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by: Xanthe (Send Feedback)

Series: - No Series - #1
Chapters: 005 Word Count: 48169
Rating: ADULT
Character(s): Jethro Gibbs, Tony DiNozzo
Category(ies): Angst/Drama, Character Study, First Time, Hurt/Comfort, Romance
Pairing(s): Gibbs/DiNozzo
Summary: When Tony receives some bad news, it forces him and Gibbs to go on a difficult and emotional journey.

Author Notes: Timeline and canon: In this story I've based Tony's age being 36 in 2008 on the fact that it's explicitly stated by both him and Kate that he's 32 in the episode "Split Decision" which aired in 2004, and he mentions playing college basketball in 1992 in "Swak" which ties in with this dating. Other canon facts are not entirely consistent on this subject (surprise!) but that's what I've used for this story.

I found Gibbs's timeline and canon inconsistent and confusing so I've put my own spin on it here - trying to stay as accurate a possible while steering a middle path. If this bothers you, then you might want to consider it an AU.

Thanks to bluespirit_star for being so supportive, encouraging and all-round fabulous; also, and very importantly, for beta-reading and for the stunningly beautiful graphic. Thanks also to Rachelle, for helping out with the US beta and the many cool details. Any mistakes are, of course, mine.

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Next Chapter

Part One

Gibbs knew. He knew the minute he woke up and felt an old, achingly familiar sense of foreboding in his gut. It had been a long time since his gut instinct had made its presence so strongly felt but today it was pretty much waving a bright red flag at him. Something was going to happen today, and, if past experience was anything to go by, it wasn't going to be good.

A glance out of the window revealed several inches of snow covering the world; Gibbs hated snow. Then he had to take a cold shower because his heating wasn't working for some mysterious reason so he was already feeling pretty pissed off before he even left the house. He shovelled enough snow from the drive to get his car out, only to find the damn thing had a dead battery and wouldn't start, and by the time he got it moving he was half an hour late. He stopped off for his usual coffee and was halfway down the road before he took a sip, only to find they'd given him chai by mistake. By now in a really ferocious mood, he opened the car window and threw the drink onto the sidewalk where it spilled out, staining the snow brown. He ignored the startled curse of an irate passer-by and stamped his foot down hard on the accelerator. Yeah - today was going to be a really bad day.

He stormed into the NCIS building, stamping the snow off his feet and trampling it into the elevator, leaving a wet trail all the way to his desk.

"Uh…" McGee said, the minute he got into the squad room. Gibbs looked at him, his body language warning anyone within sight that he was not to be messed with this morning. "It's, uh…just that the director was here – you're having a meeting with him this morning…and…uh…" Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "You're late?" McGee offered, looking as if he’d just thrown a grenade and was waiting for it to blow up in his face.

"I know I'm late, McGee!" Gibbs roared, taking a perverse delight in seeing McGee duck behind his computer screen in alarm. Agent Shay, who had been walking over, turned smoothly and walked back the way she'd come, without missing a beat. "Someone get me some damn coffee!" Gibbs ordered as he stalked off towards the director's office.

His mood had only improved fractionally by the time he returned to his desk an hour later. It was covered in bits of paper. Gibbs hated bits of paper. He gathered them all together in a pile and dumped them on McGee's desk. The probie could sort through it when he returned from Abby's lab and make sure that only the really important stuff was returned for him to deal with.

He had just sat down at his desk for the first time all morning when he caught movement out of the corner of his eye. He glanced up to see Tony standing there.

"Well?" he demanded.

"Uh…I just wanted to know if you'd signed my vacation request," Tony asked, with an apologetic wince.

"I don't know. When did you give it to me?"

"This morning - when I got in." Tony glanced at Gibbs's pristine desk. "I left it on your desk. It should be here somewhere."

"McGee has it," Gibbs told him tersely.

"Why would McGee have it?" Tony asked blankly.

Gibbs was in no mood to explain. He just had a feeling that at some point in the next hour someone was going to bring him a dead body and his gut was churning accordingly. He hadn't felt this bad in a long time. It was like there was a dark cloud looming nearby and he was just waiting for the storm to start. When it did he had a feeling it was going to be a bad one, complete with lightning, thunder and pouring rain. He could almost hear it, pounding in his head.

"Okay…I'll just…go fish it out," Tony said.

Gibbs nodded curtly that he should do just that, and turned to his computer and clicked on his email. Maybe that dead body he was expecting would show up in one of his messages. He was dimly aware of Tony silently sliding a piece of paper onto his desk, which he ignored.

He went through his email messages but they were all pretty much routine. He deleted a ton of spam and then glanced up - to find Tony still hovering in front of his desk.


"It's just…I was wondering if you could sign it," Tony said, pushing the vacation request form towards him.

"Can't it wait?" Gibbs pulled the piece of paper over and then held it up, at arm's length, trying to decipher it without putting on his glasses. "Why the urgency?" Gibbs demanded.

"Just it's for…I want to leave well…kind of now," Tony replied. Gibbs glared at him.

"You're giving me a request for a vacation starting *now*?" he demanded. He hated it when any of his team was ill or away for whatever reason, and he especially hated it when it was Tony who was absent. Besides, now was not a good time for his second to be away – not with this sense of foreboding gnawing away at his gut, heralding, as it very likely did, the possibility of a dead body turning up soon.

"Yeah," Tony said quietly. "So…will you sign it?"

Something about his tone of voice alerted Gibbs and he looked up at him sharply. Tony gazed back, and there was something subdued about the way he was standing and the expression in his eyes. Usually he was playing around, making an idiot of himself…but not right now. Gibbs frowned and glanced back at the vacation request form.

"You didn't fill in your return date," he said, handing the paper back to Tony. Tony hesitated, and then pushed it back towards him.

"That's because I don't know when I'll be back," he said.

Gibbs felt that sensation in his gut again, and he picked up the piece of paper, irritably, scrunched it into a ball, and threw it into the trash.

"No," he said tersely. "You can't make an open-ended vacation request. What happens if we get a case? The dead bodies won't just hang around until you decide to get back from sunning yourself in Cancun, DiNozzo! What the hell happened? Did you wake up this morning, see the snow, and decide to head somewhere hot?"

"I never take my full vacation allowance, Gibbs," Tony said, in that same quiet tone of voice. "I've got weeks built up. I'm entitled to it."

"I said no," Gibbs growled, getting up and striding down the hallway to get himself a cup of coffee from the vending machine in the staff area. It was a poor substitute for the real thing but it would do.

He got his coffee and was about to take a sip when he became aware that Tony had followed him there.

"I have to go," Tony said quietly, leaning back against the wall, arms folded across his chest.

Gibbs took a gulp of his coffee and was grateful for the immediate caffeine hit. That sense of foreboding in his gut was now worse than ever – and suddenly he knew where that storm was coming from. For the first time that morning he took a real look at Tony and saw the expression in his eyes – an expression he hadn't seen in many years. It took him back so far that he felt like he'd been punched in the gut, and he was momentarily winded.

"It's my father," Tony said softly, and Gibbs felt the storm rising around them; darkness, rain, a howling gale of a wind - the full works, just the way it had been that night they first met. "He's dying."

Gibbs studied Tony's face, waiting.

"He's had cancer for six months but apparently now he's near the end. My cousin called me last night. I’m going to take the shuttle to New York in a couple of hours. I don't know when I'll be back. It depends on how long it takes him to die," Tony said, his voice completely flat, without any kind of emotion. "I thought I'd stay for the funeral and then come home straight after."

Gibbs continued to gaze at him.

"Hopefully it won't be too long," Tony added, with a shrug of his shoulders. "Although, knowing him, he'll drag it out just to inconvenience everyone. I'm…uh, not asking if I can go - I have to go," he muttered, glancing up at Gibbs with eyes that were as serious as Gibbs had ever seen them.

"Yeah. You do." Gibbs nodded. Tony nodded back, and then turned. Gibbs followed him back to the squad room. He grabbed his gun and badge from his desk drawer, and then stopped by Tony's desk.

"I'm going home to pick up some stuff," he said, tersely. "You go to National and buy the tickets. I’ll meet you there in a couple of hours."

"Tickets? Uh…for my shuttle? My shuttle home?" Tony looked startled.

"Yes, DiNozzo, for your shuttle home.”

"You're coming with me?"

"It looks that way."

"But…uh…I mean - why?" Tony frowned.

He gazed up at Gibbs and Gibbs gazed back at him, and the past was standing right there, in front of them, the giant proverbial elephant in the room, and he knew that neither one of them was going to mention it. Did Tony even *know*, he wondered? Did he even know it had been him, all those years ago? If he didn't, Gibbs wasn't going to tell him. Maybe he did know but thought that Gibbs didn't – and, ditto, Gibbs sure as hell wasn't going to let on that he knew exactly who he'd met in that bar seventeen years ago.

"Just a feeling in my gut," Gibbs replied, turning on his heel and striding towards the elevator. "Wait for me at National, Tony," he threw over his shoulder as he went.

Gibbs got into the elevator and thumped his hand on the button for the parking garage. He'd been waiting for a dead body to turn up and it seemed that one just had - only not the way he'd expected. This was one of those bodies that had been hidden for seventeen years, and those kinds of corpses always stank to high heaven when they finally rose to the surface.



At first, everything had been a blur. It was all mixed up in his head - the funerals, Kuwait, the explosion, the coma, the hospital bed in Bethesda, and killing that bastard who’d murdered his family – it was all just a jumble. Slowly clarity returned, piece by piece, and then…then he'd had to decide what to do next. He knew he couldn't stay in the Corps. That part of his life was over. He wasn't sure how he knew that, but he did. His CO tried to talk him out of it but he just knew he had to get out. He couldn't face the discipline of life in the Corps right now in any case. He'd fuck up again if he didn't get out, the way he’d fucked up when he got blown up – only next time around he might take some of his unit with him and he didn't want that on his conscience.

So he got out, and woke up one day in an empty house with nothing to do. To begin with people were kind, but soon his drinking and the morose savagery of his moods frightened them away. Even his closest friends disappeared, one by one, and he didn't care. He barely noticed.

Mike Franks took him out to a bar one night and offered him a job at NIS. He turned it down. He was a Marine – he didn't belong behind a desk.

"Suit yourself," Franks said, taking a long drag on his cigarette, leaning against the bar, other hand wrapped around a glass of bourbon. "Offer's still open if you change your mind."

"I won't," Gibbs told him.

"You might." Franks gave a little shrug.

"Why me?" Gibbs asked.

Franks gazed at him from unsympathetic dark eyes. "You can shoot a gun and you won't piss your pants when things get tough. You should see the wussy little kids they give to me – and then they complain when I give 'em back broken. You won't break."

"Yeah?" Gibbs knocked back the drink that Franks placed in front of him.

"Yeah. If you were gonna break, this would have broken you." Franks beckoned the bartender over and ordered a refill for Gibbs's glass.

"You think I'm not broken?" Gibbs poured the bourbon down his throat like he was dying of thirst, enjoying the way his belly warmed up as it went down.

"Yeah." Franks shrugged. "You're all beat up and bruised maybe but not broken."

Gibbs finished the drink and waited for another refill. He *felt* broken. He felt shattered into a thousand tiny pieces, shards of himself scattered everywhere. Franks stayed with him while he got drunk, then took him home and slung him onto the couch to sleep it off.

"You think about it," he said, before he left.

Gibbs woke up the next day with a pounding headache. His tongue felt like it was covered in fur and his body protested every move he made. He walked, unsteadily, to the bathroom. The house was cold and empty, the way it had been every single day since they'd been killed. He hated it here. He held onto the basin and puked his guts up into it. Outside he could hear kids playing and he puked again.

If he looked out of the window, maybe he'd find it hadn't happened. Maybe he'd see Kelly out there in the back yard, playing with little Maddie Tyler, Kelly's dark head pressed against Maddie's blonde one as they plotted some mischief together. Maybe downstairs Shannon would be singing as she brewed some coffee; she was tone deaf but she more than made up for that with the sheer gusto with which she belted out a tune. He opened his eyes to find the room empty and silent, only the sounds of his own stupid thoughts reverberating around.

He took a shower and got dressed, knocked back a few painkillers, and then walked back down the stairs again. He picked up the mail, and leafed through it. Most of it was junk and he dumped it straight in the trash without opening it. He tore open a bank statement and then screwed it into a ball and threw it after the junk.

"I don't want your fucking blood money," he growled to the empty room. He hadn’t even touched the money to pay for their funerals – he’d taken care of that himself. Something about the payout almost offended him. Not that it was much but he didn't intend to spend it. He had his savings – he'd go through them first before he touched that money. Hell, he'd starve before he touched that money.

The house seemed claustrophobic; just another day without them, another day without the Corps, without a job, and without any reason to get up in the morning. He had no idea what the hell to do with himself. The past few weeks he'd just drunk himself into oblivion so he wouldn't have to feel anything but he needed to make a decision sometime soon. He just didn't know what the decision was. Whether to take that job at NIS? Whether to get up in the morning? Whether to carry on living?

He went into the kitchen and pulled his gun out of the drawer where he kept it. He could swallow it, right now, pull the trigger and end this. He'd never thought he was the suicidal type but everyone had a breaking point. Was there anything left in the world for him now? Anywhere to go? Anything to do? Everything seemed grey and meaningless without them. Everything he'd done these past few years had been for them. He couldn't make sense of the shape of his life without them. How was it possible that he was still here and they were gone? He just couldn't get his head around that.

He couldn't stay here though. He knew that, suddenly, and without doubt. Not in this house where Kelly had laughed and played, and Shannon had sung and smiled. Where he had been someone else, and not this shadow he now was – insubstantial and formless. He didn't have a damn clue who he was any more. Not a Marine since he'd quit the Corps. Not a husband any more, or a father.

He threw the gun down on the kitchen worktop and ran upstairs. He found a bag and slung some clothes into it, then ran back down again. He grabbed his gun and keys and then left the house, without looking back.

He got into the car and started driving. He wasn't sure where he was going, just that he needed to get away from that house, where he'd lived with them. He'd keep the gun close, keep that option open, because maybe there wasn't anything for him in this world now, but he needed to know that for sure before he took that final step.

His car seemed to know where he was going even if he didn't, and he found himself heading out towards Stillwater. He tried not to think of other journeys he'd taken in this car; trips where Kelly had been playing "I spy" in the back, and Shannon had been by his side, laughing and being totally useless at navigating.

He wasn’t sure what he was going to do when he reached Stillwater. As he got closer, he felt something inside him protest. Stillwater would be the same as always. Nothing there would have changed – but everything had changed for *him*. He felt that frozen nugget of resentment inside turn into a roaring, towering rage at his father for turning up at their funeral with a date on his arm, like it was some kind of social occasion. Maybe he'd found it easy to get on with his life after his own wife's death but Gibbs couldn’t understand that. He wasn't like his dad – he never had been. Jackson Gibbs was easygoing and sociable – he didn't *feel* things with the same dark intensity that his son did.

The junction for Stillwater came and went but he didn’t take it. Stillwater wasn't the answer he was looking for. Then again, it never had been.

He drove aimlessly, stopping when he was hungry, taking a room at whatever motel he ended up at when he was tired, finding the nearest bar and drinking himself quietly into numbness before heading back to his motel room. Sometimes he'd stay for a couple of nights, and sometimes he'd move on straight away. He didn't count the days. He was a shadow…he just followed the sun, heading West, going wherever his car took him.

The inside of bars, wherever they were, tended to be pretty much the same. He nursed his drink in yet another one, his dark mood radiating out, keeping people at bay. They seemed to know not to talk to him and that was just the way he wanted it. It was about him and the liquor, about getting drunk and staggering back to a motel room to sleep it off before heading out again in his car the next day.

He gazed into the distance, watching as people entered and left the bar. Early on it had been busy but as it got later and later the place got quieter. He saw everything, and registered nothing. The next day he wouldn't remember these people at all, but now they were just part of the furniture, moving wallpaper, something that flitted by in front of him. He saw the old man at the bar, telling a long, involved story to the bartender. Then there was the woman in her forties, lonely, hoping she'd meet someone. She'd tried to meet his eye earlier but he hadn't responded. Over there was a man in a suit was making notes on a pad – maybe a travelling businessman, on the road. A kid, about college age, went and sat next to him.

"This seat taken?" the kid grinned, all white teeth, and wide, hopeful eyes. Gibbs found himself staring. Something about the youth rang some kind of alarm bell. The businessman barely spared him a glance – he just moved his pad a little to give the kid space to sit down and then kept on writing. "What you doing?" the kid asked.

"Working," the man said, and then he looked up. "You want something?"

"Depends? Do you?" The kid moved forward, licking his lips a little. "Just thought you might be on the road, a long way from home. Might need some company?"

The kid was a hustler. Gibbs grunted and took another sip of his drink, then glanced around. This was a risky kind of a place for the kid to trawl for trade.

"I don't need company," the businessman said. The kid grinned at him, widely, then picked up the businessman's bottle of beer and took an obscene gulp, his mobile mouth making it clear what kind of service he could offer if the price was right. The businessman gazed at him, transfixed.

"I need to piss," the kid said, putting the beer bottle down, and then he got up and walked over to the restroom. He didn't look like a hustler, Gibbs thought. He was wearing a pair of faded jeans and a red plaid shirt. He was a little on the skinny side but he looked more like a college student than a young punk working the streets. Gibbs counted slowly to ten, and, sure enough, the businessman got up and followed the kid into the restroom. Gibbs grunted again and took another sip of his drink. He'd seen many encounters like this over the past few days; women picking up men, men picking up women, men picking up men. Nobody had been stupid enough to try and pick him up.

He glanced at his watch, giving it about five minutes, and sure enough five minutes later the businessman exited, folding his wallet and returning it to his pants pocket as he walked. He looked like a satisfied customer. He returned to his table, collected his belongings, and left.
The kid returned to the bar a few seconds later, rubbing the back of his hand over his mouth as if trying to get rid of a bad taste. He shoved some money into his back pocket and glanced around.

Gibbs took a deep gulp of his drink, waiting for the familiar sense of oblivion to wash over him. He wasn't there yet and he needed to get there, to where he felt that click in his head and nothing mattered any more.

"Hey…mind if I sit here?" a voice asked.

Gibbs glanced up. "Oh you have got to be kidding me," he growled, looking into a pair of hopeful green eyes.

"I'll take that as an invitation then," the kid said, sitting down opposite him. He was the first person in days, maybe even weeks – Gibbs wasn't counting – to approach him. Everyone else had the good sense to give him a wide berth.

"I'm not buying whatever it is you're offering," Gibbs said abruptly. "And you are taking one hell of a risk doing that here. Shouldn't you be…someplace else?"

"Don't know what you mean." The kid shrugged. "You drinking that?" he asked, looking at Gibbs's drink.

"Yeah." Gibbs lifted his glass and downed the rest of it in one go, then held up his hand and got the bartender's attention, pointing at his glass for a refill.

"Buy one for me?" the kid asked, white teeth gleaming as he grinned, hopefully. He had a certain kind of puppyish charm, Gibbs decided. He was tall – about 6 feet, almost as tall as he was and maybe in a few years when he stopped growing he'd be taller. His hair was streaked blond, darker underneath, and he was undeniably pretty.

"No," Gibbs replied tersely. The bartender came over, and refilled his glass.

"He bothering you?" he asked, glancing at the kid. Gibbs shook his head.

"No. He'll be leaving soon," he predicted. The bartender shrugged and left, with a glare in the kid's direction.

"You gonna be leaving soon too?" the kid asked. "I could leave with you."

Gibbs shot him a look that would have had the men in his old unit quivering in their boots. The kid chewed on his lip, his green eyes anxious.

"Didn't mean anything," he muttered.

"And I told you – this isn't a good place for you to be doing…what you do," Gibbs growled. This place had to be full of straight men who'd beat the crap out of a hustler like this just for suggesting they might be interested in what he had to offer.

"I know." The kid shrugged. "I usually work the Trojan – nightclub down the street," he explained, when Gibbs raised an eyebrow. "But I got thrown out and I need to make some money so I thought it was worth a try."

"Why don't you get yourself a job?" Gibbs said. "A real job," he added, before the kid got a chance to speak.

"I've got one," the kid shrugged. "But I need more money than that pays."

"For drugs?" Gibbs asked, gazing at the kid distastefully, suddenly wanting to be rid of him.

"No. For college," the boy snapped back at him, looking momentarily angry. Now Gibbs figured out what was bothering him about the kid. He had a preppy feel to him – he wasn't like the rough kids he'd come across before, the ones who usually hung out on the street. This boy had bucket loads of charm and an easygoing manner, and was clearly intelligent and educated – although Gibbs suspected he could be quick with his fists in a fight if he needed to be.

"College? You're kidding me." Gibbs gulped down half his drink.

"Sure you want the rest of that?" the kid asked, pointing at the other half still in the glass.

"Damn sure," Gibbs replied.

The boy stared at him, licking his lips. "You always know what you want?" he asked.

"Usually." Gibbs shrugged.

"You want me?" the kid asked softly. "You're staying in the motel opposite, right? I could come back with you."

"How do you know I'm staying in the motel?" Gibbs demanded.

"I watch. I see things." The kid shrugged. He leaned across the table, and his warm breath wafted across Gibbs's cheek. "No need for you to be alone tonight," he said. "I'm good," he added, his tongue drifting over his lower lip invitingly.

"I'll bet you are," Gibbs growled. "And the answer is still no."

He finished his drink and got up. The room swam around him and the boy reached out a hand and grabbed his elbow, steadying him. His hand was surprisingly strong. Gibbs blinked, and his vision cleared.

"Here." He reached into his wallet and got out a twenty. "Go home," he said, slapping the money down on the table, wondering if he was going soft in his old age.

The kid pocketed the money in double quick time. Gibbs rolled his eyes and walked, in a swerving line, towards the door. His vision was hazy and he berated himself momentarily for being an idiot. The kid could come up behind him and try and steal his wallet from him while he walked back to the motel, blind drunk like this. The kid hadn't seemed like a thief but he was desperate, and Gibbs had seen what desperation could do to people.

He paused in the doorway, and held onto it for a moment, then stumbled through it. He staggered across the road to his motel directly opposite, and then fumbled for his key. He got inside, shut the door behind him, and fell down on the bed. The room swam around him and he blinked, gazing at the ceiling, and then passed out.

He wasn't sure how long he lay there but he came to awhile later and realised he needed to piss. He got up, slowly, and made his way to the bathroom, holding onto the walls and furniture as he went. He took care of his full bladder and then washed his hands. There was a thin blind covering the window, but it only just took the glare off the flashing motel sign outside. It was starting to rain. Gibbs flicked the blind aside and gazed out as a streak of lightning flashed through the air, competing with the motel sign for brightness.

He frowned as something caught his eye, and he saw the kid climbing into a dumpster outside the bar opposite. The bartender was closing up and a few seconds later he turned off the lights leaving the place in darkness. Gibbs gazed at the dumpster for a moment, then turned and went back to his room. The kid wasn't his responsibility. They all had their problems in life, and he had enough of his own. He wasn't taking on any more.

He lay down on the bed and gazed at the ceiling again. Sometimes the drink made him fall straight to sleep, but sometimes, like now, it kept him awake. He hated it when this happened. He longed for the oblivion. Being a gunnery sergeant in the Corps it had been his job to whip kids like that one out there into shape and he'd done a good job of it too over the years. Gibbs grunted; somehow he didn't think that kid out there would do well in the Corps. There was something too glib and easygoing about him, something both charming and knowing at the same time. He wasn't Corps material. All the same…Gibbs remembered the expression in those green eyes; hope mingled with anxiety. That kid was damaged, and Gibbs realised he only knew that because he was too.

A clap of thunder was followed a second later by the sound of hard rain pounding on the motel roof. Gibbs sighed. He got up, grabbed his keys, and walked out into the storm. He crossed the street, reached under a half-dozen cardboard boxes in the dumpster, and then hauled the kid out by the collar of his shirt. The boy looked at him, wide-eyed.

"I thought I told you to go home," Gibbs said.

"I did," the kid replied, raising his chin defiantly. "I am." Those green eyes defied Gibbs to comment on that.

"With me," Gibbs ordered curtly. "Now."

He turned on his heel and marched back across the road, feeling suddenly stone cold sober. This was a bad idea on so many levels. The kid could steal his wallet in his sleep – or worse. Gibbs grunted – drunk or sober, there was no way that kid would get out of the room alive if he tried to steal from him. His instincts were too finely honed from too many war zones.

He walked into his motel room without looking back, and heard the door close quietly behind him.

"You can sleep on the floor. There's a spare blanket in the closet," he said, turning. The boy stood there looking like a drowned rat, his blond hair stuck down on his head from the rain, his shirt sticking to his slender body.

"The bed would be nicer," the kid said, with a beguiling little smile.

"Floor," Gibbs repeated, taking a pillow from the bed and flinging it at him. The kid caught it easily, his face breaking into a grin, and that was when Gibbs noticed he had a large bag over his shoulder. The kid saw where he was looking and grabbed the bag and held it close to his body. "You got any drugs in there and you can turn around and walk straight out again," Gibbs said.

"No drugs," the kid said, still holding onto the bag like it was a precious object. Water trickled out of his wet hair and down the side of his face.

Gibbs strode into the bathroom, got a towel, and returned to the bedroom. He flung the towel at the kid, who dropped the bag in order to catch it. Gibbs picked up the bag, opened it, and dumped the contents out onto the bed.

"Hey!" the kid protested. "That's my stuff!"

"And this is my room and I don't have anything in my room that I don't know about," Gibbs told him.

The bag contained a change of clothes, some toiletries, some sport sweats and a pair of expensive sneakers. There were a couple of books and a pile of letters, held together with string. There was also, inevitably, a tube of lubricant and a stash of condoms. It was an odd combination but the kid hadn't been lying – there were no drugs and no weapons either. Gibbs put the stuff back into the bag and handed it back to the kid, who was rubbing his hair with the towel.

"Okay – you can stay," Gibbs said. "On the floor," he repeated, pointing. He went over to the closet, found a blanket, and threw it at the boy. "How old are you?" Gibbs asked curiously.

"Nineteen. How old are you?" the kid asked cheekily.

Gibbs found a spare tee shirt and pair of boxer shorts in his own luggage and gave them to the boy, ignoring his question.

"Go get changed. In the bathroom," he said, pointing the boy in the right direction.

"I usually sleep naked," the kid said, eyes gleaming suggestively.

"You got a room for the night. Don't push your luck."

"Just saying – if you wanted paying…"

"I don't." Gibbs pushed the kid in the direction of the bathroom.

He spread the blanket out on the floor and then placed his wallet and gun beneath his pillow – it wasn't worth taking any chances. Then he took of his outer clothes and lay down on the bed again. Christ, this was madness. What would Shannon say if she could see him right now? Or his CO? Or even Mike Franks? They'd all think he was being a total idiot – and he was. It was just…there was something about that kid, something that made it impossible for him to just turn his back on him. Maybe it was the obvious desperation in his eyes, or maybe it was the mystery. How did a boy like that end up on the streets?

The bathroom door opened and the kid stood there, framed for a moment in the doorway. He looked about ten years younger in Gibbs's tee shirt and boxers, his damp hair sticking up in spikes, those green eyes of his still glowing with a cheeky kind of charm.

"What's your name?" the boy asked.

Gibbs pointed at the blanket. "You don't need to know. This is just for tonight, because of the storm. Tomorrow you're on your own again."

"My name's Andy," the kid said.

Gibbs glanced up at him. "No it isn't," he said. "But it'll do. Good night, Andy." He grabbed his pillow and turned his back on the kid, closing his eyes.

"G'night," Andy said.

Gibbs heard him settle down under the blanket beside the bed and a few seconds later he heard his breathing change, and the slight snuffle of a snore. He turned over, berating himself in his head. Andy had drawn the blanket up to almost cover him completely, so all that Gibbs could see were the spikes of his hair. He was lying on his side, knees drawn up against his chest, sleeping in a foetal position.

"Oh Christ. What the hell are you doing, Jethro?" Gibbs whispered to himself.



Gibbs watched while Tony flirted with the pretty brunette at the ticket desk at the airport, and then flirted with the petite blonde at the gate. They boarded the plane and Tony slung his luggage into the overhead, and then slung Gibbs's bag in after it. They took their seats, Tony by the window, Gibbs beside him.

A flight attendant – very tall, very handsome and very gay - served them drinks and handed them each a plastic-wrapped sandwich. Tony flirted with him too, although more discreetly. Gibbs was all too familiar with it and let it wash over him. Tony flirted like other people breathed – although usually he was careful not to let people notice him flirting too obviously with men. The over-active flirting with women was a cover for that but it was a cover Gibbs had seen through years ago – besides, he knew precisely how practised Tony was in the bedroom, with women *and* men. His senior agent didn't advertise his bisexuality - in fact he did a standard DiNozzo misdirect where his sexuality was concerned - so Gibbs doubted that anyone else at NCIS was aware of it, but Gibbs had known Tony DiNozzo before he became an NCIS agent – long before.

Tony kept up a running commentary as the plane took off, telling him the latest sport scores, describing a movie he’d seen a couple of nights ago and why Gibbs would have hated it, and then moving on to an overly detailed appreciation of the female flight attendant's shapely legs. Gibbs sat there and listened. Tony always talked too much when he was anxious, and right now he was clearly very anxious indeed. Gibbs wondered when he'd last seen his father, and whether it was as long ago as he suspected.

"How long have you known he had cancer?" he asked, breaking into Tony's monologue on Jack Nicholson's career to date, including some pretty good impersonations of the catch phrases from his best roles. Tony flinched, and Gibbs had an old, familiar sensation of having kicked an annoyingly overactive puppy. Tony's shoulders hunched and he gazed out of the window, all his earlier exuberance gone.

"My cousin called me when he was diagnosed," he said. "Liver cancer. Not a surprise – I'm just amazed his liver held out this long to be honest. The way he drinks I thought he'd get cirrhosis years ago."

"You go and visit him when you found out?" Gibbs asked.

Tony's shoulders hunched even more but he turned to face Gibbs. "I called," he muttered. "He said there was no need to visit. So I didn't." He gave a bright, false smile. Gibbs stared at him, and the smile faltered, and then faded completely. "Look," Tony said, in that serious tone Gibbs rarely ever heard him use. "It's not that I don't appreciate you being here, boss – it's just that I don't know why you are – here I mean. Doing this. With me. This doesn't concern you. It's family. I can do it alone."

"I know." Gibbs shrugged.

Tony gazed at him, clearly expecting – or hoping – for more. Gibbs raised an eyebrow. Tony sighed. "You seemed pretty curious about *my* family a few weeks ago, DiNozzo," Gibbs added, which wasn't an answer but might do for now. Tony had sniffed around his hometown like a bloodhound when they'd gone to Stillwater on a case recently. That was Tony though; his insatiable curiosity – some would say nosiness - made him an excellent agent and a really annoying co-worker.

"What – and this is payback?" Tony looked incredulous. "He's *dying*, Gibbs."

"I know – and no, this isn't payback." Gibbs wondered if Tony really thought he was that crass and insensitive. "When did you last see him, Tony?" he asked quietly.

"I don't remember," Tony said, although Gibbs was certain that was a lie. "A long time ago. Eighteen years maybe."

"Eighteen?" Gibbs felt mildly relieved about that.

"Yeah – what the hell is wrong with that? I call him every Christmas," Tony snapped, mistaking Gibbs's question. "At least it wasn't nineteen-fucking-seventy-six when I last visited," he muttered.

Gibbs slapped the back of his head, and that seemed to snap Tony out of it.

"Sorry. I didn't meant that," Tony said sheepishly. "It's just…I'm not looking forward to this, Gibbs. I'm not sure how it'll be, or whether he'll even want to see me."

"He's your dad, Tony, and he's dying. Of course he'll want to see you," Gibbs said softly.

"You think?" Tony shook his head. "Trust me, Gibbs – my father is nothing at all like yours," He turned back to look out of the window again, those hunched shoulders making it clear he didn't have anything more to say on that subject.

Gibbs leaned back in his chair and folded his hands across his seat belt. "Yeah, I sure as hell know that, DiNozzo," he muttered under his breath.


Gibbs woke to find himself pinned down by a warm, heavy weight.

“Shannon?” he muttered, moving his arm down to find a body curled up almost on top of him, about as close as it was possible to get without suffocating. He hugged the body for a moment, relishing the warmth, and it moved sleepily against him. A head was resting on his shoulder, an arm was slung over his chest, and a leg was entangled in his. He could feel soft hair under his chin, and smell the warm scent of…not Shannon. The memory of losing her hit him again, making his gut clench.

He looked down and saw Andy, hanging onto him like a limpet, and felt a savage surge of anger. He shoved the boy aside, roughly unpicking arms and legs from around his body, ignoring the kid’s hazy squawk of protest, rolled out of the bed and strode into the bathroom. He looked at himself in the mirror and grimaced. He had a few days growth of beard on his chin and he looked like he’d aged ten years in the past few months. His hair, which had once been brown, was now peppered with grey streaks. His breath stank so he cleaned his teeth, and then returned to the bedroom.

Andy was sitting up in the bed, looking confused, hair sticking out in a dozen different directions, eyes half-closed.

“Who the hell said you could get in the bed with me?” Gibbs demanded.

“I was cold,” Andy said.

“Not as cold as you’d have been if I’d left you in that damn dumpster!”

“And lonely,” Andy added and there was something about the way he said it that dampened Gibbs’s anger immediately. He glanced up at Gibbs from sleepy eyes. “Come back to bed. I can make it up to you.”

“Christ, you never stop trying, do you?” Gibbs sighed. “Get it into that thick skull of yours that I’m not interested. D’you think that if I fuck you that you’ll have some kind of hold over me? Or do you think that if I fuck you then I’ll have to give you more money – that it?”

“I’d let you fuck me for free,” Andy said unexpectedly. Gibbs blinked. “I like you.” Andy shrugged. “You smell like my dad.”

“I smell of fucking liquor!” Gibbs growled, lowering his face to sniff the tee shirt he’d slept in.

“Yeah. Like my dad.”

“Where the hell is your dad? Does he know you’re living rough, whoring yourself out like this?” Gibbs demanded.

Andy’s eyes darkened. “No,” he said, with a terse shake of his head.

He slid out of the bed, keeping his distance from Gibbs, eyeing him warily. He edged past him into the bathroom and shut the door behind him. Gibbs heard the sound of the toilet flushing, then the shower being turned on, and then a few minutes later the kid returned to the bedroom, damp and completely naked. He slung Gibbs’s boxers and tee shirt on the bed.

“Thanks,” he muttered.

He turned to his bag and bent over it, searching for his spare set of clothes. Gibbs couldn’t help looking at the youth. He had long, slim legs, strong, broad shoulders, and a surprisingly sturdy torso, even if his ribs were sticking out a bit too much. There were a couple of bruises on his thighs and buttocks, which didn’t surprise Gibbs considering his line of work. His body was firmly muscled, as if he worked out a lot, or ran, or played a lot of sport, or a combination of all three.

Andy stood up, and looked at Gibbs looking at him. He stood there, naked and unashamed. His cock was long and loose, hanging down over his firm balls. He knew he looked good, and he wanted Gibbs to know it too.

“Last chance; I have to get to work. It’s free,” he said. “And you look like you know how to give a good fuck.”

“Oh just get dressed and go,” Gibbs growled, but he couldn’t help grinning slightly, despite himself. There was something infectious about the kid’s charm, energy, and sheer damn persistence.

“I don’t have to be there for an hour. There’s a diner down the street. You could buy me breakfast first,” Andy suggested, with a broad grin.

Somehow, fifteen minutes later, Gibbs found himself washed and dressed and sitting in the diner opposite Andy.

“So what work is it you do in the daytime?” Gibbs found himself asking. He didn’t want to be interested but somehow he couldn’t help himself.

“I caddy – at the country club,” Andy replied. He took a brief look at the menu and then his head swivelled as a pretty girl in tight, ass-hugging jeans passed the table. Andy’s gaze remained fixed on her ass until she disappeared into the restroom and then he turned back to the menu.

The waitress came over, and smiled at them both.

“I’ll have the scrambled eggs with sausage and toast,” Gibbs said, handing back the menu.

“And what would your son like?” she asked, glancing at Andy.

“Oh he’s not…” Gibbs began, and then he saw the wide grin on Andy’s face and he stopped. It wasn’t worth it. He was sixteen years older than the boy – only *just* old enough to be his father, but he supposed the newly greying hair, the bags under his eyes from all his recent drinking, and his years in the Marine Corps gave him an air of authority and made him seem older.

Andy ordered three different kinds of donut. Gibbs shook his head, and grabbed the menu away from him.

“He’ll have the same as me,” he told the waitress, who nodded approvingly at the fact he wasn’t allowing his “son” to opt for the empty calorie choice for breakfast.

“I like donuts,” Andy pouted.

“I don’t care,” Gibbs shrugged. “So – don’t you make enough from caddying at the country club to afford somewhere to sleep at night?”

“No.” Andy’s shoulders hunched miserably under his shirt, and Gibbs felt like he’d kicked a puppy. Clearly the kid didn’t want to talk about this. Gibbs wasn’t even sure why he wanted to know; it was none of his business.

Their meal arrived and they ate in silence. Gibbs had never seen anyone eat the way Andy ate – he wolfed the food down in seconds, and then eyed the food on Gibbs’s plate. “Oh go on – have it,” Gibbs sighed, pushing his plate across the table. He wasn’t hungry anyway – he still had the last vestiges of a hangover.

“So what about you?” Andy asked, around a mouthful of sausage. “You’re not from around here, are you?”

“What makes you say that?” Gibbs frowned. Andy grinned.

“Your car number plates,” he said. “I told you – I watch – I see stuff,” he added. “What are you doing in Columbus?”

“That’s where we are?” Gibbs glanced around. “Columbus, Ohio?”

“Well…yeah.” Andy raised an eyebrow. “You don’t know where you are? Hah – you’re even more fucked up than me, man.”

“Yeah. I probably am, Andy,” Gibbs said softly.

“You want to talk about it?” Andy seemed suddenly older than his nineteen years, those green eyes curious.

“No,” Gibbs replied shortly. He hadn’t wanted to talk about it to his friends, to Mike Franks, to his old CO, even to his father. He sure as hell didn’t want to talk about it to a hustler he’d met in a bar.

“You just drive? I’ve always liked that idea; just head out in a car, going wherever you feel like.” Andy’s eyes glowed a bit as he said that.

“You like cars?”

“I love cars. I’m going to own a bright red Ferrari one day. Like my dad. I always used to think he’d give me his when I turned eighteen but…well…” Andy broke off and shrugged.

“You want to talk about it?” Gibbs mimicked. Andy grinned.

“Nah. I’ll buy my own one day,” he said. “So – what are you running from? Wait! Did you kill someone? Are you a fugitive on the run from the cops?” His eyes lit up expressively, and Gibbs thought he’d make the kid’s day if he said yes.

“Do I look like a killer?” Gibbs asked, grinning all the same because there was something infectious about Andy’s glee.

“Well…yeah,” Andy said, as if that was a really stupid question. ”And you keep a gun under your pillow so I figured you were on the run.”

Gibbs didn’t even want to think about how he knew about the gun under his pillow. “Maybe I am,” Gibbs sighed. “Just not the way you think”.

“Is it a girl?” Andy quirked a sympathetic eyebrow. “I can totally see why you’d be on the run from a girl – guys are easy, but girls want stuff; emotional stuff.”

“You like girls, Andy?” Gibbs asked, curious about the young man’s sexuality, wondering where his natural inclination lay, leaving aside the issue of money.

“I like sex,” Andy told him cheerfully. “I don’t really mind who it’s with as long as they’re hot. You’re hot,” he added. “I’d fuck you.”

“I think we’ve established that – many times,” Gibbs said dryly.

“I like how hard your body is,” Andy said, leaning forward, his tongue wetting his lower lip again. “You work out?”

“I used to,” Gibbs muttered.

“So – how does this work for you? You drive until you feel like stopping, you check into a motel, you get drunk, and then you wake up and start driving again?” Andy asked. Gibbs had a sudden flash of insight that this kid was far sharper than he appeared on the surface.

“Maybe,” he said, glancing at his watch. “And it’s getting late. I need to head out.”

“Out of town? Now? You’re moving on? Already?” Andy’s eyes looked suddenly sullen.

“Yeah. Like you said – that’s what I do. You need a lift to the country club?”

“Yeah. Thanks. Just…let me use the restroom – I’ll be right back.” Andy slid away and disappeared. Gibbs called the waitress over and paid the bill.

“Oh – and give me those donuts he asked for earlier – to go,” he told her. She rolled her eyes at him in a conspiratorial way and filled up a bag for him. Andy was a long time in the restroom and Gibbs was about to go in there and find him when the kid suddenly reappeared.

“Here.” Gibbs gave him the bag of donuts.

“Cool!” Andy grabbed one out of the bag and began eating it immediately.

“I thought you could eat them later but clearly you’re still hungry,” Gibbs muttered as they walked out to the car. “Although how that can be physically possible god only knows.”

They got into the car and Gibbs stuck his key in the ignition. Andy was keeping up a running commentary on how good the donuts were, complete with orgasmic noises, and didn’t pay any attention when the car failed to start.

“Oh shit,” Gibbs sighed. He turned the key again and the engine made a wrenching sound and then crunched into silence. Andy winced.

“Sounds bad. You’ll need to get it fixed,” he said. “I know a good garage down the road – just over there.” He pointed. “You could walk there and get them to come and tow it. Shit – I’m late. I’d better head off. Thanks for the donuts. And, you know – good luck with the running away thing.” He leaned over and pressed a warm, sloppy kiss to Gibbs’s cheek. “See you then.”

And then he was gone. Gibbs felt a sudden pang of loneliness, which was absurd. He’d only known the boy a few hours, and while he was amusing company he wasn’t exactly the kind of person he’d choose to be around right now.

The mechanic in the garage wasn’t helpful. Gibbs knew he could have fixed the damn car himself if he had the tools and parts but he had no choice but to hand it over to the mechanic with a vague agreement that he’d get it back someday soon but no promises as to when. It wasn’t like he had anywhere to be, but it chafed all the same. He didn’t want to spend long in any one place, and he hated the idea of just sitting around waiting.

In the end, he remembered what Andy had said about working out and found a boxing gym in the area. He paid for a few sessions and lost himself in the old routines of stretching, skipping, punching and sparring that he’d always enjoyed back in the Corps. Despite all the recent drinking, he wasn’t as out of shape as he had expected – years of vigorous Marine Corps exercise had clearly paid off - and he was soon almost back up to his old fighting speed.

The endorphins helped his mood, and he spent the best part of the day there before heading back to the motel for a shower. He realised he’d gone through all his clothes so he did some laundry and then went back to the bar across the road for his usual date with alcoholic oblivion.

Maybe he’d started drinking earlier than usual, or maybe the exercise had affected him, but he got drunk quicker than usual. He missed his car, and the knowledge that he could just get up and run away tomorrow, and that made him feel belligerent. He got into a couple of arguments, and finally the bartender refused his request for another drink. Gibbs slurred out a protest but left, grumbling under his breath as he staggered back to the motel.

He nearly fell down in the road, and a car blared at him as it swerved to avoid him. A second later he felt a strong arm go around his waist, and someone dragging his arm across their shoulder. He turned to see a pair of bright eyes grinning at him.

“Could have got yourself killed there, Leroy,” Andy said. “Good thing I was passing.”

“How do you know…? Oh fuck it, I don’t care,” he said, glad of Andy’s strong body holding him up because he couldn’t seem to put one foot in front of the other right now. Andy helped him over to the motel and propped him against the wall, then frisked through his pockets for his key. He hauled Gibbs into the room, dumped him on the bed, and then began unlacing his boots. Gibbs sat there, gazing stupidly at the boy’s hair. It was brown at the roots and streaked blond on top.

“How’d those get there?” he muttered, suddenly acutely interested in the blond streaks. He ran his hand through Andy’s hair. Andy grinned up at him.

“Lemon juice,” he said. “Sun bleaches through where I’ve squeezed it on.”

“Why the fuck bother?” Gibbs slurred.

Andy shrugged, and pulled his boots off. “I like it, Leroy,” he said.

“Jethro,” Gibbs muttered, annoyed. “Not Leroy. Jethro. You look in my wallet, Andy? That how you know my name?”

“Yeah.” Andy grinned proudly, as if he’d done nothing wrong. “One day I’m going to be a Private Investigator – like Magnum.”

“Who the hell is Magnum?” Gibbs asked, frowning.

“You know – Magnum PI.” Andy hummed a few bars of what might have been a TV theme tune. Gibbs shook his head. He had a sudden flash of worry that cut through his current drunken state and he slid his hand under the pillow.

“I didn’t take your gun,” Andy said quickly. “I just looked in your wallet this morning – while you were in the shower. I didn’t take any of your money either.”

Gibbs pulled out the gun, and held it loosely in his hand. Andy bit on his lip, looking worried. He reached out and tried to take the gun from him. Gibbs shoved him away.

“Don’t touch it. I might need it. I haven’t decided yet,” he muttered.

“You thinking of killing someone, Jethro?” Andy asked quietly.

“Yeah. Me.” Gibbs slid the gun back under the pillow.

“I hope you don’t,” Andy said, a pleading look in his eyes.

“What the hell does it matter to you?” Gibbs snapped at him.

“I like you.” Andy shrugged. “I told you that already.”

He undid Gibbs’s pants and pulled his shirt out from the waistband, holding him up as he lolled against him. Gibbs was suddenly very sure the kid had done this before – many times.

“Your old man get drunk a lot?” he asked. Andy grinned.

“Yeah. All the time.” He pulled Gibbs out of his clothes, leaving him in his boxers and tee shirt, then pushed him back onto the bed and pulled the sheets up around him. Then he stretched, and yawned. “I’d better stay the night…make sure you’re okay,” he said. He shucked off his own clothes, leaving them in an untidy heap on the floor, and then slipped into the bed beside Gibbs.

Gibbs had one sudden moment of total clarity before unconsciousness claimed him.

“Oh fuck it – it was you, wasn’t it? You screwed around with my car; that’s why it wouldn’t start.”

Andy stiffened guiltily beside him and then it was too late – Gibbs was out cold.


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