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Choose Life

by: Sequitur (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 001 Word Count: 1408
Rating: CHILD
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo, Ensemble
Category(ies): Friendship
Pairing(s): - No Pairing -
Summary: Post-Family. In which Tony wants to know what he's doing on his floor,
and, by the way, he wouldn't mind knowing why everyone else is down
there with him.

Chapters: 1

Tony wakes up at five in the morning with a stiff neck, a sore shoulder, and a migraine. Those, he notices right away. It takes him longer to notice that the warm body he has one arm wrapped around is not Jeanne but Abby—how much did he have to drink last night? Then he notices that he’s on the floor. Then he notices that McGee is curled up against his back and breathing on his ear, which is frankly the last straw.

He maneuvers himself out of the weird cuddle-fest on the floor and goes into the kitchen and starts looking for coffee before his brain wakes up enough to tell him what the hell is going on.

“Oh yeah,” he says. “I bought a house.”

Which explains why he can’t find any coffee. He doesn’t exactly recall putting anything away. So the coffee is incommunicado and off in a box somewhere. Maybe it’s wherever his bed is. He wishes he were wherever his bed is. He hoists himself up on the kitchen counter and sits there, drinking tap water out of his cupped hands, looking out the window at his brand-new backyard. He’s trying to work out whether he could trim his hedge into funny animal shapes when the rest of last night thuds into his head. Tony is really, really not a morning person.

He ducks his head out into the living room again and takes everything in. McGee and Abby, who are both cuddlier than teddy bears, are dealing with his absence by rolling halfway on top of his sleeping bag and spooning each other instead of him. He thinks he can handle that loss. Ziva is curled up like a tired, Mossad-trained kitten on his couch, her mouth open and her hair knotted up into a definite rat’s nest. He can’t hear her snoring, but he thinks that’s probably because of the TV: evidently, they’re halfway through Dr. No. Outside the oasis of sleeping bags, his floor is a complete mess of potato chips, dip, pizza boxes, ice cream bowls, and DVD cases. All this evidence confirms his memory.

He actually had a sleepover last night.

He’s pretty sure he remembers this. He’s pretty sure McGee brought him a plant.

He knows why he asked them over. He asked them over because Jeanne wanted the two of them to buy a house and now he and Jeanne aren’t even in the same country anymore but he has the house anyway, because why should he let himself off easily? Anyway, he rationalized, at thirty-five, he should have a house and not an apartment anyway. And he can afford it! And he likes hedges! And the neighborhood has good schools! And a dog walking program! None of which, of course, meant anything when he pitted it against the topsy-turvy feeling he got in his stomach when he sat down in front of the TV alone, surrounded by taped-up boxes, a slice of cold pizza dangling from his hand, and the idea that he might have really screwed up this time echoing loudly in his head and in his empty house.

He thinks that’s when he had the idea for a sleepover, vintage style.

He rests his forehead against the cool glass of the window. He is lonely and now they know it, now they have their proof forever.

A warm hand squeezes his shoulder. He turns his head, sees Gibbs, and almost falls off the counter.

He is definitely not a morning person.

“I thought you left,” he says. He says it quietly; he doesn’t want to wake any of them up. “You weren’t in the living room.”

Gibbs jerks his head in the direction of the hallway. “Bed.”

“You found my bed?”

Gibbs looks at him with the faintest hint of amusement in his eyes. “Yeah, DiNozzo, did you lose it?”

“It’s mine and I want it back.” He lowers himself down from the counter. “I’m too old to sleep on floors and Ziva snores like a freight train and I have a headache and my neck hurts.”

He’s ninety-percent sure that Gibbs is laughing at him in his head.

He decides that it probably won’t kill him to use the power of positive thinking a little, and so he adds, “But I really like my hedge. I think I’m going to make it into a herd of zebras.”

“It’s five in the morning, Tony,” Gibbs says, and he rubs the back of Tony’s neck a little, almost—but not quite—ruffling his hair in the process. The vise around his muscles eases off a little. “Go back to bed. We have the day off.”

Tony looks at him hopefully. “My real bed?”

“Your real sleeping bag.”

He should have known. Well, he supposes it’s only fair. If he’s too old to sleep on the floor, Gibbs is too old to even joke doing it. He hobbles back to the living room and then stops. Gibbs is in sweatpants and an old NIS T-shirt, lazily eating the crust of a discarded piece of pizza, and watching Tony watch him; Tony has to ask the question that’s been keeping him up. If anyone would know, it would be Gibbs. Because he has to know. Because McGee and Abby are sleeping on his floor and Ziva’s on his couch and Ducky’s with his crazy mother, but he did pay for all the pizza, after all, and he just—he has to know why.

“I know why I called you,” he says, and he lets that stand in for all that cold and aching loneliness, all the emptiness of his new house, all the vertigo he’d had when he looked out over what had come from his life so far, “but I don’t know why you all came.”

Gibbs breaks the last piece of crust in two and hands him half. His eyes are warm and steady.

“Because you called,” he said.

The crust is cold and stale and way too garlicky but he eats it anyway; he thinks it’s the best thing he’s tasted in a long time.

He goes back into the living room and drags Ziva off the sofa, ignoring the muffled grunt of protest and the way she temporarily shoves a gun into his ribs before she’s all the way awake. Then the two of them make a hole in the tangled mess of sleeping bags and spare sheets. He elbows McGee to make him scoot over, and McGee says something that sounds a lot like, “Mmph, Tony, what the hell, oh whatever,” in a sleepy and seriously apathetic voice; Abby wakes up enough to murmur something about dog-piles and conserving body heat; and then they’re all situated in a big warm heap, and somehow Tony has his ankle hooked around the leg of the coffee table, which is really going to bother him.

But Abby nestles into him on one side and Ziva leans against him on the other, her tangled hair pushed up into his face. He puts an arm around her and stretches out far enough to graze his fingers against McGee’s back, and the foot that isn’t slowly losing circulation to the coffee table gets pushed back between Abby’s ankles. And he’s weirdly comfortable, even though he knows every single part of his body is going to hate him when he wakes up again.

“Night, Tony,” Abby whispers. She kisses his shoulder.

Ziva just wriggles a little and then squeezes his hand.

McGee squishes further back against Ziva so that Tony’s arm is almost around them both and mumbles something about a spaceship.

He’ll have to ask Probie about that one later.

The house is warm and the early sun isn’t too bright and he thinks that he’ll maybe trim the hedge to look like a lions instead of zebras. Maybe. He’ll take suggestions once they’re all awake again, once they’ve found the coffee pot. He likes the idea of making them breakfast in his kitchen, in his house, and he falls asleep again thinking about air mattresses and living room sub-woofers, swimming pools and extra chairs, the kinds of things you buy for family.

Chapters: 1

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