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With a Little Help From My Friends (Sequel to 'Help, I Need Somebody')

by: BuffyAngel68 (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #2
Chapters: 065 Word Count: 103164
Rating: ADULT
Warning(s): Disturbing Imagery or Content, Violence
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo, Abby Sciuto, Timothy McGee, Ensemble, Caitlyn (Kate) Todd, Tobias Fornell, Gerald, Kelly Gibbs, Jeanne Benoit
Category(ies): Action/Adventure, Angst/Drama, Established Relationship, Humor, Hurt/Comfort, New Character, Romance
Pairing(s): Gibbs/DiNozzo, Abby/McGee, Ducky/Gerald
Episode(s): 3-12 Boxed In
Summary: As Gibbs and Tony grow closer, an outside force is working to destroy the younger man. Meanwhile the rest of the team find their joy in varied and interesting places...

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12 | 13 | 14 | 15 | 16 | 17 | 18 | 19 | 20 | 21 | 22 | 23 | 24 | 25 | 26 | 27 | 28 | 29 | 30 | 31 | 32 | 33 | 34 | 35 | 36 | 37 | 38 | 39 | 40 | 41 | 42 | 43 | 44 | 45 | 46 | 47 | 48 | 49 | 50 | 51 | 52 | 53 | 54 | 55 | 56 | 57 | 58 | 59 | 60 | 61 | 62 | 63 | 64 | 65

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21

With a Little Help 21/?

-----------------------

9:30 SAT. MORNING
A LOCAL COMMUNITY CENTER:

PRIVATE LIVES: TONY

"C'mon, Toto. Make a play."

Tony looked down at the trio of cards in his hand and smiled lightly. When he'd first been gifted with the nickname, supposedly because his hair and personality often reminded the gifter of the Cairn terrier in the 'Wizard of Oz', any mention of it brought a grimace. Now that he'd been here a year or so and become close to the group of Saturday regulars, being called Toto made him inordinately happy. The familiarity of it told him he belonged and that they were comfortable with him, despite the age difference between them.

"Alright, alright. Can't a guy get a chance to think?"

"You've already *had* five minutes. More than one of us in this place could croak waitin' on you, son."

"Don't say that." Tony cautioned. "The man upstairs has sharp ears and he might take you up on it."

"He also has more patience than I'll ever have. Play, will you?"

"Yeah, yeah. 24." He finally announced, placing a card face up on the table.

The elderly black man across the table chuckled and made his play.

"7 for 31. Two points... and I am out." He said with satisfaction, lifting his gleaming silver peg from its hole and shifting it two spaces farther on, ending the match.

"Man... not again."

"Hey, you're still learnin' the game, Toto." His opponent reminded him, the depth and strength of his southern drawl soothing to Tony's ears. "Least I didn't skunk ya this time. That's progress."

"But not much consolation."

"You got the basics of cribbage down, boy. Now all you need is t'learn the strategy. Why, when an' what to play, when to go for maybe a lower hand if you think it'll get ya the higher crib. You picked this up real fast. Hell, you can already beat half the players in here of a Sat'dy mornin'. You just ain't got to the next step yet."

"Being able to compete with the champ four years running, namely you?"

"Dang right." The other man confirmed, standing slowly with the help of the cane he'd hung on the arm of the chair.

"Where you going, Christo? Usually we have time for at least three..."

"Your best girl wants a game."

Tony's face lit up.

"I thought Aggie couldn't make it this week."

"Her trip got canceled... not that she was real upset. She's missed you somethin' awful."

"Yeah... it was something I just couldn't put off anymore."

"I'm sure you'll tell her all about it. You two are thicker n'thieves, I swear..."

"She understands me."

"She also don't let you get away with keepin' anything hurtful locked up inside. Leastways, not for too long. Have a good game, Toto. You whoop Aggie's butt real good an' I'll be back to whoop yours again after."

"No doubt. See you in a while, Christo."

The other man limped off slowly to find another card game just as a lovely older woman approached and lifted Tony onto his feet for a fierce hug.

"Toto. My Lord, it's good to have you back." She murmured in his ear, her voice breaking just slightly. In the weeks before he'd checked himself into the hospital, she'd known something was wrong, was dragging him lower and lower, but she hadn't been able to make him reveal the source. Despite Christo's assertion that Tony told Aggie everything, this he had determinedly hidden from her. His affection for her was simply too deep for him to want to burden her with the weight he'd been carrying at the time.

"Good to be here, Aggie." He responded softly, rubbing her back once or twice before they separated. She dropped into the chair across the table, tightly clasping his hand.

"Where were you, honey? Three weeks? You've never stayed away from us that long."

"I know. I... I was getting some help. You were right all that time... something was bothering me. It just got worse and worse until... until I knew I'd do something dumb and permanent if I didn't find someone to talk to. I went to Bethesda hospital... and I told them how I was feeling. They put me together with a great doctor, Dennis Lewiston...
he's a lot like the way you describe your Dr. Mason, actually. Anyway, Lewiston straightened me out, got me back on my feet... now I'm doing great."

"Oh, Toto..."

"I should've told you first. I wish I had, but... it just seemed too much to dump on somebody who loves me."

"I do, very much." She affirmed, wiping her eyes discreetly with a tissue from her purse. "Any medication?"

"No. He says he's happy with how open I am and how I answer his questions. He hasn't said no pills in the future... but for now, he doesn't think I need it."

"That's a blessing, honey, trust me."

"I know. Seeing what the medicine has done to you..."

"Yes, well my dosage is correct now and I'm fine. All that is in the past. What about your handsome secret paramour, hmmm?"

Tony flushed and began re-setting the board as a distraction. "Toto. Talk to Dear Aggie, sweetheart."

"It's not so secret anymore, okay? When I got released from the hospital... my place had too many bad memories, so he picked me up and took me back to his house. I thought I'd just stay there 'till I could find a new apartment, but it turns out he feels the same way I have all along..."

"Oh, how marvelous! I told you! Didn't I tell you? All you had to do was open your mouth and your heart, I said..."

"You did, you told me a hundred times. You know what place my head was in. I didn't think I deserved him." Tony sighed, shuffling the deck of cards absentmindedly.

"Is he worthy of you, that's the point. Well?"

"Oh yeah. More than worthy. He treats me like... like now he's got me, I'm never getting away. I'm so loved and cherished it's coming out my ears."

"Good to know. Now I want details."

"Aggie!"

"Not *those* details, dear... though I will admit a lonely widow like myself isn't above a bit of vicarious living once in a while, as long as you don't get too graphic. No, what I want is the romance, the hand-holding, the quiet moments when neither one of you feels you need to talk, but you can both feel the love growing in your hearts..."

"Good grief, Aggie. You take a job with Hallmark while I was away?" he teased, dealing out the cards.

"Anthony."

"Oooh, real first name, I'm in trouble. Okay... last night, he called me precious.... and I could see in his eyes he really meant it. He treasures me... me, the wisecracking, comic book loving, former disciple of every mischief god anyone ever thought up... me, he thinks is precious. Hard to believe... but it's true."

"That's more like it. Go on."

"He touches my hair at home, runs his fingers through it... man, I totally melt into a puddle. He has a way of getting me to sleep you won't believe... oh, and wait 'till I tell you about Valentine's day..."

----------------------

11:45 GIBBS' HOUSE:

"Hey, Palmer. C'mon in."

The younger man stepped slowly into the house, his nose lifted and a smile of appreciation on his lips.

"Wow... that really smells good."

"My special recipe burgers. You want a beer?"

"Ummm... is there any soda?"

" 'Course. It's in the washtub out back. Follow me..."

"Where's Tony?"

"He said he had some friends to reconnect with, but he'd be home by noon." Gibbs explained, tossing a familiar red and white can into Jimmy's waiting hands and taking one himself. The pair sat down on opposite sides of the handmade picnic table a few feet away. Jimmy stared silently down into his can for several minutes. Gibbs waited him out, but eventually felt the need to prompt him.

"What's wrong, kid?"

"Huh? Oh... it's not wrong, not really. Well, it is for me, I guess. I just... I'm a little lost. Not lost, lost isn't right. More... confused and-and worried..."

"Jimmy."

"Sorry. I... I need some advice."

"About what?"

"Well... see, after the group session at the hospital, I didn't feel like being alone, so I went back to Dr. Mallard's house with him. Gerald was there... and that's when I found out Dr. Mallard was retiring. Gerald said he wanted to get to know me, so we could work as a strong team... but I don't want that and I can't figure out why. You have to understand, I don't get angry, or if I do, it doesn't show. I'll channel it into something else or hit the batting cage and get rid of it. The past week, though..."

"You're suddenly ready to blow up all over Ducky and the morgue and you don't know how to handle it."

Jimmy finally looked up and held Jethro's gaze steadily.

"Exactly. That's exactly it. What's wrong with me, Agent Gibbs?"

"Let's see... how about it's past time you learned that first names are okay when we're not actually *at* NCIS."

Jimmy smiled and relaxed slightly, just as Gibbs had intended. "Other than that... you're perfectly normal." He said, draining his can of soda and placing it on the table. "Your file says you've been through some major losses in your life."

"One or two..."

"There you go, then. Ducky's a mentor and a father figure. You feel like he's abandoning you and sticking you with a step-dad you barely know. It's natural to get angry with him and you'll probably stay angry until the truth sinks in."

"Truth?"

"You'll figure it out." Gibbs replied, standing and grabbing the empty can. Jimmy watched him with curiosity. "What?"

"I don't know... I guess I was waiting for you to... crush it."

"Last two lessons for the day, kiddo. I happen to love quiche and I recycle."

Jimmy smothered a laugh.

"Still a real man. Got it..."

Gibbs walked away to grab another drink and tend the burgers and a few moments later Tony strolled into the yard and up to the table, sniffing and smiling beatifically.

"Mmmm. Gibbs mega burgers... thank God, 'cause I am starved beyond belief! Hey, Jimmy. Glad you could make it, man." Tony greeted him, dropping down beside him on the bench.

"Me too, the minute I smelled the food. What makes his burgers mega, anyway?"

"Oh, little brother, you are in for a treat like you've never known. First... he mixes in some quality spices, like cumin and freshly grated ginger, but in real small amounts, so the flavor stays subtle. Then, he puts buffalo mozzarella and onions or maybe mushrooms on one patty, another patty on top and seals the meat together before he throws them on the grill. No ketchup, no mustard... these things barely need a bun. Believe me, fast food will no longer have any appeal after you taste one of Jethro's creations."

"Wow. Now I'm glad I skipped breakfast."

"Not yet, but you will be in about ten minutes. So... drinking soda?"

"If you'll tell me where you were this morning."

Tony raised an eyebrow, but he was pleased with Jimmy's bold response.

"Deal."

"You go first."

"Okay. You remember Ernie Yost? He walked in insisting he'd killed one of his buddies..."

"I remember. That was pretty intense."

"It was. Well, something he said really got to me. He told me his Medal of Honor let him fly anywhere he wanted for free, but he had nobody to go visit. I couldn't believe it, ya know? A genuine hero, all alone just because he had the strength and guts to keep living. One day a few months later I was driving home and I saw this big building... I'd never noticed it before. Turned out to be a community center. I went in to have a quick look... found out there was a big group of people around Ernie's age that all met there on Saturday mornings. They played cards, enjoyed some of the junky snacks their families wouldn't let them have... and they watched out for each other. Seemed like maybe that was what he needed, so I took him there one Saturday. He found cronies the minute he walked in. He loved it and it gave him what he'd been missing since his wife died... someone who cared about him. From that moment until the day he passed away... he was happy, just like he deserved to be."

"Tony, that's amazing. What a wonderful thing to do."

"Ernie was a pretty cool guy when you got to know him... plus he earned it. Your turn?"

"If you promise it stays between us."

"Absolutely. Pinky swear." Tony offered, holding out his little finger. Jimmy stared at it wide-eyed for a long stretch of seconds, fighting off shivers at the memory the gesture sent rushing through his head, but eventually he completed the ritual.

"Okay... I only drink once a year... and always two Coors..."

-----------------------------------

TBC.....

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