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Last to Know

by: silverfoxfiles (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 004 Word Count: 15561
Rating: MATURE
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo
Category(ies): Angst/Drama, Character Study, Episode Related, First Time, Hurt/Comfort, PWP
Pairing(s): Gibbs/DiNozzo
Summary: After the events of Internal Affairs, someone will be there for Tony. Will he let anyone in?

Author Notes: Beta: Special thanks to our beta goddess, Anna! We couldn;t have done this without her

excellent suggestions and guidance. And the new plot bunneh ;)

Author notes: This story was born in the waning moments of the episode. A couple of lines

from a favorite song started running through my head, specifically "Standing alone in

solitude, holding your head in your hands. Tears play like rain on your fingertips. Who but

yourself is to blame?" (Asia, The Last To Know, 1983). I started writing, shipped it off to

Ange and a baby fic was born. We hope you like our purty li'l darlin' as much as we do!

Disclaimer: Not ours, sadly. But we love playing with them!

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

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Last to Know Ch 1

It took less than five minutes for Jethro to lose the tail. Nobody—nobody—was going to know about the safehouse he had for his team. He’d called Tony, gave him a prearranged code and parked two blocks away. Jethro made sure he wasn’t followed and went inside. He’d also told everyone else to stay away and not to call, had stocked the place with alcohol and frozen pizza earlier today. He was the only one who could deal with this and he wanted to. He needed to.

There Tony was on the couch, head in his hands. Jethro crossed the room, standing behind the couch before leaning over, putting his chin on Tony’s shoulder, wrapping his arms around him from behind. Tony needed more, that much was clear, so without breaking his hold, he climbed over the back of the couch and pulled the crying man’s head against his shoulder, hand burrowing into Tony’s hair. “I’m here, Tony. I’m here. You’re not alone.”

“How could she do that to me? I wasn’t there; I wasn’t anywhere near there. Fornell just assumed, again, that I could murder someone. If I hadn’t have been so fucked up, I might have considered it.” Tony felt calmer knowing that Gibbs was here and would take care of him. He didn’t have to be strong; he could let go and no one would think differently.

“I told her it was all a lie. I let her walk away to hopefully find the peace she needs. I just don’t know that it’s going to help. I did that to her! I turned her into this damaged woman. She wasn’t like that when I met her; she was sweet and caring. I took that away from her.”

He’d expected Tony to be broken up, but he hadn’t expected Tony to be broken. “Fornell means nothing. We all knew it was a setup. Woman scorned. None of us doubted you for a second, Tony. We’ve been here before.” He tilted Tony’s head up, forcing him to look into his eyes.

“You gave her a gift, Tony. You’re the better person. It hurts like your heart getting ripped out a thousand times a second. I know. I’ve been there a few times now, few times too many. But you didn’t do it to her. Her father’s life did that. You got way too involved, but you got hurt too. She’s a grown woman, a doctor. Your charm and big smile aren’t that blinding.”

He could kill Jenny for putting Tony’s heart on the line. She sure as hell wasn’t here and wasn’t welcome. Ever. She was probably celebrating her reinstatement. “Women can be the coldest bitches on Earth, DiNozzo. Why do we do this to ourselves?”

Tony ducked his head back down, pressing his face into Jethro’s shirt. “You want some liquid therapy, Tony? Or we can just sit here. I’m not leaving. I promise you; I’m not leaving. Whatever you need, you tell me. I’ll make it happen. You’re not alone.”

“Drink, then sit here? I’m not ready to face the world right now. Not sure if I’m ever going to be ready.” Tony loved how solid Gibbs was, and that he wasn’t trying to get out of here. “I know it’s not my fault. I needed to do this, hell, I shouldn’t have even gotten involved to begin with. Jenny never told me that I should sleep with her. Never said I should fall in love with her. I screwed this up, boss. I screwed it up so bad. Instead of dealing with things she’d rather frame me for murder. I’m sorry, that’s fucked up.”

“Jenny used you, Tony. Jenny knew how easy it is for some guys to get involved. She didn’t mean for you to get hurt, but the fact remains you did.” Jethro disengaged himself gently from Tony and yanked his coat off. He grabbed a couple of beers and poured Tony a whiskey, bringing the bottle over.

“You know the drill: take the shot and follow it with the beer. It’ll take the edge off.” Jethro forced Tony’s chin up again. “You didn’t screw up. Jeanne needs to take responsibility for what she did. She’s not a kid, DiNozzo. Ever think some of her daddy’s traits got passed on?”

“Sure, you think it didn’t cross my mind? Her mother was as bad as her father. Barracuda wears Prada. Jeanne said she was passionate about her work, but I don’t believe it. She was awful.” That night had been horrible. The woman had a complete stage mother complex and refused to even try to act human.

“She wasn’t like either of them; she was good. She wanted to do good things and help people. She was angry. She was hurt and she acted out. I’ve had my car egged, crap left in my closet, various other acts of revenge against me. None of my former companions had ever accused me of murder.”

“Think finding out what Daddy was coulda changed her? You and me, we have a weak spot when it comes to women. What was it you said? Redheads are my kryptonite? I’ve got the one who stalks me, the one who was certifiable, literally, the one who cleaned me out and then married the guy I thought was my best friend. Assaulted by all three of ‘em at one time are another. The first one was the only one worth keeping. And you know what happened to her.”

Jethro downed a large gulp of beer, thinking maybe he needed something stronger too. “Shit happens to a lot of people. Some of ‘em use it as an excuse to be sociopaths. Some of ‘em don’t. All of ‘em gotta own what they do. And you gotta get rid of the hero complex thing. You had a weak moment. You fell in love. That didn’t make you a bastard.”

“No, lying to her and saying that it meant nothing to me made me a bastard. The rest, it made me human.” Tony took a swig of his beer before closing his eyes. Gibbs was right, he was a sucker for women, didn’t even have a specific type. Not unless long legs was a type. “I’ll never do it again, that much I can tell you. Love isn’t worth it. I get my life fucked up and some crazy woman coming after me. Not worth it.”

“Makes you an honorable man, Tony. I couldn’t have done it. You gave her more than she deserved. You gave her a way to move on and sacrificed yourself. I’m too much of a bastard to have done that. Nine out of ten guys wouldn’t have done what you did.”

Jethro grabbed the whiskey and took a slug before gulping down a long pull of beer. “Sex, companionship, never has to touch your heart. Stay above all of it. Use ‘em before they use you. Unless the right one comes along, and you’ll know better than to screw that up. Like Shannon. I knew…”

Why was he doing this? Why was he bringing up his biggest heartache? He never discussed her. With anyone.

Tony broke the silence. “I’m not interested even in the right one. I used to be able to love them and leave them. It was never a problem for me, up until recently. I’d never even considered a long term relationship before her, and now I’m sure I know why.” He didn’t feel honorable or like he’d given Jeanne any sort of closure. The way she looked at him made him feel two feet tall. “I’ve got a hand, I don’t even need to use them before sending them away. They can just stay away.”

He wouldn’t mention Paula right now. He wouldn’t do that to Tony and add to his sadness. “You never loved ‘em before her, DiNozzo. Stop fooling yourself. I’m giving you honesty here. Give it back. You’re getting more honesty than anyone, ever. Give it back, DiNozzo.”

Jethro snorted. “A hand. Like that excuse works. You find a hand that can kiss you, touch you, your hand feel as warm and wet as an aroused woman, you find a hand that makes your heart race. You find a hand that gives a fuck. You find a jackoff session that ever makes you feel complete, and I wanna know your secret. Because it doesn’t happen. Trust me here, Tony, it doesn’t. You just feel more and more alone. Yeah, you screw yourself. But it isn’t enough. It’s never enough.”

“Come on, boss, cut me some slack. I’m trying to make myself feel better, and you throw all that at me.” Tony knew that Gibbs was trying to do right by him, but right now he was more interested in pity than logic. “No, my hand won’t kiss me or feel like a woman, but it also won’t betray me or take it personally if I’m doing my job and I can’t break its heart. Might be an okay trade off.”

“What about Abbs? Someone at work? Someone who won’t expect too much and knows how we are about cases. Abbs can’t stop talking about your ass and legs. I don’t know what she saw or thinks she saw, but you made a permanent impression. She got drunk after Chip. She couldn’t stop talking about you.”

Jethro swallowed hard. Wasn’t like he was hiding a damn thing tonight anyway. “Telling you this tonight. Forget about it tomorrow. Took Abby to bed that night. She called out your name, Tony.” Then again, so had he. They’d both been so trashed, it’d been amazing they’d been able to perform.

“Abby wouldn’t expect too much from you and she’s as hot blooded as they come. If you can get past the coffin and the wedding dress thing.”

“You’d let me date your little girl? Seriously?” No, it wasn’t a little girl with her daddy relationship, especially if she and Gibbs ended up in bed together. “Abby is my ‘Best Friends Wedding’ girl, not my take home to bed and screw when it’s convenient girl.” Seeing the confused look on Gibbs face, Tony did his best Professor DiNardo impersonation.

“It’s a movie, boss. I’m surprised you haven’t seen it, stars a tall redhead, seems like your type of movie.” Ducking the head slap, Tony continued talking. “Anyway, Julia Roberts’ character has a best male friend, and they promise that if they’re still single when they hit a certain age, they’ll get together. Well, that day is creeping up on her, and she realizes that she’s in love with her best friend, so she calls to tell him, only to find out that he just got engaged and that the fiancée expects her to be in the wedding. The rest isn’t important and was really rather cliché. But that’s what Abby is to me. If we were both single and wanted to be married, then sure, I’d do that for her. But I’m not sure that she’s my IT girl. I know I’m not her IT guy. You, on the other hand… She has a thing for your hair. Ask her, she’ll tell you all about it.”

“Abbs has never been my little girl. Mine wouldn’t have been allowed to get all that ink.” Though Jethro had been fascinated by the back cross. “Ever seen the big one on her back? Must have hurt like hell.”

For a second when Tony started talking about IT girl and guy, Jethro had thought Tony was going to just admit that he was interested. But then he went back to Abby. “Trust me, DiNozzo. We used each other. She called out your name; I called the one I was using her for. I know she wants me, but she wants you too. And in bed that night, it was about you, Tony.”

“Wow, I’ve never been told that, at least not when I wasn’t in bed with the person. At least someone was enjoying themselves that night. I wasn’t thinking sex, I was more concerned about a warm meal and my own bed.”

Jethro met Tony’s eyes. “You don’t seem to understand. In bed. It was about you, Tony. All about you.”

“Yeah, I get it, boss. You two were upset about what happened and sought out a little comfort from someone else who knew what was going on. I’m glad you guys could do that.”

Jethro growled, not quite believing Tony could be so dense. He had to be using this as foreplay, or some twisted game.

“I’ll take full credit for you getting some, it’s about damn time. It’s been to long since you were married, boss, and that blonde wasn’t doing it for you. I don’t know what I was thinking, saying she could be the next ex-wife. Now Abby, she’s probably to smart to marry you, but she’s got to be a hell of a lot of fun.”

“I’m done with ex-wives, Tony. Got my eye on someone else. Someone whose been making me hard for years now.”

Jethro jerked his own chin toward the bottle and shot glass. “You don’t want me forcing that down your throat, do ya? I poured, you drink.” He paused while Tony downed another shot and then poured himself a double. “So, you’re guilty of falling in love. Happened to a lot of guys before. Some of us more than once. So, you allowed yourself to think of a future. Been there, too. And I made it. You will too, Tony. Let me get ya through tonight and tomorrow and the next day. One day you’ll wake up and it won’t hurt so much. You’d just better hope she never ends up working in the same building you are and screwing with your team like mine did.”

Jethro lifted his beer. “Long live the queen. More like long live the black widow.” He poured another drink. “Long live the bitch. I hope she’s having a damn good celebration tonight. Got invited out to dinner. Like I’d be anywhere but here with you. Everyone wanted to be here. Ziva, McGee, Abby, Duck, even Fornell called to see how you were. He pushed too hard. Didn’t think you’d want to see anyone, maybe not even me. If you want me to go, I’ll leave, but just the room. I’m sticking around tonight. Who else is bringing the drinks? Who else can drag ya to bed if you’re too drunk to walk?”

“That was mighty gracious of him. Go after me for murder again, then call to see how I’m doing. How many times does he think he can arrest me before it starts looking like he has it out for me? Oh wait, he does have it out for me.”

“Control over me, the other agencies try to keep me in line. They know you and me, we’re a tight team. Tobias…I used to consider a friend. Not any more. He can go to hell. Should have told him that when he married Diane. Wanted me to be best man. He’s good at putting a guy’s balls in a vise.”

“He’s a bit delusional, isn’t he? You, his best man when he was marrying your ex?” It was laughable to think that they could control Gibbs by going after him. Go after Abby? Yeah, that might work. But not him, he was just another agent in a line of many. “Tell him he could try going after another one of your team members the next time. It’s getting tedious, you having to bail me out constantly.”

“He’s a bastard. He knows you’re my Achilles heel. I’d work like hell to save Tim or Ziva, or Duck--even Jenny. But you and Abby are the ones I’d die for.” Jethro wouldn’t say any more on the subject. He’d said far too much already.

“Don’t want you dead, boss. Don’t do anything to try to save me if it ever comes down to it. Not worth it. But if it were you, yeah, I’d do what ever I could to make sure you were okay. You and Abby both, probably McGee if push came to shove. Ziva, I’d at least make an attempt. But you or Abby, you need a kidney or for me to find you and negotiate your release after being kidnapped by Pygmies, just let me know and I’m the man for the job.”

“Didn’t say I was planning on it, DiNozzo.” He lowered his voice. “I owe you. You could have gotten sick hauling me out of the water. Hell, did I even thank you? Way I drink, I’ll need a liver before a kidney. Abby’d get hooked up with the Pygmies. Bring ‘em home, dance with ‘em. Probably name ‘em Jethro.”

“She only did that because she loves you. I’m not sure that the world could stand another Jethro in it. But you’re right. If anyone were to do something like that, it would be Abbs. She managed to convince McGeek to adopt the dog that attacked him. She’s good for us, and keeps us honest. We both need the little ball of goth sunshine she brings to our life.”

“World doesn’t need this Jethro either, DiNozzo.” Had they already shared a half bottle of whiskey? No wonder he was talking so damn much. “Abby’s good. Makes us better. She’s sunshine with dyed black hair and tattoos. And she makes a hell of a Marilyn Monroe.”

“Oh yeah, she does. I had to keep telling myself it was Abby under there, and not some woman I could take home for the night, and pay for a cab in the morning. Abby in the wig and dress, she might be my IT girl after all. Or I can just perv over the memory of her looking so hot. The white dress and the tats. That could feed my hand for a long time.”

Jethro chuckled. “She did that Mr. President thing and I felt like a dirty old man, Tony. She’s wild. And she’s a natural blonde.”

“I knew that her hair couldn’t be that black naturally, but a blonde? I never would have guessed. Maybe she’ll give me a peek some day, if the circumstances were right.”

“We could make ‘em right, though you won’t tell by looking there. She’s bare. Completely bare, Tony. You ever had someone completely bare like that? Not shaved, Tony. Bare. You tell when she has roots, top of her head.”

“Ouch! Explains why once a month she’s so grouchy. Hot wax on intimate body parts, that’s got to hurt. But sexy as hell to think about her going through that for her partner’s personal enjoyment, but you wouldn’t catch me getting it done.”

“You think Abbs is a wax girl? Peruvian, or whatever she said it was called? No. She did one of those fancy permanent things, Tony. Laser something.” Jethro leaned in close. “Some lovers like different textures on their partners. Muscles giving way to softness. Smooth slick skin.”

“There’s a term I never would have associated with Abby, softness.” He was going to need to confirm this, hopefully Abby wouldn’t shoot him when he asked. “I’m taking it to mean you like a little softness in your partner. Someone who can soothe you instead of getting you more worked up.”

“Hard and soft together is what gets me off. You ever have that together, Tony? Softness, then hardness. Strong muscle right under silky skin.” A hard cock under velvety soft skin. “Steel covered in softness.”

Jethro let his eyes close. “Getting drunk. Maybe I should go to bed. Leave ya to it. Fornell’s number is in my phone. If you want to do that speed dial thing, I’ll never know.”

When Tony had left Baltimore PD, he’d never considered that he’d be investigated by the FBI once, let alone several times. There was something to add to his resume the next time he was looking for a job. Probably sooner than later at this rate.

“Don’t go, should never drink alone. That just makes you a pathetic man and a potential alcoholic. If you get shit faced with a friend, you’re either a frat boy or someone having a good time. I suppose I’m a former greek, and I could really have a good time after tonight.”

“I’m getting something stronger then. I could use it. Been drinking alone a lot of years, DiNozzo. Think I’m pathetic? Used to wonder if you hero-worshipped me. Not any more, not since Mexico. You couldn’t even look me in the eye when I came back. Now ya know the truth about me. Just a pathetic guy with a taste for bourbon. Or whatever takes the pain away. Long as it goes down okay, I don’t care. Ya get to a point in life where you don’t care. Ya just do your job best you can. The rest of it doesn’t matter. Don’t turn in to me, Tony. Get out while you’re still alive. Wish someone had told me that when I was your age.”

“It wasn’t hero worship, not in the traditional sense. I thought that I could be a more effective leader by becoming you. I found out I was barely a shell of the man you were when you were leading the team. It’s harder than it looks, that’s for sure. I was embarrassed because you caught me at the game. You beat me at the game, busting me in my pathetic attempt to be you.” He didn’t believe that Gibbs was pathetic. He assumed that after everything the man had been through, he deserved to drink alone.

“You’ve got your boat, which has taken on a life of its own, boss. That means you’re not drinking alone. And I’ll take a double of what ever it is you’re drinking. If there was ever a night to get drunk, it’s tonight. Not often you beat a murder rap for the second time in your life.”

Jethro snorted at the boat comment. “Yeah, the boat keeps me warm at night, Tony. It might keep my hands and mind busy, but there’s something to be said about waking up beside a warm body, thrusting into wet heat, legs wrapped around your waist, kisses, moans, someone to make sure you eat and sleep when you’re focused on a case. Someone to listen when it gets to be too much. Someone who touches you. Have any idea how long its been since someone beside Abbs hugged me? Since I was with Hollis. Months ago.”

Jethro walked into the kitchen and grabbed a couple of bottles for them each. He knew they were going to regret this in the morning, but for now they needed it. He walked back, lining the bottles up before opening one. “Courvoisier X.O. Cognac. The stuff Benoit and Ducky drank. Couple hundred bucks a bottle, NCIS’ dime. Think I can drink the entire thing?” He took a swallow, seeing it as a means to an end. “Brandy isn’t my thing. I’m not a sip and savor guy, but it’ll do the job.”

“I’ll help you out on killing that, especially if neither one of us is paying for it. We should invite Ducky over. He raved about the drink he had with the Frog. Smoothest thing he ever drank. Seems fitting that we’re toasting the end of that man, the one who almost ruined me not once, but twice.”

“Ducky’s on my shit list right now, DiNozzo. I don’t care how much he liked La Grenouille. You’re who matters.” Jethro leaned back, shoulder to shoulder with the younger man, and passed the bottle over. “You wanna finish it, you can. Won’t obliterate me fast enough. That’s what we’re doing, right? Drinking until we’re numb. Instead of trying to find better ways of fixing it. Should call Abby. She’d be up for anything, even two bitter, drunk guys.”

“Go ahead; give her a call. She’ll get drunk with us and tell us we both suck. But she’d do it with a lot of panache so that we couldn’t get mad at her.”

“It’d end up in bed, DiNozzo. Want to spend tonight with you. We’ll take tomorrow off; call her. Tonight I’m not sharing you with anyone. Not even Abbs.”

“She won’t be happy about that, boss. She’s big on sharing, although that’s fine too. What she doesn’t know won’t kill her.”

“Tony, you have no idea.” Jethro let out a short laugh.

Tony looked at his boss, really looked and wanted to know more. They were flirting and leading towards something more it seemed. “Explain it to me, then. Make me understand.”

“No. Think about it. Think hard, DiNozzo. Got too much to lose if I put it out there too soon.”

“Gibbs, I’m tired I’m well on my way to being drunk and I don’t want to think. I want something to be easy. If it can’t be easy, I don’t want to bother.”

“It can be easy, but you gotta be sure. Too much to lose. Smallest response firms up your interest.”

“I’ve lost too much as it is don’t you think?” Tony was getting agitated, he didn’t want to solve puzzles or be bothered. “We talking I’m on my way to losing my job? Losing everything that’s near and dear to me?”

“Just the opposite. My career on the line. You’re safe whatever you say or do. Don’t like dancing around it, Tony, but I’m not a young guy. If I lose everything, I have no way to live.”

Jethro dragged the conversation back to something a little less charged. “Never wanted a clone. Never sought you out to be…what is it? Mini me? That isn’t you, DiNozzo. We’re as different as two guys can be, but you’ve come into your own as an agent and a leader. Best damn decision I made was bringing you on. I know when I go for good, the team is safe in your hands. You’re enough maverick to get stuff done and charming enough to grease the wheels and disarm the black widow. You just need confidence.”

“You know a pop culture reference. I’m impressed, boss. I wouldn’t have expected it of you. And it might not have been what you were seeking out, but it’s what the team expected. Abby needed someone like you to push her and McGee just wasn’t the same if he wasn’t terrified. Ziva even respected me. She didn’t trust me to get her out of trouble, but she respected me.”

“Stephanie and Abby watched that stupid movie a few times.” He leaned in, grasping DiNozzo’s wrist. “Nobody needed you to act like me. Don’t do it again. Be yourself, Tony.”

“Trust me, it’s harder being Gibbs then you let on. Wouldn’t want to try. Burned up more energy then I had trying to be stealthy. But they did need it. They needed a seamless transition, and watching you leave it was the last thing I was thinking. But trust me, it was expected. Even Jen told me, that she expected the team to run the same under me as it did under you. Just a little pressure on someone who woke up that morning expecting it to be semi-normal.”

“I had to go. It was survival. My mind was gone, Tony. My memories had holes you could run an aircraft carrier through. And you guys expected this instant recovery, first time I ever felt pressure like that from you guys. You didn’t mean it. I know that. Wasn’t fair on any of us. Least of all those boys who got blown up.”

“I’m not blaming you. If it had been me, I would have done the same thing. I understood then that you needed to be anywhere but where you were. We all understood after thinking about it. But the girls, they still missed you. Timmy, he didn’t quiver when I yelled like he did with you. All of us were a little lost, but we weren’t going to hold it against you.”

“Weren’t the only ones lost, Tony. Weren’t the only ones lost at all. I was just as lost. I didn’t know who I was.”

Jethro grabbed the bottle and took a couple of healthy swigs. “Don’t become me, DiNozzo. Bitterness and loneliness doesn’t suit you. I had a reason to become that way when I lost everything that mattered. You still have hope. Don’t let Jeanne define you. Don’t let anyone define you but yourself, Tony.”

“Jeanne couldn’t define me; she didn’t know me. I don’t know me anymore. I’m going need to take some time and find me. Maybe a little time away from work would help. I could get in the car and just drive until I run out of gas and hope there’s a half way decent motel in the area. Heading down south might be nice. Impromptu spring break trip--all the beer I can drink and women in bikinis. Not a bad option.”

“No. Request for leave denied. You’ll brood. You’ll drink. You get tonight to do that, maybe the rest of the week, and then I need you back. You’re a grown man, Tony. I’m not letting you revert to that because its comfortable to you. Not after what I saw today.”

Where was that damn bottle? DiNozzo was driving him to drink.

Without really meaning to, he stood up and loomed over Tony a little unsteadily. “Stop hiding, DiNozzo. Don’t hide from me. Keep telling you; you don’t want to be like me. Take my damn advice. Listen to me, will ya. I’m here for ya. I’m here.”

His hand went to Tony’s hair and he ran a hand over it softly instead of cuffing him. All that crap he put in it should have made it sticky, but instead it was soft and silky, trailing through his fingers. “Pretty damn lonely, my life. Just trying to stop you from going down the same road. You’ve got a big heart there. Don’t close down. Don’t let the bastards win.”

“Great advice from a man who admits that he had done exactly what he’s telling me not to do. Sorry if I’m having a hard time buying into what you’re saying.” He needed to do something, go somewhere, even if it was just for the day. He hadn’t felt this way since Kate had died, and he had almost left NCIS then. Another case, another crushing blow and he was again considering if this was what he should be doing with his life.

“I don’t do this with anyone, DiNozzo. I don’t care like this about anyone beside Abby. I don’t put it out there like that. Like you were a brother or a son. Take the advice or not, you want to turn into me, do it. You want to be alone, do it. You want to play the pity card, do it. But someday realize that someone cared enough to tell you things nobody else knows to try to save you from yourself.”

“You know, I could go groveling back to my father, tell him I’ll take the position he created for me when I graduated from college. I would get paid just to go sit in the office and be a DiNozzo, there’s a lot to be said for that, you know. Get myself a trophy wife, who wouldn’t expect anything from me but to let her continue her life the way it was before I married her. We’d have to spawn at some point, but I like kids as long as someone else is there to care for them. It would be a dream life, at least for some people. I could probably even do it. I’ve done my duty, maybe it’s time for me to settle down, start drinking too much and not exercising enough. I’m old enough to become my father now.”

“You want to go back to the guy who didn’t give a shit while you lay dying? You want to sabotage yourself and NCIS that much? You’d take away the best damn investigator and undercover operative I’ve ever worked with or seen, to be some fat, soft executive to please someone who doesn’t deserve you? Who never deserved a kid like you. Your biggest accomplishment is being so much better than him, Tony. Maybe someday you’ll see that, before it’s too late.”

Jethro was still holding the younger man’s skull and he let go, moving a couple of feet away. “You gotta bury the hurt little boy who needs Dad’s approval. It’s the only way you can move on, DiNozzo. The only way you’ll ever be happy. Call him up, tell him he doesn’t matter, and move on. Live for you. Go for what you want, not what’ll help you make do. You only go around once. You and me, we’ve been close to the edge. More than once. Lately more than once a year.”

Jethro looked at the bottle he was holding. “Should take my own damn advice. Stop hiding. Grab life by the balls for a change. Go for it and try, even if I lose everything.” He looked at the bottle again, suddenly tired of it all. “Just sick and tired of being alone, Tony. Don’t want you where I am. Too good for that. You’re too smart, too talented. You’re needed. And wanted. I need you…”

“On my team.” Cop out, he knew it. But he had too much on the line right now.

“Wouldn’t do it, boss. Just nice to know that I could.” Tony ducked his head, not able to look Gibbs in the eye. “Any other day of the year, I enjoy my job too much to turn my back on it and go play desk jockey. If I wanted that, I would have taken it out of college and had my student loans paid off right away. I enjoy what I do; I just need to have a little pity party tonight. Wouldn’t really do it, even if it would be the easy way to go.”

“Drink then. The expensive stuff. Ya earned it. And look at me, dammit. I’m telling you things nobody knows. Nobody. Not Abby. Nobody. Because you got someone here fighting for you. Okay? Stop hiding from me, DiNozzo. Makes me think you’re embarrassed to be drinking with me.” Jethro closed Tony’s hand around the bottle.

“I’m not embarrassed and I’m not hiding. It’s just I’m not used to you sharing. Abby will drag things out of me, but I don’t willingly share with her. I’m trying here; I just need another drink or three before I’m comfortable spilling my heart out.”

“I should be the one embarrassed. You got nothing to be embarrassed about, Tony.” Jethro’s hand went back into the younger man’s hair, stroking slowly as he sank back beside Tony, leg against leg, arm resting on the other man’s shoulder.

“Want to know what I’m thinking right now?” He didn’t wait for an answer, just leaned over to snag the bottle, taking another long gulp, angling his body in to Tony’s. “I’m thinking I don’t want to be alone tonight. Not talking about drinking, either. Not dancing around it, Tony. I want you in that bedroom. Wherever it goes, I want you in that bed.”

Jethro stood unsteadily and walked toward the bedroom. “Your choice now. Won’t think any differently if you don’t want it. Won’t ever mention it again. You decide.”

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