Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 1748
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo
Pairing(s): - No Pairing -
Episode(s): 3-23 Hiatus (1), 3-24 Hiatus (2)
Summary: He closed his eyes and sighed and thought about sun and beaches and places where you could see more stars than darkness between.
Author Notes: Not mine, just borrowing for fun, not for money. Second NCIS fic ever. Big thanks to lordessrenegade, who beta'd this short-notice.
He brushed droplets of rain off the back of his knuckles as he walked through the door. His footsteps echoed in the blankness of his house. The place felt like a hotel room – cold and impersonal. He didn’t bother taking off his shoes, and left puddles of rain chasing his shadow.
A cold, white light in his kitchen was on and he followed it, hanging his coat carefully on the edge of a chair before sinking down into it. Carefully, he rested his head in his hands and covered his face with his fingers so he could only see the blackness and the light that crept in around the edges. He sat there for a very long time, until the hum of the air conditioning clicked off, unneeded in the cooling night, and each tick of the clock ran together until it was just a steady undercurrent, the measure of things he had wasted or lost.
Eventually, he allowed himself to think again, and his muddled brain spun uselessly beneath his exhaustion. He should get up. He should eat something. He should finish his leftover paperwork. He should go downstairs, where the light was warmer, and lose himself in the rasp and roughness of drying wood.
There were a lot of things he should be doing.
Instead, he managed to rouse himself and walk across the hall to the living room he never used, shoes squeaking on the floor, the sound of dying rain. Water beaded his hair still, drying between his fingers. He felt damp all over, and shivered. The air conditioner started up again with a reluctant whine.
More collapsing than flopping onto the couch, he eased off his shoes and lost himself in the empty cavern of his television screen. He almost never watched TV – it was always just white noise to keep the silence at bay. But it was very good at making him lose himself to the outside world, very good at not making him think about anything at all. Very good at postponing the time when he’d have to look in the mirror or sink into bed with nothing but himself and the darkness, and the cold between the sheets.
He got up and turned on the hall light. The TV was just the flickering shadows at his back. He flicked the air conditioning switch and it shut off again with a grateful sigh.
As he turned to go back to the safety of the TV, his eyes narrowed in confusion when he heard a knock at the door. Although he had no idea at all what to expect, he somehow wasn’t surprised when he opened the door and saw a face that shouldn’t have been so haggard.
He watched the lips as they opened, formed words through the emptiness. “Hey, boss,” they said.
He almost said Don’t call me that, but he didn’t, because he knew neither one of them would be comfortable with what he called him instead.
At his silence, the face turned away just a fraction. “I thought you might be downstairs.”
He made some very small motion with his shoulders or his arms or his hands. “I’m not.”
There was a soft release of breath that may have been the remnant of a laugh, and DiNozzo turned his face back the other way until he was looking over his shoulder. “No. You’re not.” There was a very short, very painful pause, and then there were words again and DiNozzo was looking at him and he thought smiles were supposed to be happy things. “Did you think you could sneak in without saying hello?”
He didn’t know what else to do, so he shifted until he was standing to the side of the door, and waited. DiNozzo hesitated, then nodded and walked past him on solid legs that thunked and squeaked when they hit the ground.
Shutting the door, he found himself face-to-face with DiNozzo, and to cover their awkwardness, he walked to the kitchen and pulled out some coffee, socks swishing on hardwood then tile.
DiNozzo followed him to the entrance of the room and leaned against the frame. “Sure.” There were drying spots of rain darkening his shoulders. The cold light deepened the shadows in his face, and Gibbs was tempted to turn it off, to lose himself in darkness now that he wasn’t alone. His hands tightened on the coffee mugs.
The sounds of him making coffee weren’t cutting through the silence enough to make it comfortable, and they were both feeling it. But Gibbs didn’t make small talk, because he never did, and to do so now would be too much like admitting something, too much like an apology.
Tony cleared his throat. Wait, when had he decided to call him Tony? Confusion was dissipated by the words that came, and escaped into the room like a sigh, thickening the air. “How was Mexico?”
Gibbs shrugged. There wasn’t much to say to that. Mexico just was.
Tony knew that. He closed his eyes. “I bet it didn’t rain there.”
Gibbs stopped fiddling with the coffeemaker for a moment. His back was turned to Tony, and he hoped the other man’s eyes were still closed, that he didn’t see the way Gibbs’ shoulders had dropped for a moment as he leaned against the countertop. He sighed. “I was getting tired of sun.”
But the silence didn’t get any thinner with the words, and he realized that that may have been too much for the conversation they had been having. So he shook his head a little and watched the coffeemaker drip steadily, playing countermelody to the clock, while a slight rustle behind him made him remember he wasn’t alone.
He closed his eyes and sighed and thought about sun and beaches and places where you could see more stars than darkness between. Wondering how he had gotten tired of it. He supposed it was because you needed some clouds, every once in a while, to make the sun more real. And because sometimes clouds were better, calmer. Rain was always comforting, he reflected.
Except that it wasn’t, it wasn’t any of those things, because the rain was just cold. And clouds weren’t calm, weren’t poetry. Sometimes they just reflected his mood better. He had gotten tired of the sun, he thought, because he was tired of everything around him being clear. He wondered if that made him crazy, but couldn’t summon up the energy to care.
And the sun hurt his eyes. Too much brightness, even with his glasses. Getting old, he thought. And three months ago, looking at Tony for too long would have done the same thing. But now he was pale and shadowed, needed more sun.
Gibbs shook his head. He was getting too close to things he couldn’t fix, didn’t want to think about. So he just opened his eyes and fixed his gaze on the darkness of the coffee, rising little by little. The clock ticked and he had a sudden urge to rip it off the wall.
Instead, he just said, “How did you know where I was?” with roughness and something akin to interest in his voice, but that wasn’t, not really.
He heard Tony shrug behind him. He waited, but the other man didn’t say anything, and Gibbs didn’t care, anyway, and maybe Tony knew that. The coffeemaker turned itself off, the red light at the top fading quickly.
Glad for something to do, Gibbs cleared his throat and pulled the mugs closer. “Milk or sugar?” He turned for the first time since he had put water in the coffeemaker in time to see Tony shake his head.
Gibbs shrugged and handed over a mug, taking a sip of his own. “I thought you didn’t like coffee.”
Tony gave him that same smile he had seen at the door, the one that shouldn’t really be called a smile at all because it was closer to tears. “I got over it.”
And it was almost funny, except that it wasn’t, it wasn’t at all, and they were just two pathetic people looking for something to be looking for because they didn’t want the things they were supposed to want.
The coffee burned his mouth when he took too big of a sip, and after that he couldn’t taste it. Tony was still sipping his, and they stood across the room from each other, Tony leaning on the doorframe still, and Gibbs leaning on the kitchen counter. He found himself wondering, for an abstract moment, why neither one of them was standing up straight, but he didn’t follow the thought.
Tony lowered his mug. It was dark blue, Gibbs noticed, with white letters running along the curve. The rain swelled suddenly, not quite drowning out the clock. The harsh light buzzed and flickered.
“I don’t remember leaving a light on when I left the house.”
Tony closed his eyes briefly and shrugged. “You don’t lock your door.” His mouth quirked sideways. “Don’t worry, boss. You won’t have a big electrical bill.”
Gibbs’ eyes narrowed. “You knew I was coming back.” He paused, then shook his head. “Dammit, Mike,” and his mind wasn’t in D.C. anymore.
“Not his fault.”
Gibbs pulled himself back. “No.”
The silence reached up again, and it was quiet for a very long time, long enough for both of them to finish their coffee, long enough for the sound of the TV to filter in through the hallway.
Gibbs sighed. He knew that they would have to talk about the team and his job, but he also knew that that was for tomorrow, for daylight and directors. “Why are you here?”
Tony pushed himself into motion, walking over next to Gibbs – but only to put his empty mug in the sink. He paused and cocked his head. “Welcome back, boss,” he whispered.
And then he turned and walked out of the kitchen, and Gibbs heard the sound of the rain increase, and then the click of the latch as his front door closed again. And then he was alone, with the cold, empty house and the ticking of the clock and the harsh light, and the sound of rain on the roof.