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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.

Chapters: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

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Part Three

The next couple of days passed in a blur of drinking. Gibbs didn’t even wait until evening. He headed for the bar as soon as it opened, stayed there all day, and staggered back to his room to sleep it off. Whenever he closed his eyes he saw Kelly, staring at him reproachfully, somehow judging him for the way he was behaving – and sometimes, just as he fell into a drunken stupor, he imagined he saw Andy, looking at him just as reproachfully, and that made him damn angry because he didn’t owe the kid anything.

He lay on his bed staring at the ceiling, missing Andy’s warm, lean body curled up beside him. He remembered what Andy had said about his mom dying, and thought about how the kid was living right now, out of a few lockers at the country club, carrying that bag of his around with him the whole time, blowing strangers in the restrooms of bars. Gibbs couldn’t help but feel some empathy – yes, he’d lost his family, but Andy had lost someone too, and Gibbs didn’t have a monopoly on grief.

On the third day he was woken by a knock on the door, and he found the mechanic standing outside dangling his car keys between his fingers.

“Fixed,” the man said morosely. “I left her over there.” He jerked his head over to the parking lot.

“About damn time,” Gibbs growled. He got out his wallet and paid the man, and then got washed and dressed and went out to check on the car. It started fine. Gibbs sat there for a moment. Now what? The car was fixed so he could just head out, start driving again…or maybe he could find this country club Andy worked at, and drop by and give the kid some money before leaving. That might ease his conscience a little if nothing else. Then he could just leave and never come back, put this whole sorry incident behind him, chalk it up to the drink, the grief, and his current fucked-up state of mind.

The country club wasn’t hard to find – it was a big, plush place, and the parking lot was full of fancy cars. Gibbs parked and went inside to find himself in a mahogany palace, dark brown wooden panelling lining the walls, massive vases of flowers everywhere in reception.

“Can I help you, sir?” a pretty girl in a uniform asked.

“Yeah…I’m looking for a kid who works here – as a caddy,” Gibbs said. “Andy…” He paused, realising he didn’t have a clue what Andy’s second name was.

She gazed at him blankly. “We don’t have any caddies called Andy, sir,” she said. “I can go and check with Moira but I’m pretty sure about that.”

Gibbs could have kicked himself. He knew that Andy hadn’t given him his real name.

He turned and left, annoyed with himself. He hung out around the place for a few hours, watching, hoping to catch a glimpse of Andy. He saw some other caddies – they were all young men like Andy, all clearly college students, frat boys earning some extra cash to see them through the semester. He wondered if any of them knew about the life Andy was leading. He could see Andy fitting right in here, completely at ease in this affluent environment, and once again he found himself wondering how a kid like Andy ended up on the streets. He clearly came from a wealthy background and had just as clearly received an expensive education. It didn’t make any sense.

He didn’t catch a glimpse of Andy all day but when the final set of golfers left the range he made one last ditch attempt to find him. He wasn’t sure why he was making the effort, he just felt a little nugget of guilt eating away at him inside, goading him on. Besides, he didn’t have anyplace else to be – he could start driving again tomorrow.

He saw one of the caddies run back to pick up a sweater he’d dropped, and he followed him, wanting to catch him alone.

“Hey…can you help me? I’m looking for one of the caddies who works here. He’s…about 6 feet tall, green eyes, brown hair with light streaks in it, talks about movies the whole time. Kind of annoying.”

“You mean Tony?” the young man said. He was a tall kid, with sleek dark hair. “That sounds like Tony.”

“Tony? Yeah. I mean Tony.” Gibbs nodded. “Where is he?”

“Didn’t show up for work today – called in sick,” the kid said, with a shrug, and then he frowned. “That’s not like him – usually he takes all the work he can get so he must be really ill. Of course, he could just be on the trail of some hot girl,” he grinned. “One thing that could make Tony fake a sick day it’s a hot girl. He’s a legend, man!” He patted Gibbs’s arm with a conspiratorial smile.

“Yeah, I can believe that,” Gibbs muttered, wondering where the hell Andy – Tony? – could be.

“A few weeks ago he hooked up with this older chick and he hasn’t been around as much since then. He says she’s loaded, got a fancy place out in Bexley and takes him everywhere - shows him a really good time he says. So he moved out of his apartment and moved all his stuff in with her. ‘Course that might all be over by now knowing Tony and there might be some new hot chick around!”

He grinned gleefully, clearly impressed by Tony’s prowess with the opposite sex. He was a real motormouth – but then presumably he didn’t think Tony had anything to hide and this was harmless enough stuff. The lie about the older woman was kind of sad – Tony clearly didn’t want his friends knowing he’d had to move out because he couldn’t pay the rent. The kid suddenly grimaced, and slapped a hand over his mouth.

“Oh shit! Are you his old man? He said his old man was in town but to be honest I didn’t believe him ‘cause he’s always talking about you and most of it sounded like made up shit. Look, I shouldn’t have said all that stuff – I hope it won’t get Tony into any trouble.”

Gibbs shook his head. “Don’t worry,” he said. “Tony’s not in any trouble. And thanks.” He gave the kid a generous handful of dollars for his help and then strode back to his car. He wasn’t sure why, but something about this whole situation felt wrong to him. He could feel it in his gut.

It was starting to get dark now, and he wondered what he should do. The thought of spending another night in the bar getting drunk suddenly didn’t seem so appealing any more. He realised that he’d actually enjoyed doing something today, even if he hadn’t found what he was looking for. He liked hanging out, asking questions, trying to get to the bottom of the mystery that was Andy. Maybe he’d enjoy that job Franks had offered him more than he thought. He pushed that thought aside and headed back to the motel room, still trying to figure out what he should do next.

It was completely dark by the time he got back and he was so lost in thought that he almost tripped over the body sitting hunched up on his doorstep, bag clutched to his chest as usual.

“Andy?” He felt a little spike of relief that he’d found the kid, which was immediately replaced by a sense of foreboding when he looked at him. “You okay?” he asked softly.

Andy’s shoulders were hunched, the way they always were when he was miserable, but it was the way his eyes were glowing with unnatural brightness that worried Gibbs. His skin was flushed and his face shone with a light sheen of sweat. He remembered what the young man at the country club had said about Andy – Tony – calling in sick.

“Andy.” Gibbs crouched down beside the kid, and touched his shoulder. The kid pulled away from him.

“I need somewhere to stay tonight,” Andy said quietly, without any of his usual attempts to charm and wheedle. “I thought you'd gone. I’m sorry I made you mad. I didn’t mean to. Please let me stay here tonight. I’ll go in the morning. I just need to sleep.”

“You can stay here, Andy.”

Gibbs got up and opened the door to the room. He noticed that Andy was moving slowly, as if he was in pain, and he wondered again about that feverish look in the boy’s eyes. Andy dumped his bag on the floor, as he always did, and then stood there, looking around him as if he wasn’t sure where he was.

“How long have you been sitting out there?” Gibbs asked quietly.

“A few hours. I went down to the garage and they said you had your car back. There was no sign of you. I was sure you’d moved on. I didn’t know what to do.” Andy bit on his lip. “So I just sat there.”

“Are you sick, Andy?” Gibbs moved his hand up to touch the kid’s forehead and check his temperature and Andy flinched away from him. “Easy. I’m not going to hurt you,” Gibbs said with a frown. This wasn’t the Andy he’d come to know these past few days, the Andy who leaned into every touch like a puppy wanting to be petted.

“I just need somewhere to sleep tonight,” Andy said tiredly. “I thought about paying for a room – I have the money but I don’t want to waste it. I've been trying to figure it out in my head but I can’t…I’m not feeling so good,” he admitted. “I can’t think straight.”

Gibbs took hold of the kid’s arm and then slowly, very slowly, moved his hand up to Andy’s forehead. “Christ, you’re burning up,” he said. “What the hell happened to you?”

“Nothing.” Andy pulled away, and Gibbs noticed the wince that crossed his face. “I just need to sleep it off and then I’ll be fine,” he muttered.

“Sleep what off?” Gibbs asked.

Andy ignored him. Moving slowly, biting on his lip, he sat down on the edge of the bed and leaned forward to try and undo his boots. He took a sharp intake of breath as he bent forward, clearly in pain, so Gibbs knelt down in front of him and undid them for him, then pulled them off and slung them away to one side. Then he reached out and started to unbutton Andy’s shirt.

“No.” Andy slapped his hand away.

“Yes. I want to see what you’re trying to hide,” Gibbs told him firmly. Andy gazed at him, an expression of mute pleading in those feverish eyes. Gibbs wondered what the hell was going on. “Is this something to do with your father?” he asked. Andy’s eyes flashed. “Did you go and see him? Did you ask him for money? Did he hurt you?” He felt a savage surge of anger inside.

“No.” Andy shook his head. “I haven’t seen him since Mom’s funeral. He doesn’t live around here – he lives on Long Island.”

Gibbs rocked back on his heels. “So what’s going on, Andy? You might as well tell me because I’m going to find out anyway.”

“You’re different.” Andy stared at him. “You're more…together. What happened to you?”

“I pulled my head out of my ass for long enough to realise I’m not the only one with problems,” Gibbs told him.

He stood up and unbuttoned Andy’s shirt, and Andy just looked at him the entire time, his eyes confused, as if he wasn’t sure what to do around a Gibbs who wasn’t either drunk on his ass or stewing in self-pity. Gibbs eased the shirt off Andy’s back and winced as it stuck in places. He peeled it off slowly, revealing several ugly bruises and a number of deep welts, seeping blood. Andy stared at him, looking guilty, angry and scared all at the same time.

“Who did this to you?” Gibbs asked quietly.

“Nobody did anything to me,” Andy replied.

“Don’t lie to me!” Gibbs roared. Andy flinched. Gibbs got control of himself and reached out gentle fingers to examine the wounds on Andy’s body in more detail. The many large, purple bruises looked like fist marks, and then there were the welts – Gibbs wasn’t sure what those had been made by. His jaw tightened as he found a couple of burn marks, clearly made by the butt of a cigarette.

“Nobody did anything to me that I didn’t agree to,” Andy clarified, sullenly. “I went there. He pays well. I knew what I was doing.”

“You’ve done this before?” Gibbs was incredulous. “You go to someone and let him beat you up?”

“Like I said, he pays well. I met him down the country club. He asked me if I was interested in making more money, on the side. I said yes. I thought he wanted to fuck me and that was okay – he’s not hot like you but he’s not repulsive either. He never has fucked me though. He explained it to me that first time and I agreed. The first couple of times weren’t so bad. He just kicked me around then jacked off over me but he gave me enough money to pay the rent for a few weeks. Then last time I went to him he got out this stick and wanted to use it. It hurt like hell so I told him to fuck off and left. Then I couldn’t pay the rent and ended up on the street.”

“And you went back there?” Gibbs asked, his gut clenching at the story.

“Yeah, a couple of days ago. He said…what he likes about me is that I’ve got a smart mouth. He likes that I’m so cocky – that’s what he says. He likes shutting me up. When I went back this time he paid in advance, but he locked the door and said I wasn’t walking out on him again until he was done. He had me mouth off at him – that was the easy part.” Andy gave a bright grin that never went anywhere near reaching his eyes. “Then he punched me a few times, and then he got out that stick. Christ that hurts.” He shivered. “If he hadn’t locked the door I’d have been out of there but he’d given me the money and I told him he could do it so I thought I should hold up my end of the bargain. He called me an arrogant son of a bitch who needs to learn a lesson. I think I remind him of some preppy rich kids who beat up on him years ago or something.”

“Why, Andy? I know you need the money but it can’t be worth going through this to get it. Why did you go back there?”

“You threw me out, and I am trying to keep this together without anyone finding out,” Andy said through gritted teeth. “I admit I might not be doing it very well, but I can do this. I can figure out a way to get through college, and pay my way, and show him…” He broke off with a shrug and then winced as that small movement pained him.

“Show who?” Gibbs demanded.

“He doesn’t think I can do this but I can,” Andy murmured, his eyes glassy. “He thinks I’m a spoiled brat and he’s not throwing good money after bad.”

Gibbs noticed the beads of sweat on Andy’s forehead, soaking into his hair, turning it dark, and he cursed. Some of the cuts on his body must have become infected and he was starting to sound delirious.

“Come on. Let’s get you into bed,” he said.

He gently removed the rest of Andy’s clothing and got him under the sheets. Andy was shivering now, burning up and freezing cold at the same time.

“I wanted you to come back,” Andy slurred. “I waited because I wanted you to come back. I really like you, Jethro.”

Gibbs smoothed Andy’s sweaty hair away from his face.

“Yeah, I know, Andy. Look, I need to get you some medicine. You stay here and sleep – I’ll be right back. I promise.”

Andy’s eyes were so glassy that he wasn’t even sure the kid had understood him. Gibbs grabbed his wallet, then went to the motel reception and asked them to call for a doctor. This was more than he could handle alone.

The doctor clearly thought he’d been the one to hurt Andy, and he clucked around disapprovingly. He prescribed drugs for the infection and some kind of cream to rub into the welts and then he left - but not before charging Gibbs a small fortune for his services.

Gibbs got the prescription filled and the first dose of medication into the kid and then sat down on the chair in the corner of the room and ran his hand through his hair.

How the hell had this happened? When had his life become this fucked up and complicated? This kid really wasn't his responsibility and yet somehow it felt like he was. There had to be someone else though – someone else who would care that he was whoring himself out and allowing some bastard to slap him around in exchange for money. His mom was dead but wouldn't his father want to know about this? Gibbs knew he'd want to know, if this had been Kelly. What father wouldn't care that his son was lying beaten up in a motel room with some guy he barely knew looking after him? There had to be someone better than him to take care of Andy right now.

Gibbs glanced at Andy's bag, lying on the floor, and he got up, opened it, and rifled through the contents, keeping one eye on Andy the entire time to make sure he remained asleep. He found what he was looking for – the letters he'd seen the other day – and held them for a moment, wondering what gave him the right to look through something so personal. He shrugged that attack of conscience away, and opened up the first letter.

It was from Andy's mom, and was dated several months ago. It was full of long, rambling sentences that went nowhere and made little sense – Gibbs could well believe the woman had been an alcoholic. It was also painfully evident that she adored her son and was doing her best for him, such as it was. A quick check revealed that all the letters were from her and they were all pretty much along the same lines – which was useless to him. He tied the letters back together, the way they had been when he'd found them, and replaced them in Andy's bag.

He wondered about that dark-haired kid he'd met at the country club earlier – he seemed to be one of Andy's friends. Maybe he should contact him? He thought about it for a moment but something about it felt wrong. What was it that Andy had said earlier? He was "trying to keep this together without anyone finding out"? That kid at the club earlier had spoken about Andy like he was some kind of frat boy superhero, a legend – there was no way that kid had any idea that his friend Tony was leading some kind of double life – and Andy clearly wanted to keep it that way.

Gibbs silently worked his way through the rest of the bag, looking for some kind of clue that would help him unravel the mystery that was Andy. He found a porno magazine, full of explicit pictures of naked women – exactly the kind of magazine he'd expect a kid Andy's age to have in his possession. He gave it a cursory glance and slung it on the floor…then looked at it again when something fell out of it. He picked up an envelope, hoping it wasn't another long, rambling missive from Andy's mother. It wasn't. It was a formal letter from a firm of lawyers in New York called Weston and Grant, and it was addressed to an Anthony DiNozzo. He opened it up and began to read.

Dear Anthony,

As you may know, my father retired a few months ago, and I have taken over his practice. I am therefore now your father's chief legal adviser in respect of his business and personal interests.

Your father has directed me to reply on his behalf to your recent letter to him in respect of your college tuition. As he made clear after your expulsion from Drewes Military Academy, and as he reiterated at your mother’s funeral, he is no longer prepared to fund your education.

He would like to remind you that he himself started out with nothing, and built his business by dint of his own hard work. He believes that it is perfectly possible for you to do the same and he looks forward to seeing you make something of your life without the cushion of his financial help.

He expresses his hope that this will be the making of you. He has not entirely given up on the possibility of you joining him in the business, provided that first you show an aptitude for hard work, discipline and application – all qualities that he feels have been sorely lacking in your conduct to date.

If you can prove to his satisfaction that you have changed, and if you can demonstrate that you are ashamed of the conduct that led to your expulsion from Drewes, then he will be prepared to see you again upon completion of your college education. However, he does not, at this stage, believe that any such improvements in your attitude have taken place.

He has therefore directed me to advise you that he will not be offering any financial assistance to you now or at any point in the future, and asks that you do not approach him in respect of this matter again.

Yours sincerely,

Daniel Weston
Weston and Grant

Gibbs winced – that was a harsh letter – not just in tone but in the fact that Andy's father hadn't even bothered to write it himself. There was a handwritten note attached to the letter. Gibbs glanced at it.

Dear Tony,

On a personal note, I would like you to know that I recall those summers I spent at your father's house when I was younger with great affection and have fond memories of that time. I am enclosing a cheque - it's just a small sum from my own money but I hope it will be of some use to you in your current predicament.

Kind regards,

This Daniel Weston sounded like a decent kind of man. Gibbs grabbed a pen and paper and made a note of the man's number; it was too late to call now but maybe tomorrow. Then he glanced over at Andy. The kid's face was flushed but he was young and strong – hopefully he'd bounce back from this. There was something about his irrepressible spirit that made Gibbs suspect that he was pretty good at bouncing back.

Gibbs felt a surge of sympathy for the boy - and also a glimmer of understanding about where his desperate need for a father figure came from. His request the other day that he might call Gibbs "Dad" suddenly made a hell of a lot more sense. He might have the libido of highly-sexed nineteen year old but inside there was also a part of him that was a ten year old boy who just wanted to hang out with his father. It would have been touching if it wasn't so completely fucked up.

It was late. Gibbs got up, got undressed down to his boxers and tee shirt, and slipped silently into the bed beside Andy. The kid muttered something and shifted in his sleep, whimpering. Gibbs looked at him for a moment, and then, with a sigh, he put his arm around him and pulled him over so that his head was resting on his shoulder. Andy's arms went automatically around Gibbs's midriff and he wrapped himself around him.

Gibbs looked down on him, wondering how the hell he had come to feel so fond of a kid he hadn't even known existed a few days ago. The only emotion he'd been feeling for months was a deep, savage, angry grief – it was actually a relief to feel something else. He hadn't realised how weary he'd become of feeling so raw and sad all the damn time.

When Gibbs woke a few hours later it was to the usual suffocating weight of Andy lying almost on top of him, legs entangled in his, arms wrapped around him, the way he seemed to like sleeping. Gibbs wasn't used to being smothered quite so comprehensively and Andy was heavy, but all the same there was something appealing about Andy's puppyish need to be in such close proximity. Gibbs extricated himself quietly, and then reached out a hand to Andy's forehead. The kid was still flushed but he wasn't burning up any more, so hopefully he was on the mend.

Gibbs got dressed and slipped silently out of the room. He found a phone booth down the street and called the offices of Weston and Grant. Hopefully, this would soon be over, and Andy would soon be his father's problem – which was the way it should be. Then Gibbs could drive away from all this and return to his own problems, and the important decision of whether he wanted to live or die. He still didn't feel like he'd *made* that decision, damn it. Andy had got in the way and made everything more complicated, when it should have been simple.

"I need to speak to Daniel Weston," he said to the girl who answered the phone.

"Oh, sir, I'm sorry, but he's away on vacation this week. Is there anyone else who can help?" she replied. Gibbs sighed, wondering when he'd catch a break with this.

"I need to get in touch with a Mr DiNozzo," he said. "I believe he's a client of yours? I have his son, Andy - I mean, Tony - staying in my motel room. He's not well. He's uh…been in a fight and he's beat up pretty bad. He's going to be okay but I thought Mr DiNozzo might want to know that his son needs help. Can you tell me how I can get in touch with him?"

"We can't give out confidential client details, sir," she told him. "However, I will call Mr DiNozzo and tell him what you've said."

"Do it now. And get him to call me straight back," Gibbs commanded impatiently, giving her the number.

She assured him that she would, so he put the phone down and waited. Fifteen minutes later, the phone in the booth rang. Gibbs snatched it up.

"Mr DiNozzo?"

There was an apologetic silence, and then the girl from Weston and Grant spoke.

"I'm sorry, sir. It's me again. Mr DiNozzo asked me to call you. He said…"

"What?" Gibbs frowned, wondering what the hell kind of father didn't want to talk to someone who had news that his son needed help.

"He said that he can't help, sir."

"He can't help?" Gibbs repeated, in disbelief. "That's what he said? He can't help? Does he realise that his son has been hurt?"

"Yes, sir. He…Mr DiNozzo is a man of very strong views, sir, and he said to say he's washed his hands of his son and doesn't want to be involved in his latest drama. He advises you not to get involved, either. I'm sorry, sir."

She sounded extremely apologetic and it wasn't her fault but Gibbs treated her to a volley of expletives all the same. Then he slammed the phone down and struck his hand, hard, against the wall of the booth. Christ, some men didn't deserve to be fathers. He'd give his right arm to have Kelly back for just one second; to hold her, speak to her, see those blue eyes of hers light up when she saw him, and yet this man, this bastard, didn't give a damn that his son was in trouble. He didn't know how lucky he was to have a living, breathing child and it made him mad as hell.

He walked around the parking lot of the motel for a few minutes to calm down, pausing only to kick the kerb a few times. He didn't want to go back into that room while he was still this angry; the last thing he wanted was for Andy to find out that his father didn't give a flying fuck about his welfare. He wondered just what the boy had done to make his father treat him this way. He tried to think as a dad, as Kelly's dad, wondering if there was anything she could have done that would have made him reject her in a similar situation but he couldn't think of anything so bad that he'd have turned his back on her if she'd been hurt. He might have been angry with her, and disappointed in her, but he'd always have been there for her.

What had Andy done that was so bad? The kid could be annoying; he had a smart mouth on him and he was definitely trouble but he was also funny and completely without any kind of malice. In that letter, Daniel Weston had spoken of Andy being expelled from some kind of a military academy – had it been that? He'd also spoken of Andy's lack of discipline and application – but surely that couldn't be the whole story? If Andy lacked those virtues, Gibbs thought that was partly his father's fault for raising him wrong. You couldn't raise a kid and then turn your back on them if they didn't turn out the way you wanted. How they turned out was at least partially your responsibility after all.

So now what? Gibbs turned it around in his head but he couldn't see any answer for it save the obvious. The kid didn't have anyone except him, and, fucked up though he was right now, that was as good as it got. Gibbs had taken responsibility for too many kids Andy's age to turn his back on this one; he'd trained hundreds of young men to fight in the Marines, treating them with a combination of gruff affection and military discipline that he’d hoped would help keep them alive in whatever combat situation they encountered. So Andy was stuck with him, and he with Andy, for now at least.

He finally calmed down enough to return to the room. Andy was awake and he sat up in bed when he came in, his hair sticking up on end as usual, eyes anxious, but they’d lost that glassy look they’d had the previous night, and his face was no longer flushed.

"I wondered where you were," he said. "I woke up and you'd gone. I thought maybe you'd paid for the room and left."

"How are you feeling?" Gibbs asked, ignoring that. Andy seemed to expect to be abandoned or rejected and Gibbs didn't want to deal with that right now.

"Fine," Andy said. "Much better. I'm sorry I crashed out on you last night. I felt like shit and wasn't thinking clearly. I'll just grab my stuff and be on my way."

"Not until you're better," Gibbs told him firmly, crossing over to the bed and sitting down. He reached out a hand and stroked Andy's untidy hair, smoothing down the messy spikes.

"I can stay here?" Andy asked, looking surprised. "I thought you were pissed with me?"

"Oh, I am," Gibbs chuckled. "I am, Andy, but you're here now and you'll stay here until you're well." He glanced down at Andy. "Son," he added softly. Andy didn't say anything but his eyes lit up, glowing from within with a kind of joyful luminosity, and Gibbs gave an inward sigh, wondering what the hell he'd started.


Tony's father moved his hand, grabbed hold of Gibbs's jacket, and pulled him down, close, so he could get a good look at him. Gibbs found himself subject to the intense scrutiny of those grey-green eyes. DiNozzo Senior might be dying but his mind was still razor sharp. Gibbs took hold of the man's thin wrist and removed it from his jacket, but then, to show this embittered old man that he wasn't scared of him, he sat down on the bed beside him, and moved the lamp so the man could see him clearly.

DiNozzo gave a gurgling little laugh. "Oh, I know you," he said.

"Never met you before today," Gibbs replied.

"Yeah, but I know you – you're a bastard," the old man said. "Just like me."

Gibbs couldn't bite back the smile. "Plenty of people have called me that," he said.

"So, you don't like the way I talk to my son, huh?" he asked. Gibbs shrugged.

"Like you said – you're a bastard. Tony's worked for me for seven years and he's saved my life more than once – just last year he threw himself into the river and pulled me out from the car I was trapped in down there. He’s risked his life doing his job more times than I can count. I wouldn't expect you to understand, or care, because you judge a man's worth by how much he earns, but Tony is loyal, brave and a damn good agent – the best I have. He's good at his job, and he works damn hard at it too."

DiNozzo lay back on his pillows, wheezing, and gazed at Gibbs speculatively.

"You ever been married?" he asked.

"Yeah, four times," Gibbs replied, wondering what the hell that had to do with anything. DiNozzo gave a little laugh that turned into a cough.

"Three times," he gasped, pointing to himself. "Never could figure women out."

"Me neither." Gibbs shrugged.

"You sleeping with my son?" DiNozzo asked suddenly, taking him by surprise. "Oh don't look at me like that – you must know Tony likes to walk on the queer side of the street every now and then."

"No. I'm not sleeping with your son," Gibbs replied shortly. Not right now, anyway, Gibbs thought to himself. Not for seventeen years.

"Good. Wish my son was more like you," DiNozzo said. "You got any kids, Gibbs?"

"No," Gibbs replied shortly. He never had figured out the right way to reply to that question, even after all these years.

"Then you wouldn't understand," the old man said. "You think I'm hard on Tony but you try and imagine how it felt, getting a call from your son's military academy saying they're throwing out your boy because he's been found screwing another student."

Gibbs gazed at him, expressionlessly. So that was it. He’d always wondered, although he’d guessed it had been something like this.

"A male student," the old man added, clearly not satisfied with Gibbs's lack of reaction. "I had to drive straight down and pick him up – they didn't want to keep him under their roof for one more night. Thought my son was many things – he always was a charmer, and he'll play the fool for anyone who'll watch him - but a fag? I never saw that one coming."

"Tony's had plenty of girlfriends," Gibbs pointed out.

"Yeah," the old man chuckled. "Never got married though, did he? Never had any kids. I know my son, Gibbs, and I'll bet you he's still dicking around with any fag or any piece of skirt that'll show him a good time."

Gibbs grunted – the old man was right about that at least – or he thought so. It seemed to him that Tony's flirting wasn't as rampant nowadays as it had once been, and he rarely talked about the women he was dating any more.

"I work in a closed little world, Gibbs," DiNozzo said. "And the circles I move in…well, let's just say that word about why Tony was expelled from Drewes didn't just get out – it spread around like wildfire. Couldn't show my face for weeks afterwards because of the shame."

"So you washed your hands of Tony?" Gibbs asked.

"Like I said, you wouldn't understand. You're not a father," the old man growled at him.

"I had a daughter. She was killed when she was eight," Gibbs said quietly. "If I could have her back I wouldn't give a damn who she slept with or what the hell job she did – I'd just tell her how much I love her and how proud of her I am."

DiNozzo's eyes flashed.

"Call yourself a father? Man like you doesn't deserve the title," Gibbs told him, in a low, dismissive tone.

"What does it matter to you?" DiNozzo demanded, his eyes cloudy and tired. "What the hell does any of this matter to you?"

"It matters to Tony," Gibbs replied. "Listen, old man – you're dying, what harm would it do to give Tony something before you go? Oh, not your money," Gibbs growled, as he saw the old man open his mouth to interrupt. "Just tell him you love him, and that you're proud of him. That's all. It's only words – they won't cost you anything and they'll mean a hell of a lot to him."

"What if it's not true?" DiNozzo asked quietly. Gibbs stared at him icily.

"Be a man," he said. "No, be a *father*. Say it – even if it's not true. Do that for him."

The old man looked at him and Gibbs looked back. There was a long silence which was disturbed only when they heard a sound in the hallway. The door opened, and Tony walked back into the room. His hair was completely wet, as if he'd stuck his whole head under the faucet – maybe he had. Gibbs could understand the impulse – this room stank of an old man's anger and the bitter scent of reproach – he wasn't surprised Tony had tried to wash it away. It must have been crippling living with that hanging over him all these years.

Gibbs got up, vacating his bedside seat to Tony. Tony looked more purposeful now, less hunched and miserable. He crossed the room and sat down.

"Listen – I didn't come here to quarrel," he said softly, taking hold of his father's hand and squeezing lightly. "Haven't we done enough of that over the years? I'm sorry you're dying, Dad, and I'm glad I've got this chance to say goodbye. Whatever's happened between us – it's in the past. Let's just let it go."

Gibbs stood behind Tony, and glared, meaningfully, at the old man lying in the bed.
"Now would be a good time to say that thing we talked about," Gibbs muttered.

DiNozzo gazed at his son for a long moment, and then at Gibbs, and then, finally, he extricated his hand pointedly from Tony’s grasp, and closed his eyes.

"I'm tired now," he said.


They spent the day watching TV. For an active man like Gibbs, it was a novelty he’d never experienced before – an entire day doing nothing except lie on a bed watching TV - but Andy seemed to relish it. Or, more particularly, Gibbs suspected the kid liked having a father figure around with nothing better to do than give him attention.

Andy was in his element; he started talking after finishing the bagels Gibbs brought him for breakfast and didn’t stop for a solid few hours. He bounced around on the bed, nudging Gibbs in the ribs every few minutes in an effort to make him look up from the newspaper he was trying to read, constantly pointing out useless pieces of trivia related to the dire daytime TV he was watching. Gibbs found it incomprehensively relaxing after all the recent weeks of driving followed by drinking. The drink might have numbed his grief but it also had made his mind fuzzy and his body bloated; drying out felt good.

Andy was a fidget, unable to stay in any one position for more than a few minutes, and he was forever throwing his pillow around the bed and then launching himself on top of it, elbows and feet often digging into Gibbs in the process as he tried to get comfortable in his new position, only to abandon it a few minutes later. Gibbs could forgive him that – the kid was bruised and battered so he guessed that lying in one position for any length of time must be uncomfortable.

Spending time with Andy was hardly a restful experience but it was endlessly entertaining. Andy's constant demand for some kind of connection or interaction with Gibbs should have been irritating, but somehow Andy's natural charm rendered it endearing instead.

After lunch, and another dose of medication, Andy zonked out for a two hour sleep and Gibbs found he missed the kid’s stream-of-consciousness verbal diarrhoea. He put down his paper and glanced at Andy. He was lying on his side, facing Gibbs, nestled under the blanket, his hair a mess of long, bleached spikes on the pillow. It was impossible not to feel fond of the kid; there was just something appealing about him, even when he was being a pain in the ass – which was most of the time.

Gibbs moved his own pillow a fraction higher to ease a crick in his back and frowned when he felt something digging into his ass. He pulled out his gun from beneath the pillow and gazed at it. Those suicidal impulses that had brought him on this journey no longer felt so acute. Maybe he just needed to be needed – by the men in his unit, by his wife, by his daughter…by all those things that he’d lost. Instead he’d found this young man, who sure as hell needed him, and that need was an anchor for him right now.

He put the gun in the nightstand drawer and closed it – he wasn't sure that he was done with it yet, but he did know that he didn't need it right now. Then he settled down beside Andy, face to face, one arm placed protectively around the kid’s midriff, and closed his eyes. There wasn’t much else to do except take a nap.

He woke half an hour later to find a pair of eyes gazing at him hopefully, and something hard digging into his thigh.

“Oh Christ,” he sighed. “You can’t be serious. You’re ill, Andy.”

“What? You never been ill and horny at the same time?” Andy grinned, grinding his hips hopefully in Gibbs’s direction, making the presence of his rock hard erection even more firmly felt.

“Are you seriously always this sexed up?” Gibbs grunted. Andy made a show of thinking about it for a couple of seconds and then grinned again.

“Yeah,” he said. “So…?”

Gibbs gave another grunt, more strangled this time, as Andy slipped a hand into his boxers and stroked his cock, which responded with a more eager leap than Gibbs would have expected.

“You could fuck me,” Andy whispered. “That was pretty damn hot last time.”

“I’m not going to fuck you, Andy, not while you’re ill.”

“I could fuck you then,” Andy suggested.

Gibbs reached out and grabbed his wrist, firmly, in his fingers. “Not going to happen,” he said. Andy pouted.

“You should try it – it’s good,” he said. “But if that’s not your thing – how about I suck you?” He pulled up the blanket and began sliding down the bed. Gibbs grabbed hold of a fistful of his thick hair to stop him in his tracks. Then he hauled him back up again.

“Is this payment, Andy?” he asked. “For the room? For the doctor? For the medicine? If it is then forget it – I don't want sex in payment for any of that.”

Andy rolled his eyes. “No. I told you, you’re hot, and I *like* sex. A lot,” he added.

“Why aren’t you out there chasing girls then?” Gibbs asked. “Kid your age – that’s what you should be doing and I know you like girls - your head swivels whenever you see anything in a short skirt.”

“I do like girls,” Andy agreed. “I really do,” he added with a laugh. “And trust me, I definitely chase after girls. But I like guys too. I like being fucked, I like sucking cock. I know I’m not supposed to but I do. I’ve tried not to but I can’t help myself. Is it that bad?” He looked at Gibbs for confirmation. “It doesn’t feel that bad – it just feels like sex, but other people get freaked out about it. I’ve learned to pretend to freak out too, so nobody figures out what I like. It’s easier that way.”

"Your friends don't know, do they?" Gibbs said. "That you're bisexual?"

"Hell no!" Andy grinned. "I'm majoring in Phys Ed, Jethro – they'd never let me in the showers with them after a game if they knew."

“Yeah – but that means you have to lead a double life,” Gibbs pointed out. Andy shrugged.

“Cool,” he said. “Kind of like being a spy. Talking of which - ah, Mr Bond, vot haff we got here?” he asked, in a terrible Eastern European accent, moving his hand down to find Gibbs’s semi-erect cock again. He gave another one of those infectious grins and moved his hand rhythmically up and down Gibbs’s cock.

Gibbs gave in and grabbed Andy, stripping the kid out of his underwear and tearing off his own at the same time, getting them both naked within seconds. Then he pulled Andy over so that he was sitting astride him, over his groin, taking care not to touch any of the many cuts and bruises on the kid's body.

Then, with a determined grin, Gibbs took hold of their erections and pressed them together. Andy gave him a startled look, and then grinned back at him, delighted by what Gibbs had in mind, and within seconds he was making those orgasmic noises again.

There was something very erotic about being with a partner as uninhibited and up for anything as Andy, and somehow, and Gibbs wasn’t sure how, it became an unspoken competition as to who could hold out the longest before coming.

Andy tried to push Gibbs over the edge by grinding his balls into Gibbs’s groin, moving his long, dextrous fingers over his own body, tweaking at his nipples as he worked. He locked gazes with Gibbs while slipping his tongue enticingly between his lips, wetting them, making the full lower lip seem especially plump and inviting. His eyes were gleaming with challenge and he was utterly confident in his own sexual prowess, sure that he could turn on Gibbs as much as Gibbs was turning him on, and win the competition.

In return, Gibbs moved his hands with expert precision, making Andy gasp with every firm, confident stroke on his cock. Their cocks pulsed together, both of them rock hard and slick with pre-come.

"I don't think you can hold it much longer," Andy teased, rocking his hips so that his hard cock bumped against Gibbs's. Gibbs gritted his teeth as the movement sent pleasure waves coursing through him, almost sending him over the edge.

"That what ya think, Andy?" Gibbs growled, barely holding on as Andy taunted him with those sinful eyes, daring him to give in and come. Gibbs held back manfully, working both his hands on their cocks, rubbing them in synchronous time, enjoying the sensation of having two handfuls of hard, pulsing flesh instead of the usual one. There was no way he was going to lose this challenge. He was Leroy Jethro Gibbs, and there was no way some cocky kid was going to get the better of him, in the bedroom or out of it. He gazed up at Andy, a small, confident smile tugging at the corner of his lips, daring him to give in.

"Oh you really don't like to lose, do you?" Andy grinned, and then he started to laugh, and at almost the same moment he came, spurting out onto Gibbs’s belly, his laugh turning into an orgasmic moan and shudder of pleasure.

“Call that stamina, kid?” Gibbs smirked, continuing to pump his own cock with a triumphant flourish of his hand. Andy grinned down at him.

“Yeah – but I’ll be ready to go again in ten – while you’ll be struggling to get it up again this side of Christmas, old man,” Andy teased him back.

Gibbs came with a groan of pleasure, his come mixing with Andy's on his belly, and then he lay there for a moment, completely out of it, waiting for the blood to return to his head.

Andy sat astride him, smiling down at him, his lips still wet from where he'd licked them. Gibbs stared up at him, transfixed, and then he found his hands sliding up Andy's body, and he twisted one hand in the kid's hair, took hold of it, and pulled Andy down so that he was flat on top of him, belly against belly. He kept his hand tangled in Andy's hair as he kissed him on the mouth for the first time, sliding his tongue between those teasing lips and working them open. He slid his arm around Andy's body to keep the naked flesh pressed hard against his own, and pushed up into Andy's willing mouth, his lips relentless and his tongue ravenous as he worked.

This should have felt wrong, it should have been guilty or furtive, a betrayal of Shannon and what they'd shared, but it didn't. Gibbs paused for breath, and then pushed Andy over, and rolled on top of him. He held the kid's arms above his head and gazed down at him, gasping for breath, wondering what the hell had gotten into him. Andy gazed back up at him, chest heaving beneath Gibbs's knees. Gibbs surrendered; he moved his head down to kiss those inviting lips again, biting, nibbling and sucking on them, thrusting his tongue deep into Andy's mouth.

He thought that if Shannon could see him now she'd understand. She'd understand that this wasn't just a kiss – it was the kiss of life - a way back to being a living, breathing human being when he'd only been a shadow these past few months. He wasn't sure why it had been this person, this mixed-up, irrepressible kid who had somehow brought him back to life, but it was. Maybe Andy wouldn't have been his choice, if he'd been given one, but Gibbs knew there was no way this would be happening if Andy had been a woman. He couldn't kiss or make love to a woman like he’d just done with Andy - not yet. He wasn't ready for that yet.

He kissed Andy for a long time – deep, powerful, intense kisses, full of need, like a drowning man welcoming air into his lungs after months of holding his breath. Then, finally, he rolled off him and lay down on the bed, gazing up at the ceiling blankly, feeling the blood course through his veins and the pounding of his heart.

He was alive. His body smelled of sex, his mouth tasted of Andy, and he was alive – and, what's more, he knew now that he wanted to stay that way.

Andy rolled over, propped his chin on his hand, and gazed at him.

"Shit," he whistled. "And, uh…wow. I thought you didn't do kissing."

"I don’t," Gibbs said tiredly, and he reached up and traced one finger over Andy's swollen lips.


Waiting for someone to die wasn't an interesting pastime. Gibbs leaned against the drapes, and watched Tony watch his father sleep. Tony looked exhausted but it was late now, and it had been a long day.

He wondered if DiNozzo Senior would relent before he died and say the words Gibbs had asked him to say, but Tony's father was a stubborn old bastard so maybe not - although Gibbs hadn't yet given up hope.

After DiNozzo withdrew his hand Tony made no attempt to touch him again. He just sat there, gazing sightlessly at him as the old man slept, a faraway look in his eyes. Gibbs wondered what he was thinking and how he was feeling. Tony's unresolved issues with his father were an integral part of his make-up, so Gibbs had no doubt that this was affecting him deeply. He just hoped that Tony wasn't so badly broken when this was over that he wouldn't be able to put him back together again. Tony was resilient though – he knew that from experience. No matter how many times he got knocked down he always got back up again, the wide, flashy grin on his face distracting anyone from seeing the shadows in his eyes.

Gibbs's gaze travelled from Tony to the yellow, sickly face of the dying man in the bed, lips set in a rigid, implacable line. Gibbs knew something about dying. He'd been close to it a few times himself. Last time had been less than a year ago when he'd been trapped in a car at the bottom of a river…

Gibbs took a deep, ragged intake of breath, remembering the slow loss of consciousness as his lungs filled with water. In his mind's eye he could see Tony, swimming through the murky depths towards him. He could feel Tony's strong hands on his body, pulling him free, and the weight of Tony's arm wrapped around him as he carried him back up to the surface and dragged him out onto the dock.

Then there had been the firm, warm press of Tony's lips on his as he tried to breathe air back into him. The feel of those particular lips on his had resurrected a memory of the first kiss of life that Tony had given him, when he'd been dying in a very different way, and that was what had caused him to breathe in. Tony always did have a knack for bringing him back to life.

"You guys want some coffee?" Pete asked, from his place over by the door, cutting through Gibbs's thoughts and breaking into the silence.

"Sounds good," Gibbs said, relieved to have an excuse to move. "Tony?"

"What? Oh. Yeah." Tony glanced up at him, the faraway expression in his eyes fading. "In fact – I'll come with you. I need some air."

"I'll call the nurse back in to sit with him," Pete said.

Gibbs followed Tony out of the room and they walked in silence back down to the kitchen where the crowd had thinned considerably, and only a couple of diehards remained. Tony slipped out of the kitchen door and stood outside, leaning against the wall, gazing up at the full moon hanging overhead, his breath clouding the frosty air around him. Gibbs hung around by the window, wanting to give him space but keep an eye on him at the same time.

"He going to be okay?" Pete asked as he got out some cups. Gibbs thought it was ironic that a member of Tony's own family should be asking *him* that, like he was the expert on Tony and not them. And, in a way, he probably was.

"Yeah," he said. "He'll be fine. He's strong. Always bounces back."

"Mmm." Pete looked uncertain. "Look I don't know what you know about our family…uh…is it Gibbs, or do you like to be called Leroy, or what?"

"Gibbs is fine," he said curtly. Pete nodded.

"Just…I know you heard all that stuff in there but I don't want you to get the wrong idea," Pete said, looking almost embarrassed. "I know my uncle sounded like a total bastard when he was talking to Tony but he's always been good to me. When my dad died he took me under his wing - he put me through college, and offered me a position in his business…he's spoiled my kids rotten and he's charm itself with my wife. He's a good man, Gibbs, he really is. He just has this real blind spot where Tony is concerned."

"Okay." Gibbs shrugged.

"No…I mean…I don't want you to think I pushed Tony out or anything because I really didn't. He and I have always got along. I guess what I'm saying is that I didn't try and take Tony's place with my uncle - it just happened."

"Tony bear any grudges?" Gibbs asked, glancing out of the window, his gaze settling on the back of Tony's neck. His fingers itched with an urge to stroke the exposed piece of skin between the collar of Tony's shirt and his hairline.

"No…but you know Tony - even if he did, I doubt I'd know about it," Pete replied, with a shrug. "He never likes anyone to know what he's really feeling underneath the big act. You must have figured that out."

"Oh yeah." Gibbs nodded.

He knew all about the famous Tony misdirect, had witnessed it at close quarters over the past seven years – hell, he'd seen it at an embryonic stage, all those years ago, back in Ohio. Tony had perfected it since then though, and finely honed it during his years at NCIS. Gibbs was sometimes impressed by just how polished it now was, as buffed up, shiny and dazzling as could be. It had to be, to distract people and to keep them from catching a glimpse of the kid who got thrown out of school for sleeping with another boy; the son disowned by his father for not being what he was supposed to be; and the young, desperate hustler who turned tricks in bars.

Yeah, Tony had a lot to hide and god knows he'd learned how to hide it damn well. His personality was like quicksilver – the serious, capable agent always carefully concealed behind the attention-seeking idiot, so nobody would ever piece all the clues together and see the real man behind the mask. Except Gibbs – and he only saw because he remembered two weeks spent in a motel room back in Columbus, Ohio a very long time ago with a kid who called himself Andy.


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