jesus Christ, DiNozzo," Gibbs said. "Would you shut up and listen? I'm not firing you, but I will if you don't get your head out of your ass!"

Tony watched Gibbs with wide eyes, and tried not to look as anxious as he felt.

"Sit down," Gibbs said, gesturing towards the lawnchair. Tony complied, and once seated, bounced his knee up and down nervously in his seat and looked anywhere but Gibbs.

"What I'm trying to tell you is that I do not care if you're gay," Gibbs finally said, and Tony looked up sharply, feeling a ridiculous surge of hope blossom in his chest, and he bit his lip and hoped that he wasn't going to start crying, and he cursed the fucking beer-too much, too fast.

"I do care that you didn't tell me you have a-a partner until after you've been seeing him for ten months," Gibbs said, looking at him accusingly and trying to sound like it was normal for him to be having this discussion so Tony didn't get the wrong idea, and hoping he didn't notice the little stumble over the word "partner," because Gibbs really didn't care, but that didn't mean he was comfortable talking about things.

"I didn't want you to fire me," Tony said. "Or start harassing me at work."

"When was the last time I harassed anyone at work?" Gibbs said. When Tony gave him a skeptical stare, Gibbs rolled his eyes. "When was the last time I harassed anyone at work about something like this?" he conceded, and Tony sighed, feeling some tension leave his shoulders.

"Well," he said, "it didn't help my position in Peoria. Or Philly. Or Baltimore."

Gibbs' eyes widened for a moment, and another piece of the puzzle fell into place. "I thought they just harassed you for being a jackass," he said.

"Gee, thanks, Boss," Tony said, affronted.

Gibbs rolled his eyes. "You know what I mean."

Tony shrugged. "They did harass me for being a jackass. Then they found out I was gay and they harassed me about that, too. It wasn't worth fighting about because the higher-ups harassed me, too, and I wasn't about to become a fucking activist. I just wanted to be a cop."

Gibbs was quiet for a moment, mulling it over, and he sighed, grabbing the last beer and handing it to Tony, before grabbing his bourbon and pouring some into an empty mason jar and sitting back in his chair heavily.

"Tell me about him," Gibbs said, taking a sip of his bourbon.

Tony took a sip of beer then held it out in front of him, and a little smile worked its way onto his lips, one that Gibbs hadn't really seen before and he thought-this guy must be okay.

"He's really smart," Tony said. "Like, really smart. And he's really talented."

He paused, and drank more beer. "He's a musician," he added. "He plays the piano."

Gibbs was surprised. He'd half expected this guy to just be some pumped-up jock, all brawn no brain, but he was glad Tony seemed to have found someone with substance.

"He's really good at the piano," Tony continued. "He went to Juilliard, and he teaches at the Peabody Conservatory now."

Gibbs fought a smile when Tony spoke of him so boastfully, and he wouldn't be surprised if Tony pulled out his wallet and showed him a snapshot preserved in his plastic credit card holder.

"He's a really good cook, too," Tony continued, pausing to drink more beer. Gibbs thought maybe he'd had enough to drink already, but he'd been wound up tight, so maybe it was good for him, as long as he didn't drive.

"He's away right now," Tony said. "It's really lonely. He's teaching a piano class in fucking Korea this weekend. He won't be back until Tuesday, and he's gonna be all jet-lagged and cranky. He can actually speak Korean, you know. He can cook Korean food, too. It's really good. He's not Korean, though. He's really tall, too, did I tell you that? He's taller than I am. And he's really good-looking. Like, classic good-looking, you know-well, maybe you don't know." He stopped and laughed, and this time it was a real, genuine laugh, and Gibbs couldn't help but laugh along with him.

"He has a really nice loft," Tony said. "My lease is up soon and I'm gonna move in. I pretty much live there anyway. I only go home to get clothes. I've met his parents, Gibbs. His parents. And they like me."

"Why wouldn't they?" Gibbs asked gently.

Tony looked at him and laughed again, but this time it was kind of bitter. "I don't know," he said, "but it's fucking weird to think that they're glad to see their son with me."

"Hey," Gibbs said, "anyone would be happy to see their kid with you."

Tony didn't say anything for a minute, and Gibbs took another sip of his bourbon.

"Tony," he said, and Tony looked up at him, eyes wide and earnest.

"Tony," he repeated, "you listen up, because I'll only say this once."

Tony nodded, schooling his features into some kind of vaguely-drunk version of serious attention.

"I couldn't be prouder of you if you were my own damn son," he said, and he cursed the bourbon, and blamed it for his loose lips as he continued. "And you are, in everything but blood. Don't you forget that."

Tony's brows shut up in surprise, and his eyes were suspiciously shiny for a moment, and his lower lip trembled-but he took a deep breath and pushed that down, and let his mouth stretch into a wide grin.

"Love you, too, Boss," he said, feeling for the first time in his life like maybe he was okay, like maybe he was more than okay, like maybe he wasn't just a stupid fag, like maybe he could actually for once be happy with himself. There was a feeling of warmth in his chest that felt like it was going to bubble over, and he couldn't get the grin off of his face.

"Hey, you know what, Boss?" Tony said, looking at him with a wide-albeit drunken-smile.

"What's that?" Gibbs asked grouchily, annoyed at himself for getting sappy, even if it did cause Tony to smile more genuinely than he'd seen in a long time.

"My dad can go suck a dick," Tony said, and he laughed, so hard tears were leaking out of the corners of his eyes, and Gibbs grinned and patted him on the back.

"Hey," Gibbs said suddenly, a thought occurring to him, once most of Tony's giggles had subsided. "I knew half the time you bragged about all the women you dated you were-" he paused, thinking of the right words, admitting to himself that maybe he'd had enough to drink, too, but that didn't stop him from taking another sip of bourbon - "you were embellishing," Gibbs continued, "but what about all the ones I've met?"

Tony shrugged. "I was trying to pretend I wasn't gay," he said.

A surprised laugh worked its way out of Gibbs' mouth. "You mighta gone a little overboard, DiNozzo," he said.

"Methinks the lady doth protest too much," Tony agreed, then backtracked. "Not that I'm a lady," he clarified. "I mean, just because I'm the-" He cut himself off quickly. "I'm not gonna finish that sentence," he said, and Gibbs grinned.

"Kinda funny your father sent you to military school when he caught you making out with a guy," Gibbs said, his mind still trying to connect 'DiNozzo' with 'gay,' alcohol loosening his tongue enough to make him actually speak the stray thoughts in his mind rather than grunting out a few responses when necessary. "Doesn't make a lot of sense to send you away to an all-boys boarding school."

Tony laughed. "Tell me about it," he said. "If I ever had any doubt about being gay, that got rid of it."

He drank some more beer, and grinned. "But it gave me a lot of well-rounded experiences," he said, laughing again, not only at his memories, but at the surrealistic nature of sitting in Gibbs' basement, talking about being gay in an all-boys' boarding school.

Gibbs chuckled, and he absently swirled the bourbon left in his glass. "Bet it was hard, living a lie for so long," he said, suddenly serious, glancing at Tony out of the corner of his eye.

"I'm good at undercover," Tony said with a shrug. "And it wasn't too bad, dating girls. I mean, it's not like they make me want to throw up or anything. They're just...they're just, women," he said, with a faintly disgusted look on his face and a shrug. "It's why I never kept any around. Just went out every now and again to keep up appearances, and didn't string 'em along so I didn't hurt their feelings."

Gibbs drank the rest of his bourbon, and set his empty mason jar down with a thud.

"When this boyfriend-"

"Partner," Tony corrected, "boyfriend sounds so 12-year-old girl."

Gibbs rolled his eyes and bit back a grin. "When this partner of yours comes back from Korea, you bring him over for dinner."

"Oh my God," Tony said faintly, "you're gonna interrogate him. You're gonna threaten him. You're gonna scare him away."

"Damn right I'm gonna interrogate him," Gibbs said righteously. "If he's scared, it's his own damn fault."

"Um," Tony said weakly, "just kidding, it was all a joke, he doesn't exist."

Gibbs rolled his eyes and swatted the back of Tony's head, and Tony yelped exaggeratedly, and then covered his mouth in surprise when a hiccup escaped.

"If you think you're driving home, you're dumber than I thought. Guest room's yours when you want it," Gibbs said, and with a start, Tony realized-Gibbs knows, and he really doesn't care, and he smiled, feeling the weight of the world lifting off his shoulders.

"Thanks, Boss," he said, ridiculously, insanely grateful for much more than just the guest room.

Gibbs smiled and patted him on the back. "Don't mention it."

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