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by: Xanthe (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 003 Word Count: 26948
Rating: ADULT
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo
Category(ies): Angst/Drama, Character Study, First Time, Future, Holiday, Hurt/Comfort, Romance
Pairing(s): Gibbs/DiNozzo
Summary: Gibbs has left NCIS and is living in a remote cabin on a snowy mountainside. But what secret is he hiding in his isolated hideaway?

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3

Previous Chapter

Chapter Three

It’s snowing when they get up the next day. Gibbs is used to it, but Tony seems excited by it, and he goes outside and runs around with Digger for half an hour until they’re both worn out. Gibbs glances out of the window every so often, smiling to himself at the sight of the two living beings he loves most in the world having so much fun together.

Digger has taken a huge liking to Tony, in part, Gibbs suspects, because of his habit of feeding the dog scraps of meat under the dinner table when he thinks Gibbs isn’t watching. Gibbs knows he’ll have to put a stop to that soon, but not just yet.

Digger’s fur and Tony’s hair are wet through when they return to the cabin. Gibbs rubs Digger fiercely with a towel and then throws a fresh towel over Tony’s head and rubs him too. Tony laughs and tries to twist away from him, but Gibbs wraps an arm around his chest to keep him still, and Tony finally submits, still laughing.

As he holds him in place, Gibbs has a flash of some new sensation burning in the pit of his stomach. He’s suddenly very aware of Tony’s proximity, of his hard body pressed against his own, and of how good that feels.

He finishes towelling Tony down and releases him, whipping the towel away to reveal Tony’s flushed cheeks. He looks younger now than he did in those final years at NCIS. Hell, he looks younger than he did a couple of days ago. It’s as if the years have melted away from him, and left him with some renewed sense of innocence. He’s much more like the light-hearted young cop Gibbs first met so many years ago.

They gaze at each other for a long moment, both of them aware of the sudden change of atmosphere in the room, and then Gibbs clears his throat.

“I’m gonna go work on the new couch,” Gibbs says gruffly. “You…uh…gonna be bored? There isn’t much to do around here.”

“You’re not the only with hobbies, Jethro,” Tony says, and Gibbs remembers the guitar case.

He goes outside to the workroom, Digger by his side. Digger settles down in his bed in front of the little electric heater, and Gibbs begins measuring up some lumber.

A few minutes later, Tony enters the workroom, carrying a chair in one hand and his guitar under his arm. He plonks the chair next to the heater and sits down on it. Then he begins strumming on the guitar. He’s actually good; very good.

“Didn’t know you played,” Gibbs says, when Tony pauses for a moment.

“Used to as a teenager and then took it up again when I was travelling. It’s been good therapy for my hand – helps keep it moving. I started…” He pauses, biting on his lip. Gibbs is intrigued and waits for Tony to continue.

“Started composing some of my own songs,” Tony says. “Helped me…kinda make sense of things. Writing it out, coming up with melodies.”

“Play some.”

Tony hesitates, but then he begins strumming. His left hand is clearly still a little stiff and awkward, but he manages to move his fingers across the strings well enough to play.

“’I’m thoughtful and…I’m gloomy and…bitter and blue,’” Tony sings. He has a surprisingly mellow voice, and he knows how to hold a tune.

“’I haven’t been happy in such a long time…cloudy and grey skies…instead of sunshine. I guess that’s how I’m looking now…so pale…like I’m in disguise.’”

It’s a deeply personal song, but it has a kind of raw beauty too. It’s his way of spilling out his heart without actually telling Gibbs all about the anger, sadness and pain of his past two years. It somehow manages to be informative without being too accusatory.

When the song ends Tony looks at him with a defiant expression in his eyes, as if he isn’t sure what Gibbs’s reaction is going to be.

“Thank you, Tony,” is all Gibbs says, meaning it, and Tony smiles and goes back to strumming on the guitar again.

Slowly, over the next few days, Tony sings the entire repertoire of his songs to Gibbs. They form a narrative, and although it’s a hard story to hear Gibbs knows he has to listen all the same. Tony has his own pain and has been on his own journey. They’re both different men in some ways now to who they were, and yet, fundamentally, he suspects they’re pretty much the same.

As Tony sings, Gibbs has a mental image of him sitting in various European cafes, writing his lyrics on the backs of napkins and strumming his guitar alone in his room in various hotels and guesthouses.

He can see the entire process Tony has gone through since he walked out on him, and it's painful, but he’s glad he’s finally getting a chance to share some of that pain with Tony as he caused so much of it.

The new couch begins to take shape, and Gibbs already has plans for what he wants to build next. He wants to make a rocking chair for Tony. He likes the idea of him strumming on his guitar while rocking in a chair. It’d be more relaxed than the straight-backed dining chair he’s been sitting on. He’s always complaining about his bad back – although Tony does like to complain about almost any given thing under the sun. It’s part of his charm.

Tony finishes playing his repertoire of songs and beings work on some new ones. Gibbs becomes used to the aimless strumming as Tony riffs around trying to find a melody to go with the words he’s thought up. Sometimes there are muttered curses when it goes wrong, but Tony perseveres and finds the right tune eventually, and the song begins to take shape.

Gibbs is impressed by Tony’s song-writing talent – his songs have a catchy quality, and he finds himself humming along as he sands down the wood he’s working on.

Every so often, Gibbs glances up at Tony who grins at him as he sings. Gibbs grunts and looks back down on his work.

Tony finishes a new version of the song he’s been playing around with all afternoon and puts his guitar down. “You do realise it’s New Year’s Eve, don’t you, Jethro?”

“Yup.” Gibbs blows some sawdust away from the wood.

“So, we gonna party?”

Gibbs snorts. “What do you think?”

“I think you should look up.”

Tony points up at the ceiling, and Gibbs glances up to see the sprig of mistletoe that’s pinned up there. Tony must have cut it from a bush when he was out with Digger this morning.

“Trying to tell me something, Tony?” he asks, taking off his glasses.

“Yes. This.” Tony gets up, comes over to him, and gently cups the back of Gibbs’s neck with his hand. Then he pulls him in close and their lips meet.

The kiss is soft and tender, sweet and deep. It touches something frozen in Gibbs’s heart, mending a tiny part of what is broken. It’s like warm blood rushing back into cold skin; it hurts and heals at the same time.

Tony draws back, and he’s looking at Gibbs intently. “It’s time, Jethro,” he says.

Gibbs puts down his sander, and Tony takes his hand and leads him back to the cabin.

He wants this. He’s wanted to touch and taste and make love to Tony for more years than he cares to admit, and now the time has come he almost can’t bear the anticipation anymore.

When they get to the bedroom, Tony begins slowly unbuttoning his shirt, pausing between each button to kiss Gibbs again. Last time Gibbs kissed Tony's lips it was to save his life; this time, he thinks it might be the other way around.

Tony finishes unbuttoning his shirt and then strips it off his shoulders. The motion seems to awaken some sleeping giant within, and Gibbs gives a low growl and pushes Tony against the wall. He kisses Tony with every single piece of focussed intent in his body, and he is gratified when Tony melts against him, moaning helplessly into the passionate embrace.

Tony, it seems, has prepared for this eventuality well in advance because lubricant and condoms are waiting on the nightstand. They divest themselves of clothes as quickly as humanly possible, and then Gibbs sits down on the side of the bed and pulls Tony down on top of him.

This isn’t about losing himself in the act of sex. It isn’t about seeking out the familiarity of red hair, white skin and soft breasts and burying himself in a willing body.

Everything about Tony is as different an experience from that as can be. Tony’s body is all hard planes, golden skin, and copious amounts of chest hair. It may be different, but Gibbs loves it immediately.

Gibbs has always been an active lover; he finds it hard to lie back and be passive, but Tony is pretty active too, and for a while they exhaust each other with their struggle for dominance.

In the end, Gibbs gives a growl of frustration, and Tony laughs up into his kiss, and from that moment on Tony is sweetly pliant beneath him, and Gibbs can finally explore him the way he wants to.

Tony's cock is thick and heavy, and Gibbs takes it between his lips and sucks down hard on it, swirling his tongue over the crown in a way that makes Tony positively mewl with pleasure.

He keeps up the motion until Tony shudders, arches up into him, and then comes in his mouth. Afterwards, Tony lies there, gloriously naked, and Gibbs strokes his body, tracing patterns across his skin with gentle sweeps of his fingers. He finds the rough skin of Tony's scarred arm and presses his lips to it, kissing the scar from forearm to fingers.

When Tony gets his breath back he rolls over and takes hold of Gibbs’s cock. He begins sliding his hand up and down his hard shaft, making Gibbs gasp in pleasure. Tony grins, looking far too pleased with himself that he’s able to reduce Gibbs to such a state, and then he very deliberately removes his hand. Gibbs gives a growl of frustration, and Tony laughs out loud.

“Want you in me,” he says, reaching for the lube.

Gibbs takes the lube from him impatiently and opens Tony with smooth, gliding motions of his fingers. Tony lays back on the pillows, gazing at him, a look of unguarded pleasure in his eyes.

This is Tony without any kind of mask at all. This is who he is. First he nearly died, and then Gibbs walked out him. That was followed by the long struggle back to physical fitness, the disappointments of his working life, and his grief over the death of his father. Tony spent a couple of years in the wilderness trying to make sense of it. First he had to come to terms with himself, and then he came looking for answers.

Gibbs knows all this from the songs Tony has sung to him, and he knows it too from the utterly naked and transparent look on Tony’s face. Tony is laying himself bare, being completely honest with him, and Gibbs won’t let him down again.

Gibbs puts a condom on his hard cock and then slides slowly into Tony’s eager, waiting body.
It’s so hot, so tight, and so slick, but that’s not what’s so arousing. What makes Gibbs ache with pleasure is looking down and seeing Tony looking back up at him, a rapt expression in his green eyes. He thrusts in deep, making Tony whimper with pleasure.

“You’re a miracle worker,” Tony whispers, and he takes hold of Gibbs’s hand and places it between their bodies, guiding it onto his cock, which is now hard again. “Haven’t been hard again that soon since I was seventeen!”

Gibbs moves his head down to capture Tony’s mouth in another long, deep, slow kiss. Then he twines his hand in Tony’s hair, holding a gentle fistful as he moves inside him. Their bodies are so closely joined that he brushes Tony’s cock with each inward thrust. He kisses Tony repeatedly as he thrusts into him, and their bodies become locked in a rhythmic motion, rising and falling as one.

When Gibbs comes, he can feel from the stickiness on his belly that Tony has come too. For a while they both stare at each other in a kind of shocked daze at the realisation that they've finally done this, after all this time, and that it was so damn good.

Eventually Gibbs rolls off him, and Tony wraps his arms around him, pulls him in close, and drags the blankets over them both.

“I uh…think…” his voice is husky, and he clears his throat and starts again. “I think that was worth the wait."

“Oh yeah. Definitely.” Gibbs grins into his shoulder.

“I know you’re a take charge kind of guy, but one day, when you’re ready to let me all the way in, I’d like to do that to you,” Tony murmurs.

Gibbs kisses the soft skin of his neck thinking that he’d like that too. "Maybe. One day." Little steps…

“Happy new year, Jethro,” Tony says, and Gibbs thinks that there’s a chance that this one actually will be.

The snow’s stopped falling and the sun is shining the following day. There’s a beautiful blue sky and the mountain has been transformed into a winter wonderland. Little icicles dangle from tree branches, sparkling in the sunlight, and the snow is deep and white and fresh.

Tony grabs hold of his arm and drags him outside for a walk with Digger. Tony is full of exuberant energy, laughing and playful as he runs through the snow and throws sticks for Digger. Every so often he runs back to Gibbs, grabs him, kisses him on the mouth, and then runs off again.

It makes Gibbs acutely aware of how tactile Tony is, of how important touch and petting and sex are to him. He’s got a sensuous quality to him that reminds Gibbs of a cat his mom once owned who loved being stroked and fussed over.

A puff of snow explodes against the side of his face as Tony’s well-aimed snowball hits him…it takes him unawares, and for just a second he freezes.

“Sorry…” Tony runs back towards him. “I didn’t think…are you okay?”

Gibbs turns away, leaning over, and when Tony comes to check on him he grabs him and throws him onto his back in the snow. Then he scoops up a handful of the cold, wet stuff and stuffs it down the front of Tony’s sweater. Tony laughs out loud, wriggling to get away, and Gibbs straddles him and holds him there, looking down on him.

Gibbs wishes that he could freeze this moment in time forever. Tony’s hair and eyebrows are covered in a fine dusting of snow, and the expression on his face is happy and carefree. The sun is shining down on them, lighting Tony’s eyes as he looks up. After all they’ve been through, who would have thought they’d ever have a moment like this?

Gibbs can’t resist. He lowers his head, captures Tony’s lips with his own, and kisses him into the snow. Tony’s hands come up, he pulls Gibbs down onto his body, and they kiss for a long time like that, half buried in the pristine white snow.

Digger dances around them excitedly, and then, clearly intrigued, sticks his head into the gap between their necks and proceeds to lick their chins until they laughingly pull apart.

As they walk back to the cabin, Tony slips his gloved hand into Gibbs's, and neither of them says a word as they walk like that, hand in hand, through the snow. It’s not something Gibbs could have imagined doing a few years ago, but he’s different now, and so is Tony. He wonders if it actually would have worked out if they’d got together back then, after the bomb. He suspects that the nearly two and a half years they spent in their own respective wildernesses might have been what each of them needed to bring them to this point.

They settle into a routine. Tony does most of the cooking – he’s surprisingly good at it – while Gibbs keeps wood chopped for the fire. Tony seems to enjoy leaning in the doorway, sipping coffee, and watching him hammering away at a succession of logs with his axe.

“Are you sure you’re not too warm? Maybe you should take your shirt off?” he suggests with a leer on more than one occasion. That always earns him a head-slap but usually later, when he’s least expecting it.

Despite sharing a small cabin at close quarters for two months, they get on surprisingly well, which isn’t to say they don’t quarrel because they do; a lot, and about stupid things: Tony’s messiness; Gibbs’s habit of not shaving for days on end; Tony spoiling Digger with titbits from the dinner table; Gibbs’s refusal to have sex anywhere but in the bedroom. But they aren’t serious quarrels. They’re the kind of low-level bickering that creates in-jokes between them and provides any number of opportunities for make-up sex.

It’s going so well that he almost forgets his problem until he has a sudden, particularly bad attack one day. Tony is in the house, making dinner, and Gibbs is out in his workroom. It’s very quiet in there without Tony’s singing, and Gibbs is lost in the wood, enjoying the feel of it under his fingertips.

Outside, the branch of a nearby tree breaks under the weight of the snow with a loud, explosive crack, and Gibbs is back in that elevator again, falling back against the wall, warm coffee spilling out over his hand.

He can feel Digger snuffling around his face, but he’s already lost, back in the past. The bomb in the Navy Yard and the explosion in Kuwait that injured him in 1991 seem to merge and combine, and he’s caught up in an onslaught of jumbled-up memories from both times in his life.

He's looking at Shannon and Kelly’s dead bodies in the morgue, and he’s looking at Tony lying in the squad room, dying over and over again in an ever-repeating loop.

He wants to cut open the top of his head, reach in, and scoop out the memories just to get some respite but there’s no escape. He’s shaking and sweating, lying on his side on the floor in the sawdust. He’s aware of Digger whining and licking his face, but it’s no good; he’s too far gone, and he can’t bring himself back.

He’s not sure how long he’s there, shaking and sobbing on the floor, but suddenly he’s aware of a pair of strong arms lifting him up and holding him. There are gentle fingers stroking his hair, soothing him through the nightmarish visions that revolve in his head like a never-ending horror movie.

Eventually he’s back in the room, and he’s furious that Tony got to see him at his worst. He hates being this shaking, sweating, sobbing wreck of a man. It isn’t how he wants Tony to think of him, and it isn’t how he views himself. He has his pride, damn it, and it hurts to be reduced to such weakness.

He pushes away from Tony and gets up, willing his knees not to buckle. He feels as if his body doesn’t belong to him, and he’s always been so strong and sure of himself before that it makes him want to lash out.

His legs shake as he stands up, and he almost falls. Tony reaches out a hand to steady him, and Gibbs shoves him away angrily.

“I’m not a fucking invalid!” he growls. “I can walk by myself!” Tony stands back, watching. “What the hell are you looking at, DiNozzo? Side-show’s over!”

“Symptoms of PTSD,” Tony intones emotionlessly. “Intrusive, upsetting memories of the event; flashbacks - acting or feeling like the event is happening again; nightmares, either of the event or of other frightening things; feelings of intense distress when reminded of the trauma; intense physical reactions to reminders of the event – such as a pounding heart, rapid breathing, nausea, muscle tension, and sweating.”

Gibbs holds onto the half-finished couch and turns to glare at him. "Your point?"

Tony shrugs. “I’ve been reading up on it too, Jethro. I know all the symptoms. Here are a few more you might recognise: irritability or outbursts of anger, and feeling jumpy and easily startled. Oh, and feelings of guilt, shame, or self-blame.”

Gibbs stares at him for a moment, and then he sinks down onto the couch frame with a shaky laugh.

“Guess I really am textbook. Damn it, Tony, I’m not this person. Who the hell am I?” he asks despairingly.

“Still Leroy Jethro Gibbs.” Tony crouches down in front of him and rests his hands on Gibbs’s knees. “Still the bastard I love.”

Gibbs manages a faded, washed-out kind of smile at that.

“You might have been right before,” Tony says. “About me being able to handle this back then. I was in a bad way myself after the bomb, and you’re right; your strength was always a big part of the attraction.”

Gibbs looks down. He always knew that if Tony saw him having an attack this bad then it might change his view of him.

Tony puts a finger under his chin and forces him to look up again. “We’ve both come a long way from that time. You’ve learned how to let me in – at least a bit – and I’ve learned that you aren’t Superman.”

Gibbs raises an amused eyebrow. “You thought I was Superman?”

“Sure!” Tony laughs. “Closest to it I’ll ever get anyway!”

“Hell, I’m not Superman, Tony. I’m not even close.”

“No…but I’m finding I like Clark Kent much more. He seems less like a fantasy. More real.” Tony leans in and kisses him, and then he draws back. “C’mon. Dinner will be ready soon, and this time you have to let me feed some of it to Digger.”

“I do?” Gibbs queries as Tony pulls him to his feet.

“Yup! He came to get me. It was like a scene out of ‘Lassie’! He ran into the kitchen and kept barking at me and tugging on my jeans with his teeth until I followed him out here and found you.”

“He’s a good dog.”

“You saved his life – he’s just returning the favour.”

Tony doesn’t try and hold him up, or hover over him, or smother him with his concern, but Gibbs is aware, as they walk back to the house, that Tony’s holding up his arm at just the right angle so that it’s available for him if he needs it. He swallows his pride and leans on it just a bit as they go inside.

Gibbs is almost sorry when the thaws begin in March. He’s enjoyed the solitude and being alone with Tony, but at the same time he’s aware that cabin fever will set in if they spend too much time alone together in the confined space.

Tony’s not exactly an outdoorsy kind of guy, but he does love fishing so when the nearby lake unfreezes, Gibbs takes him over there to spend a day there.

“This reminds me of this one time with my dad,” Tony says as they sit there, side by side, watching the water.

Gibbs glances sideways at Tony, waiting for him to continue. He knows Tony’s relationship with his father was complex and the source of so many of Tony’s insecurities and personality quirks. He doesn’t think that’ll ever be resolved for Tony, but he wants to be part of Tony’s attempts to make some sense of it.

“It was just before Mom died. Dad took me out on his yacht – well, he said it was his yacht, but I think that was a lie as I never saw it again. I think he scammed it for the day to impress me.”

Having met DiNozzo Snr, Gibbs thinks that’s very likely.

“He was relaxed and so much fun. I mean, he always did know how to turn on the charm and be fun, but most of the time he didn’t bother doing it with me; he saved it for people he wanted to impress.”

“I suppose at least that means he didn’t put on an act with you. He was more himself.”

“I guess.” Tony’s shoulders hunch uncomfortably. “And on that fishing trip I really did think he was the real him. He wasn’t the grumpy, secretive bastard he so often was later, always keeping me at arm’s length, but he wasn’t turning on the false charm, either. I think he genuinely had fun with me that day. We had fun together.”

Gibbs always feels angry when he thinks about the way DiNozzo Snr treated his son. He’s always been able to see the lost child in Tony, the one whose mother died and whose father sent him away. Even when all anyone else ever saw was the nosy, infuriating, fratboy idiot, Gibbs could always see that lonely kid beneath the clown mask.

“After mom died, I never saw that side of my dad again – the guy who liked hanging out with me and who had fun with me. You know…” Tony pauses and then turns to look at Gibbs. “It’s one of the things that always used to piss me off when other people met him. They’d think he was the life and soul of the party, such a great guy, so much fun – but he wasn’t that way when he was alone with me. My school friends all thought he was such a great dad to have – he used to turn up at boarding school with pocketfuls of cash and boxes of candy and charmed the socks off them. He did the same thing with you guys when he showed up at NCIS those few times.”

Gibbs reaches down and strokes Digger, who is lying beside him. He can hear the hurt in Tony’s voice, and he knows he needs to talk this out.

“I resented you all for falling in love with him so easily,” Tony says bitterly.

“I wasn’t fooled by him, Tony. You know that.”

“Yeah. Maybe.” Tony nods. “But everyone else was. He came to town and it was like party time – just like at boarding school. Everyone got stupid and giggly, and he had them eating out of his hand.”

“He knew his trade well, Tony. He made a living out of his charm. You can’t blame them for being taken in by him.”

“I don’t. What annoys me is that I was always taken in by him too.” Tony sighs. “I wanted him to love me so much that every time he showed up I’d fall back into old habits. I wanted to sit him down and have a serious conversation, but he always seemed to sidestep it with some bit of flim-flam – a photo, a touching story, telling me he loved me. And I fell for it every single time.”

“You’re just a kid who wanted his dad to love him. Don’t be so hard on yourself.” Gibbs pulls Tony’s head over and brushes a kiss on his hair.

“Hah! Pot, kettle, black,” Tony says, and Gibbs has to concede that point.

They don't catch any fish that day, but Gibbs thinks that maybe they did something far more important.

He finishes the new couch, and they carry it into the cabin and place it in front of the fireplace, directly opposite the TV. Then they throw the cushions onto it that they bought down at the store a couple of weeks ago.

Tony can’t wait to get on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and start watching a DVD. He lays down on it, his back on the armrest, and pats the space between his legs, and Gibbs rolls his eyes but comes over anyway. He lies down awkwardly between Tony’s legs, his back against Tony's chest, and Tony laughs and wraps his arms around him, holding him as they watch the movie together.

The movie finishes, and Tony starts kisses him and then undressing him. Gibbs insists on moving it into the bedroom even though Tony complains that the new couch is plenty big enough for them to have sex there.

Tony is out walking Digger when Emmylou makes her first visit after the winter. She breezes in as usual and glances around the place. She looks at the laptop open on the table and a pile of DVDs spread out in a messy pile on the floor. She sees Tony’s abandoned Timberlands by the fire and his guitar resting on the hearth. And she laughs out loud.

Gibbs brings them both a cup of coffee and hands one to her with a raised eyebrow. “What’s so funny?”

“I always said this place needed a woman’s touch. It was always so cold, and sterile, and bare. It felt kinda…frozen. Just like you.” She pats his arm. “Now you’re starting to warm up,” she says softly.

“Tony’s not a woman,” Gibbs points out.

“No, but he’s what you were waiting for, isn’t he?” She leans back, an assessing look in her eyes. “Hell, you’re even looking halfway human! I didn’t think anyone could defrost you, Jethro, and God knows I tried, but that boy seems to have done it. He’s good for you.”

Gibbs gives a little grunt. “He’s in his forties, Em, but I’m sure he’ll be pleased to know you called him a ‘boy’.”

Emmylou waves a dismissive hand in the air. “Whatever. I’m happy for you, Jethro. When he showed up on my doorstep and said he was looking for you, I wasn’t sure if he was going to kill you, or bring you back to life. I didn’t know what to do for the best, but in the end I figured that if he didn’t kill you then he might just cure you, so it was worth the risk.”

“Yeah. It was.”

He presses a little kiss to her cheek, and she gives a bright smile in return.

The months pass quickly. Tony spends a lot of time on some music site on the internet, swapping compositions with other amateur musicians. He’s still writing songs, and Gibbs is surprised how engrossed he can be when he’s composing. He reminds him of himself and the way he gets with a carpentry project – he loses himself in it, disappearing into his own little world.

They don’t talk about the future, but one day, as they’re eating breakfast, Tony makes an announcement.

“I have to leave soon, Jethro.”

Gibbs looks up, and his eyes must give away his devastation because Tony looks startled.

“Hey…not like that. I’m not leaving you. Just…see, this cabin, up here, all alone…this is your thing, Jethro, not mine. I love it here, but not all year round. I need cities and movie theatres and other people beside you sometimes!”

He’s right, and Gibbs knows it wouldn’t be healthy for them to spend their entire lives cooped up here like this with just each other and Digger for company. It’d drive them both insane eventually.

“I’m not ready to leave yet,” Gibbs says. There has been some improvement with his PTSD; the attacks are fewer and further between and not as severe when they do hit, but he doesn’t kid himself that he’s anywhere near cured.

“I know, and that’s fine.” Tony shrugs.

“I may never be ready to leave.”

“That’s fine too.” Tony looks as if he means that.

“Tony, even if I get better I can never go back to NCIS or any kind of Law Enforcement. I’ve been out of the game too long for a start, but also I can’t be sure it won’t happen again. I wouldn’t trust myself out in the field.”

“I know all this.” Tony pats his arm. “I don't want to go back, either, Jethro. I’m not asking you to leave here. I’m just gonna go away for a month or two, to take a breather. I’ll be back before the big snows come and cut you off from the world again.”

He leaves a week later, and when he’s gone the small cabin suddenly feels far too big without him. Digger sits by the door and whines for a whole week after he leaves, and Gibbs feels like doing the same.

He decides to bury himself in a new project. He goes down the mountain and scours the surrounding towns to find what he’s looking for. Then he brings it back up to the cabin and sets about restoring it to its former glory.

He tries not to think that Tony might not come back, but sometimes, when he’s working late at night, it does cross his mind that Tony will decide he likes it better back in the city. He wonders whether he can ever move back to a bustling metropolis again but his stomach churns at the thought. Before he left DC, he was having PTSD attacks all the time. There was too much noise, too many people, and too many triggers that could set them off. It’s been easier to manage his condition up here.

Tony calls him every day, sounding happy and full of life, but Gibbs has never been very good on the phone, and he doesn’t have much to say. There isn’t much news to offer Tony in return; nothing much changes on the mountain.

As the weeks go by they have the occasional snowfall. The roads aren’t impassable yet but Christmas is looming, and Tony is cutting it mighty fine. Gibbs has half convinced himself that Tony will leave it too late on purpose and then make some excuse to avoid telling him the truth.

It’s the week before Christmas, and he’s busy finishing up his big project when Digger suddenly takes off, barking like crazy, and runs out into the yard. Gibbs follows him, frowning, wondering what the hell has spooked the dog.

He finds Tony lying on his ass in the yard with Digger licking him half to death.

“Damn it, Digger! I wanted to creep up on him and take him by surprise!” Tony complains. “You’ve ruined it now!”

Gibbs laughs out loud and leans against the wall, waiting until Digger has finished doing what he feels like doing to Tony himself.

When Digger finally finishes with Tony, Gibbs hauls him to his feet and then pulls him in close for a long, heartfelt kiss that lasts for several minutes. After he lets him go, Tony gazes at him open-mouthed, clearly shocked by the length and intensity of that kiss, and then he laughs and shakes his head.

“You thought I wasn’t coming back.”

“I didn’t.”

“Yeah, you did. Idiot. Damn it, Jethro, what the hell do I have to do to convince you to trust me?”

“It’s…I’m not…fuck it, Tony, I’m crap at this.”

Tony rolls his eyes but wraps an arm around Gibbs’s shoulders anyway. They walk into the cabin together, and Tony stops short when he sees the massive Christmas tree jammed into a bucket full of wet earth. It’s covered in all the tinsel, bells and baubles that Tony bought last year – and the fairy in her gold dress is sitting right at the top, her sparkly wand poised, seemingly in the action of granting a wish.

“Who are you and what did you do with my old Grinch Gibbs?” Tony asks him, laughing again.

“Oh shut up!” Gibbs grabs Tony’s hand and takes him straight to the bedroom to become reacquainted with every single inch of him.

Tony has brought a ton of Christmas food and various presents wrapped in bright paper that he insists on placing around the bottom of the tree, much to Digger’s delight as he snuffles around them for the next few days. As several of them are for him, Gibbs is surprised that they remain intact until Christmas Day.

When the day comes Tony is like an excited child, and Gibbs can see all too clearly the kid who lost his mom when he was eight, and effectively lost his dad and his childhood at the same time.

Tony wakes him up at 6 a.m. and drags him into the living room where Gibbs sits on the couch while Tony sits on the floor among all the presents. He’s soon surrounded by a pile of wrapping paper as Digger opens various chews, bones, dog cookies, and reindeer toys wearing Santa hats. When Digger’s done opening his presents, he settles down in his bed with the biggest chew between his front paws and sets to work, grinding away at it.

Then Tony starts handing Gibbs his presents; there’s a massive pile of them to get through. First the obligatory bottle of Jack Daniels and then a box of honey dust.

“For old time’s sake!” Tony says cheerfully as Gibbs rolls his eyes.

The next present is a strip of red and white fabric with eyes, a nose, and a Santa hat. Gibbs holds it up with a raised eyebrow.

“If you think there is any way in hell I’m wearing this…” He glances down at his crotch. “THERE, then you have another think coming.”

“Oh, I knew you wouldn’t wear it – it’s a present for you, remember?” Tony gives a leering grin and insists on divesting himself of his bathrobe and putting the silly thing on his cock.

There’s a brief lull in the present opening while Gibbs succumbs to the joys of an almost completely naked Tony kneeling in front of him and giving him a blowjob.

Later some more sensible presents emerge, including an expensive cashmere sweater in a deep shade of blue, and a massive brown and cream fur rug.

“For here,” Tony says, laying it out in front of the fire. “For the day when I finally persuade you to have sex anywhere but in the bedroom.”

“You just blew me in here,” Gibbs points out.

“That doesn’t count. I’m talking full-blown sex. I’ll wear you down on this one day, Jethro, and when I do, we’ll have sex on this nice fur rug and not one of those fuck ugly rugs you bought before I moved in and brought some good taste to this place."

"Good taste?" Gibbs snorts, glancing pointedly at the ridiculous Santa thong Tony is wearing. Tony just laughs out loud at that and tweaks his Santa-covered cock obscenely.

Gibbs gives Tony some new boots and an expensive watch, which Tony is delighted with.

“I’ve got you something else – but you’ll have to wait until later to open it,” Gibbs tells him, knowing Tony will love the drama of that.

He’s right, and Tony keeps pestering him for more information for the next two hours while he makes lunch. Gibbs remains mute – he’s always been good at that.

Tony keeps glancing at his new watch over lunch. He’s insisted on having the radio playing while they’re eating, and then suddenly he goes quiet as a song comes on the radio. Gibbs finds himself humming along to the song, and, realising he knows it, he glances at Tony in surprise to find that Tony has a look of gleeful anticipation on his face.

“This is one of your songs,” Gibbs identifies slowly. It isn’t Tony singing it, but he recognises it as one that Tony composed over the summer. It's a catchy little number, and he often used to hum along with Tony when he sang it.

“Yup!” Tony looks like he’s about to burst. “I sold a song, Jethro! I didn’t want to tell you before in case nothing came of it. And I wanted it to be a surprise.”

“That’s fantastic, Tony!" He plants a kiss on Tony's cheek. "Sounded better when you sang it though.”

Tony proceeds to tell him all about the process of finding an agent and selling the song, and his plans to write more. Gibbs is glad something so good has happened to him; he deserves it.

Later that evening, it’s time for Gibbs to give Tony his final present, so he gets one of his own scarves and fastens it over Tony’s eyes.

“Ooh – kinky!” Tony says, reaching out to grope Gibbs enthusiastically. Gibbs slaps the back of his head and leads him out into the workroom.

He places Tony’s hand on the sleek wood he’s been working on for the past few weeks.

“What the hell is it?” Tony asks him, and Gibbs puts him out of his misery by removing the blindfold.

Tony stares at the baby grand piano for ages, looking completely shocked.

“You made this?” he asks at last, running a hand over the shiny black surface of the piano.

“Not from scratch. I restored it. Got some guy up from town to help with the stringing and tuning. I know you love your guitar, but the piano is your first love so I thought…”

“It’s beautiful. I mean…it’s…” Tony pauses, his eyes looking a little glassy. “Nobody has ever done anything like this for me, Jethro. I mean…not ever.”

Gibbs hadn’t expected him to be so overwhelmed. He pulls him in for a hug so Tony can surreptitiously brush his wet face against his shirt and hide the evidence.

Tony sits down at the stool Gibbs made to go with the piano and lays his hands almost reverently on the keyboard. He plays a few notes, gently coaxing a melody out of the piano, looking the happiest Gibbs has ever seen him.

“But where will we put it?” Tony asks as they return to the cabin. “I mean, we’re running out of space in the living room.” He stands there, looking around.

“Emmylou is moving,” Gibbs says. “She and Tom are heading south, and she asked if I was interested in buying her house. It’s a lot further down the mountain and doesn’t get cut off nearly as often as this place does in the winter. And it’s a hell of a lot bigger. There’s enough space for you to have your own music room, next to my workroom.”

“Sounds perfect.” Tony is looking at him with a surprised expression in his eyes. “But is it what you want, Jethro? I’m not asking you to do this.”

“I know.” Gibbs shrugs. “But I figure it’s time to move a little closer to civilisation.”

Maybe at some point he’ll even be able to spend a few months of the year in the city with Tony. He’s not there yet, but he thinks he might be one day. Little steps...

“This place was what I needed a few years ago, but it’s not big enough for two people, long-term,” he adds.

Tony grins at that and wraps his arms around Gibbs, drawing him close. “Long-term?”

“Yeah, see, you’re wrong. I do trust you.”

“About damn time.” Tony leans in for a kiss. Then he draws back, an assessing look in his eyes. “You mean that? You trust me?”

“Yeah, Tony. I trust you.”

“So you’re ready now?” Tony asks softly.

“I guess I am.”

Tony gives a slow smile and holds out his hand. Gibbs takes it and allows Tony to draw him over to the rug in front of the fire. They’re going to do this Tony’s way, and Gibbs finds he doesn’t mind that.

He’s learned a lot in the past three years.

He’s learned that he can’t control the PTSD, or what it does to his body.

He’s learned that he can’t rely on himself to be strong and in control all the time and that sometimes he has to lean on other people.

He’s learned to accept the unconditional love of one man and one dog, even when his pride protests.

He’s learned that someone else can be as strong for him as he’s always been for them.

He has learned that he has to bend, or he will break.

And he’s learned that while he can’t always trust himself anymore, he can always trust Tony DiNozzo.

Tony switches off the lights, plunging them into semi-darkness. The room glows, illuminated only by the soft light of the fire and the twinkling of the Christmas tree lights. Tony puts on some music; sweet, low, mellow jazz, and they undress each other slowly, pausing to kiss and nuzzle as they go.

When they’re naked, Tony guides him down onto the new rug in front of the fire. He is bathed in the fire’s warm embrace, and the fur rug feels luxurious under his bare skin.

Tony’s body is so perfectly familiar; his weight, his smell, his taste, and the firmness of his skin under Gibbs’s fingertips.

Tony nuzzles his neck, kissing and sucking, and then bestows a trail of kisses down his belly. Gibbs rests his hands on Tony’s ass, surrendering to the sensation of just being loved.

They become lost in their own lazy, leisurely world of lovemaking. There's no rush; they have all the time in the world, alone in this cabin so high up in the mountains, surrounded by snow.

Tony’s lubed fingers slick carefully in Gibbs’s body, stretching and opening him, and Gibbs lies back, relaxing and allowing himself to just enjoy being taken care of.

The fire has dwindled down to warmly glowing embers by the time Tony eventually slides into Gibbs’s body. Gibbs wraps his legs around him, pulling him in deep.

In the background, the jazz plays a smoky melody as Tony kisses him deeply with each smooth inward thrust.

It’s a slow orgasm that takes its time building, bit by bit, until it reaches a magnificent crescendo. Both of them are lost to the world for several minutes after. Tony just lies on top of him, breathing heavily, his body covered in a thin sheen of sweat, and Gibbs kisses his neck, stroking his hair lazily with his fingers.

Eventually Tony pulls out, grabs the throw from the couch, and wraps it around them both.

They lie there face to face, gazing at each other drowsily in the dimly lit room. Tony’s hand is on Gibbs’s hip, and every so often he strokes his fingers lazily over Gibbs’s thigh.

They doze, and sleep, and kiss, and doze. At some point Gibbs wakes up to find that the music has finished playing and the fire has almost completely died.

He slips out from under the blanket and throws some more logs onto the fire. Over in his basket, Digger makes a soft little sighing sound in his sleep. Gibbs glances at Digger and then looks down on Tony, remembering how he spent his first Christmas in this cabin, all alone, without these two in his life.

Tony stirs and looks up. “Hey…get back under the blanket. You must be freezing,” he says, raising his arm to welcome Gibbs back in.

“No, I'm not…in fact, I think I’m all thawed out now,” Gibbs says softly.

Gibbs gets back under the blanket, and Tony wraps his arms around him immediately, holding him close and warming him all the way through.

It is Gibbs’s fourth Christmas after leaving NCIS.

And he knows that he will never spend Christmas alone again.

The End
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Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all :-)

If you enjoy my stories, you might like to buy my original character BDSM slash novel, Ricochet! Available now from Smashwords and Amazon.

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