Andy: 2. Chapter 2
Gibbs took his place in the gym and glanced at his watch. Andy had been like a cat that got the cream for the past few days. He was fully recovered from the beating he’d received, most of the cuts and bruises now almost completely gone, and he had so much energy that it had been all Gibbs could to do keep up with him.
The sex, predictably, had been both frequent and satisfying, and between bouts Andy had taken him around town and showed him just about everything there was to see. Gibbs had also insisted he attend his classes again, and hang around with his friends; Gibbs had given him a key to the motel room so he could come and go. It was intriguing, getting to know the college student instead of the hustler. He could now see that there were two very distinct sides to Andy’s personality and he suspected Andy was very different when he was with his friends compared to the way he was when Gibbs was alone with him.
Gibbs sat back as the teams emerged from the locker room, and saw Andy search the crowd for him, his gaze restless until it settled upon him. Then he gave a big grin and a massive thumbs-up sign. Gibbs rolled his eyes.
Andy was right about one thing – he *was* good at basketball. In fact he was the best on a strong college team. Gibbs watched him leap around the court like a hurricane, outclassing his opponents, a whirling force of nature as he passed, dribbled and jumped. He was infused with a wild, exuberant energy that was familiar to Gibbs from his performance in the bedroom. All the same, Gibbs wondered whether his performance on court was enhanced to a certain degree by having someone in the audience to show off for. Andy always did like to have an audience – whether for his idiotic jokes, endless knowledge of movie trivia, or even just when he wanted his erection admired.
Andy’s team won easily, 52 – 29, and Andy accounted for almost half his team’s points. He wasn’t as tall as some of the other players but he had a springy leap that made up for that, and his cocky sense of triumph when he scored and the low-level chat he kept up trying to distract the players on the other team made it clear that he was having a great time.
Gibbs went down courtside after the game ended, and Andy came running over.
“Did you see that three pointer?” he asked Gibbs excitedly. He’d scored from mid-court just before the buzzer, a testament to both his timing and his showmanship. “Did you see what I did there?”
“Yeah, I saw,” Gibbs said, grinning because Andy’s excitement was infectious. At that moment a throng of Andy’s team-mates and friends surged over to join them, in a testosterone-fuelled mass of exuberance, excited by their victory.
“Hey, Tony, we’re going to be pouring the beer down your throat tonight,” one of them said, grabbing Andy in a neck lock. Andy pushed him back and they had a minor tussle.
“Did you see those hot girls watching in the second row?” another kid asked, gesturing. Andy glanced over to where a gaggle of girls was standing, pretending they weren’t looking at the team but casting surreptitious glances their way all the same. Andy’s face split from ear to ear with a grin that boasted of his supreme confidence in the imminence of a new sexual conquest.
“Tonight, my friends, we get lucky,” he leered. “Just observe the master at work – watch and learn!”
Gibbs stood back and studied Andy interacting with his friends, and then, suddenly, the last piece of that jigsaw slotted into place. Andy didn’t want his friends knowing about the reality of his life because he wanted *this*. He wanted acceptance, wanted to keep up the persona he’d had when he started out here. He was the frat boy, the player, the rich kid without a serious thought in his head, and that was how he fitted in here. It was what his friends wanted him to be, what they expected of him – and what he wanted to be when he was with them. They didn’t want to know about nights in a motel room with a man old enough to be his father, and they sure as hell didn’t want to know about him spending nights in a dumpster, or blowing strangers in bar restrooms for cash.
No, this, right here, was the world Andy belonged to – it was the only world his upbringing had equipped him for, and he was trying to hang onto it as best he could by caddying at the country club and hanging out with the frat boys, kids who had led similar lives to him. No wonder he didn’t want them knowing – Andy’s experiences would set him too far apart from them, and change the nature of their friendship, and, fundamentally, Andy just had too much pride to allow that to happen. Gibbs could understand that kind of pride; the unbending kind that would break rather than yield. Finally he recognised in Andy something of himself, and he felt a certain empathy for him and what he was trying to do, misguided and dangerous though it was.
One of the kids joking around with Andy turned to him, and Gibbs recognised – too late – the boy he’d talked to at the country club the previous week.
“Hey – you’re Tony’s dad aren’t you?” he asked.
Gibbs looked at Andy for one long second, and Andy looked back at him, with anxious eyes, both of them clearly wondering what he was going to say – not least because the kid had used Andy’s real name. In the end, the answer was simple – there was only one thing he could say.
“Yeah,” Gibbs said, putting an arm around Andy’s shoulder and squeezing. “Yeah, that’s right – I’m Tony’s dad.”
He didn’t even want to think about the way that made Andy look at him, because he was all too well aware of just how much that had meant to the kid. Andy slid a sweaty arm around Gibbs’s waist, and leaned against him for a moment.
“Thanks, Dad,” he whispered into his ear.
Noise erupted around them as another group of their friends joined in the celebrations, but all Gibbs could see was Andy, looking over at him every few seconds, his eyes glowing. Then the team left to hit the showers and the crowd started to disperse.
Gibbs walked over to where the coach was sitting, and took a seat beside him. He was a big man, with thick, dark hair, and a bushy moustache.
“Good game,” Gibbs said. “I’m…uh Tony DiNozzo’s father.” He held out his hand and the coach took it and shook.
“Nice to finally meet you,” he said. “Tony’s told us a lot about you.”
“Really?” Gibbs raised an eyebrow, wondering what the hell Andy had told them about his father.
“Yeah.” The coach nodded, grinning, the ends of his moustache drooping over the sides of his mouth, giving him a lugubrious look. “Way he made it sound you’re about the best dad in the world. Always sending him money, calling him before each game to wish him luck – said you were too busy working to come watch a game, but looks like you finally found the time to see your boy play.”
“Yeah.” Gibbs shook his head wryly at the image of the fantasy dad Andy had created. It sounded very Andy. “Listen…just how good is Tony?” he asked. “He was pretty impressive tonight but does he have a chance of turning pro?”
The man hesitated before replying, obviously weighing his words. “If he could make it to the pros, then he’d be here on a scholarship and he isn’t, as you know.” The coach stroked his moustache thoughtfully. “He’s good – damn good – but I think he knows he’s never going to be tall enough to turn pro.”
Gibbs nodded. He’d suspected this was another of Andy’s fantasies, and he also suspected that Andy knew it was a fantasy too – just like having the perfect father, and living the life of a spoiled rich kid when he was flat out broke and hustling to get by. All the same, if the fantasy kept him in college and helped him get his degree, what did it matter?
Out of the corner of his eye he saw Andy emerge from the locker room, his hair wet, and he and his friends made a beeline for the pretty girls standing courtside. Andy was grinning, clowning around and talking too fast – most of it total crap Gibbs suspected but the girl he was trying to impress was giggling inanely so it was working.
This was where a kid like him belonged – not out there, turning tricks in bars. Gibbs turned back to the coach, and held out his hand.
“Thanks,” he said. “You’ve been a great help.”
“No problem, Mr DiNozzo. Nice to finally meet you. You take care now.”
Gibbs returned to the motel room alone. It felt strange, after the past couple of weeks of being holed up here with Andy, to have the place to himself. He found himself missing the kid but he wasn’t expecting him back tonight. They hadn’t exactly talked about it but Gibbs was pretty sure that a hot girl who was willing to put out trumped your dad any time. He packed up his stuff, which didn’t take long, and then he sat down and wrote a short note:
It’s time for me to move on. The room is paid for until the end of the month so that gives you three weeks to figure some stuff out. I’ve left you some cash under the pillow for food. Do not go back on the streets.
He left it on the table with a grimace. He knew this was going to trigger all of Andy’s abandonment issues but it was the best way. Andy would bounce back – it was a knack he had. Besides, Gibbs really did need to move on. It was time.
He glanced around the room, at the rumpled bed where they’d fucked so many times, and at the TV, which had almost driven him insane from an exposure overload. Then he picked up his bag and left.
Tony gazed at Gibbs and Gibbs gazed back at him. He could tell him, he thought. He could just open his mouth and tell him. Maybe it’d even be a relief after all these years but they were both in such a different place now, and such different men. Did either of them want to be reminded of those two weeks in that motel room seventeen years ago and how fucked up their lives had been back then? What the hell must Tony think of him, he wondered. Last thing Tony knew Gibbs had abandoned him, just like his real father. So why come chasing after him ten years later, and why work with him for seven years, neither of them ever saying a word about it?
Pete broke the impasse by sticking his head out of the door. “Food’s here,” he said. “Damn – it’s freezing out here. You guys should come in.”
Tony gave one final glance at Gibbs, and then returned to the kitchen. Gibbs felt a muscle in his jaw twitching with tension. “Depends on the lie”, Tony had said. Well, this was a massive lie, too big to be ignored if it ever came out; the kind of lie that would change everything between him and his agent. Maybe it wouldn’t come out, and they could continue to play this game of purposefully not remembering around each other. It would sure as hell be easier that way.
He was kind of surprised the truth hadn’t come out already, maybe during one of those Christmas Day phone calls between father and son, but it clearly hadn’t. He’d braced himself these past seven years, ever since Tony joined NCIS, knowing that if Tony ever found out then he’d say something – he’d have to – but he never had so Gibbs was sure he didn’t know.
He took a deep breath of the icy air, and followed the two cousins inside. That feeling he’d had in his gut when he woke up this morning had been right, and the storm clouds were now all around them. He had no idea how this would play out – all he could do was wait and see.
He joined Tony and his cousin at the dining table where they were opening up the take out. He took his seat opposite Tony, who, now he’d got his head together, was back in full charm offensive mode, mask firmly in place so nobody would see how much he was hurting right now.
“For an almost-dead guy he has a lot to say,” Tony grinned. “I thought he’d be more…you know…out of it.”
“He has been these past couple of days,” Pete said. “That’s why I called you. That conversation he just had with you is the most he’s said to anyone in a week.”
“Well, you know, this is his last chance to win one final argument with me,” Tony said, handing Gibbs a take-out box of noodles. “I can see why that would make him rally. He always did like a good fight. Especially with me.”
Gibbs sat back in his seat and ate. He was hungrier than he’d thought and the hot food warmed him after being outside in the cold night air.
“So how’s business?” Tony asked Pete.
“It’s good.” Pete nodded, talking around a mouthful of rice. “Your dad was still coming into the office and bugging the hell out of everyone until a few weeks ago. That was despite officially retiring last year.” He grinned at Tony and rolled his eyes.
“Poor Pete.” Tony grinned back.
“His business instincts are still sharp though,” Pete said. “We’re in good shape – just about to expand into a big new office building.”
“Hah – see, if I’d joined the business, like he wanted, I’d have bankrupted you years ago,” Tony grinned. Pete laughed.
“Yeah, I remember when we both helped out there together that one summer,” Pete said. “You were about fourteen? I’ve never had so much fun or got into so much trouble – you were just crazy back then, some of the stunts you pulled. I hope you’re a better federal agent than you were an office boy.”
“He is,” Gibbs grunted.
Tony looked up, startled. Gibbs pushed the box of noodles towards him. Tony hadn’t put anything on his plate yet, and Gibbs had a feeling this was going to be a long night.
“Eat,” he said.
It was raining. It rained all night, just like the night he pulled Andy from the dumpster a couple of weeks ago. Gibbs enjoyed driving through the rain – it kept him focussed, and matched his mood somehow. He arrived at the offices of Weston & Grant just as they were opening the next morning.
The receptionist didn’t sound like the woman he’d spoken to on the phone so maybe she was a different one.
“I need to speak to Daniel Weston,” he said.
“Do you have an appointment?” She glanced at a large, leather-bound appointment diary on her desk.
“No, but he’ll see me,” Gibbs said confidently. “Tell him it’s about Tony DiNozzo, and tell him it’s urgent.”
She looked at him with alarmed eyes, and Gibbs guessed that nothing this dramatic ever usually happened in the sedate offices of Weston & Grant; then she nodded, and disappeared.
A couple of minutes later a tall, bespectacled young man emerged from a nearby office, a puzzled frown on his face. He had an earnest, scholarly look about him, and Gibbs immediately got the impression that this was a man of integrity.
“Uh…I’m Daniel Weston. You wanted to see me, Mr…?” He held out his hand, looking at Gibbs speculatively.
“Gibbs.” Gibbs shook the man’s hand firmly. “And yes I do. It’s about Tony. Can I have a few moments of your time?”
“For Tony – yes,” Weston told him, ushering him into his office. Gibbs glanced around at the orderly stack of files on the desk and on the floor. This man was methodical and hard-working. He wasn’t some hot-shot high flier. He was someone who had to work at what he did, and was conscientious to a fault.
Weston sat behind his desk and gestured that Gibbs take a seat in front of it.
“Is Tony okay?” Weston asked anxiously, leaning forward. “Someone called here last week when I was on vacation and said he’d been hurt.”
“That was me, and he had,” Gibbs said. “It seems his father is less concerned about him than you though.”
Weston sat back in his chair with a sigh. “I’ve known the DiNozzo family all my life. Tony is like a kid brother to me. A real handful of a kid brother,” he added, with a faintly exasperated smile. “I can’t comment on Tony’s relationship with his father but I’m fond of the kid. And you didn’t answer my question – is he okay?”
“He’s recovered physically if that’s what you mean,” Gibbs said. “But he’s in trouble and needs help – financial help.”
Daniel Weston shook his head. “I can relay this news to his father but I’m afraid I already know what his answer will be.”
“So do I,” Gibbs replied shortly. “So don’t bother telling him. He’s not interested. I want something different from you.”
“I want to employ your services,” Gibbs said. “Will you take me on as a client – for Tony?”
“I don’t understand,” Weston said.
“I have some money that I’ll never touch,” Gibbs told him, thinking of the payout he’d got from Shannon’s death that was burning a hole in his bank account “It’s no use to me but it’ll help Tony. It comes with conditions.”
Weston was frowning even more now.
“He passes all his classes – hell, he attends all his classes – and he works hard. That’s where you come in. If he fails or flunks out then the money stops; you make that clear to him.”
“I’m not sure I really understand,” Weston said.
“Yes you do,” Gibbs said curtly. “I want to help him but I don’t want him knowing it’s me. I don’t want him feeling like he owes me anything, or he has to repay me. When he graduates he’s on his own. Money stops.”
“I won’t lie, Mr Gibbs,” Weston told him. “Are you asking me to pretend the money comes from his father?”
“No.” Gibbs shook his head. “I’m asking you not to say it doesn’t.”
“I don’t see how…” Weston began.
“It’s easy,” Gibbs cut in tersely. “How about something like – “Dear Tony, I’ve been instructed to send you the enclosed. Your tuition, board and rent will be paid for monthly from now on…etc etc”. No need to say *who* instructed you. Tell him to send any correspondence on the subject to you, not to his father. I believe Tony’s father has already made it pretty clear he doesn’t want to hear from his son in any case.”
“And if Tony asks who the money is from?”
“If he asks, which I doubt he will, then I’m sure you’ll think of something to tell him – but I want to remain anonymous,” Gibbs said firmly.
Weston gazed at him owlishly from behind his spectacles.
“Do you want to help Tony or not?” Gibbs asked him softly. “You said he was like a kid brother to you.”
Weston thought about it for a moment, and then leaned forward again. Gibbs noticed how sharp his blue eyes were, behind the spectacles. This man was nobody’s fool.
“What kind of a person *ever* has money they know they’ll never touch?” he asked.
“Someone who lost the two people he loved most and doesn’t want the cash settlement he got for it,” he replied tersely. Weston’s eyes widened. Gibbs took a check out of his pocket and handed it to Weston.
“This won’t be enough to see him through another three years of college,” Weston told him, glancing at it.
“I know.” Gibbs nodded. “I’ll send you a sum monthly until he graduates.”
“You sure you can afford this?” Weston’s gaze travelled over his unshaven jaw and his casual clothes, dishevelled from his long, overnight drive.
Gibbs gave a tight grin. “I can afford it,” he said. “Have you got any more objections or will you handle this for me?”
Weston thought about it for a moment, and then nodded. “I’ll do it. To be honest…you’re not the kind of man I can imagine many people say no to.”
Gibbs managed a wry grin at that, and rubbed the stubble on his jaw thoughtfully. “Don’t tell Tony’s father about this,” he said. “This is just between me and Tony. It’s got nothing to do with him.”
Weston nodded again. Then he got up, came around to the front of the desk, and perched on it, right in front of Gibbs. He leaned forward and gazed at him, sharp blue eyes blinking earnestly from behind his glasses.
“Why are you doing this?” he asked.
“Like I said – I lost everyone I loved and I was looking for a reason to get up in the morning,” Gibbs told him. “Now I have one. I’m helping myself as much as I’m helping Tony.”
“What did he tell you about himself?” Weston asked. “I wouldn’t want to take your money under false pretences. He might have lied.”
“Oh he lied – about a lot of things,” Gibbs laughed. “But I’m good at seeing through lies. It’s kind of my job – or at least it will be, soon.”
Weston raised an eyebrow. Gibbs got up and drew an envelope out of his jacket pocket.
“Here’s my address if you need to contact me,” he said, handing the envelope to Weston. “Send me his exam grades at the end of every semester and any updates you think I should know. Do not give him my address. Do not tell him who his anonymous benefactor is. Do not contact me unless it’s important.”
Gibbs held out his hand and Weston took it, and shook it firmly. “I still don’t understand why you’re doing this,” he said. “What’s Tony to you?”
There were all kinds of suspicions in Weston’s eyes, and Gibbs thought that at least some of them were pretty much well-founded. He wondered what Weston knew of Tony’s sexual preferences, and whether he’d guessed how he might be funding himself through college since his mom died.
“He’s just a kid who needs a dad,” he said. “And I’m a dad who just lost a kid. That’s all.” It wasn’t all – it was a hell of a lot more complicated and fucked up than that – but it was something Weston could understand. His expression softened.
“I’m sorry – and thank you, Mr Gibbs. This really is most extraordinarily generous of you. I’ll make sure your instructions are followed to the letter.”
“Good.” Gibbs nodded curtly, and then turned on his heel and left.
He walked down the road to a phone booth, stepped inside, and reached into his jacket pocket for a scrap of paper that had been scrunched up in there for weeks. He dialled the number.
“Franks? It’s Gibbs. That job you offered me? I’ll take it,” he said. He heard the NIS agent give a gruff laugh on the other end of the line.
“Knew you’d see sense eventually,” Franks said. “You can start on Monday.”
“I’ll be there,” Gibbs said. That only gave him a couple of days but he didn’t give a damn about that; the sooner the better.
“8am sharp.” Franks added. “Don’t be late. I’m a hell of a boss to piss off.” And then he put the phone down.
Gibbs made his way back to his car and sat there, gazing at the steering wheel. He’d finally come to terms with his loss back in that motel room but learning to live with it was going to take longer. Every day he woke up and they weren’t here it hit him in his gut and made him wonder what the hell he had to live for. Now he had no choice. For the next three years he had to get up every day and go to work to make enough money to put Andy through college. Maybe, when those three years were up, he’d have found some way to live with the gaping hole in his heart.
Tony fell silent as they finished their meal, and Gibbs guessed they both felt an imminent sense of dread about going back into that room. He wasn’t sure if he preferred it when they all stood quietly around at the bedside, or when Tony and his father tore into each other. Neither was particularly appealing but if Tony wanted him to go back in there with him then he’d go.
Finally they couldn’t delay it any more and Tony pushed his plate away and stood up.
“Time to go back into the ring for round three,” he muttered. “I think he’s ahead on points but there’s still some fight left in me.”
“You’ve been pulling your punches,” Gibbs pointed out. “I understand why but keep your guard up and make sure he doesn’t land a knockout blow.” He gestured with his fists in front of his face, in a defensive posture.
Tony shook his head ruefully. “One thing you need to know about my dad, boss – he always wins.”
They walked slowly up the stairs and back into the room. DiNozzo was still asleep. Gibbs went over to his usual spot next to the window. He hooked his finger in the dark green silk drapes, pulled them aside an inch, and looked out at the full moon and the bright stars shining in the clear black sky.
He turned back to find that Tony had sat down in a chair beside the bed again, and Pete was sitting at the end of the bed. Gibbs pulled up a chair, sat down by the window, and listened to Tony and Pete chat in quiet voices about little stuff – mainly Pete’s wife and kids. After an hour or so, DiNozzo opened his eyes and looked at his son as if he didn’t know who he was, and then recognition crept in and he grunted.
“You still here, Tony?” he asked. “I thought you’d have left by now. Where are you staying anyhow? Not here.” He glanced at Pete suspiciously. “I told Pete you weren’t staying here.”
“Not here, no. In the hotel on Old Country Road,” Tony assured him.
“Good. I meant what I said back then, after you got expelled from Drewes and I sent you to live with your mother. I don’t want you spending another night under my roof,” DiNozzo said.
“Yeah, I know,” Tony said wearily. “Seriously, Dad – you’re dying. Let’s forget about this stuff. Pete and I were just reminiscing about the good old days.”
“You remember when Tony and me came to work in the office that summer when we were kids?” Pete said, leaning forward, doing his best to aid Tony in the whole “let’s play nice” thing he was clearly working so hard on right now.
“I remember,” DiNozzo chuckled.
“I think you were relieved when fall came,” Pete added, with a grin.
“You had ambition, even then, Pete,” DiNozzo told him. “I could see that. You didn’t fool around like Tony. You knew what you wanted to do with your life. Tony never did.”
“I did,” Tony said quietly. “It just wasn’t what you wanted to hear so you never listened.”
“Oh yeah, I remember now – you thought you could throw a ball around for a living. Whatever happened to that, huh?”
Tony’s shoulders hunched, and Gibbs winced. “I busted my knee, Dad,” Tony said. Then he sighed. “And I wasn’t good enough in any case.”
DiNozzo raised his eyes heavenward, and Gibbs wondered if this was the knockout blow he’d been trying to land since he’d first set eyes on his son again. He was a stubborn old bastard, and this was his last chance to win this old argument with his son before he died.
“Story of your life,” DiNozzo muttered. “And what did you major in again, Tony?”
“Phys Ed,” Tony said quietly.
“Phys Ed,” DiNozzo crowed. He might be dying but he had scented blood and he could see he had his son on the ropes now. Tony looked defeated, his body language completely dejected. He’d taken too many body blows and it wasn’t a fair fight in any case; Tony was essentially too nice to fight back as hard as he could against a dying man. Gibbs thought maybe it was time Tony retired from the ring; he might not be able to win but there was no reason why he should stay and allow his father to kick him when he was down.
“Phys Ed.” DiNozzo shook his head again. “Pete here got a business degree, and my son studied Physical Education. What the hell damn use did you think that would be?”
Gibbs wondered if he should step in and get Tony out of here, but then it was too late, and suddenly that dead body he’d been dreading, that seventeen year old corpse he’d been waiting for all this time, blindsided him by rising to the surface with unexpected speed.
“If you thought it was such a waste of time, why did you help pay for it after Mom died?” Tony asked quietly.
DiNozzo gazed at him blankly. “Pay for it? I told you, Tony, I wouldn’t spend another dime on you after you got expelled from Drewes. That was your last chance – you knew that and you blew it. I wasn’t going to throw good money after bad. I didn’t pay for anything.”
“But then you…” Tony paused, a puzzled look on his face. Gibbs got up from his chair. Tony glanced at his father, and then at Gibbs, and Gibbs could see the exact moment the shocked realisation showed on his face. “No, no of course you didn’t,” Tony said softly to his father. He ran a hand through his hair, and got up. “I’ve been…kind of an idiot,” he said in a strangled tone. He glanced at Gibbs again, his jaw tight, and then he turned and strode out of the room.
Pete gave Gibbs a startled look.
“I’ll go after him,” Gibbs said.
His heart was pounding as he ran down the stairs after Tony. He had no idea what he was going to say when he caught up with him, and that look in Tony’s eyes hadn’t been pretty.
The front door was open when he reached it; he ran out onto the driveway just in time to see the lights on their rental car disappearing as Tony screeched out of the gate at high speed. Gibbs cursed, and went back into the house, slamming the door behind him.
“What the hell is going on?” Pete asked, coming down the stairs. “Did Tony finally have enough? I’m not surprised. My uncle was behaving like a total bastard. What happened back there though? Did I miss something?”
“Yeah. You missed something,” Gibbs told him. He got out his cellphone and punched number one on his speed-dial; he wasn’t exactly expecting Tony to pick up so he wasn’t surprised when his call went straight to voicemail, Tony’s teasing, pre-recorded voice at odds with the way Gibbs had just seen him.
“Maybe he needs some time to himself. That was pretty heavy,” Pete said.
“Maybe.” Gibbs pressed number two on his speed-dial; it rang a few times and then McGee’s bleary voice answered.
“Hello? Boss? Is that you? You do know it’s two o’ clock in the morning don’t you?” McGee said with a yawn.
“I don’t care what the hell time it is, McGee – I need you to get a fix on Tony’s cellphone.”
“Tony’s cellphone…is Tony in trouble?” McGee asked, his voice suddenly sounding wide awake. Gibbs could hear him getting up.
“Just do it, McGee,” Gibbs snapped.
“On it, boss. Uh, boss? Where are you?” McGee asked. “Tony said something about going to Long Island but he didn’t say why…”
“Just call me back when you have a fix on him,” Gibbs said, in a voice like thunder. He snapped the phone shut to find Pete gazing at him, a startled look on his face. “What?” he growled.
“You sound just like my uncle chewing someone out at the office, back before he got ill.” He gestured with his head towards the upstairs bedroom. “Tony must find that kind of familiar.”
Gibbs’s anxiety spilled over in the way it usually did – to full blown rage. “I am nothing at all like that bastard upstairs!” he roared. Pete took a step back, and Gibbs fought to get himself back under control. “I’m a different kind of bastard,” he said in a calmer voice. Pete managed a nervous grin.
Gibbs commenced pacing around anxiously, waiting for McGee to call back. Pete sat down on the bottom step of the stairs, clearly unsure what the hell was going on.
“Is Tony going to be okay?” he asked.
“If I can get to see him, and talk to him, and explain something to him, then he will be,” Gibbs said, hoping Tony didn’t lose control of his car driving like a maniac out there.
“Can you tell me what’s going on?” Pete asked.
“No,” Gibbs replied shortly. His cellphone rang and he snapped it open. “McGee? What do you have for me?”
“I’ve got a fix on Tony’s GPS – he’s…well he seems to be driving around in circles,” McGee told him, in a puzzled voice. “What’s going on, boss?”
Gibbs thought about it. He didn’t like the idea of Tony driving around out there in his current state of mind, but on the other hand he thought Tony might need the space right now. The last thing he wanted to do was make it worse by requisitioning Pete’s car and driving after him while he was circling around out there. That might end badly.
“Nothing,” he said to McGee. “Just keep an eye on the signal and tell me immediately he stops somewhere.”
He snapped his phone shut again and turned to Pete. “I need your car,” he said.
“Okay.” Pete, like so many people before him, knew not to argue with Gibbs when he was in this kind of mood. “Look, I’m really worried about Tony. He looked really shaken when he left,” Pete said, getting up and reaching into his pocket for his keys.
“Go back to your uncle,” Gibbs told him. “I’ll take care of Tony. He isn’t your responsibility – he’s mine.”
“He’s my cousin!” Pete protested.
“Yeah.” Gibbs gave him a scathing look. “And you’ve been so scared of that vicious old man up there that you never stood up to him the way Tony did, did you? At least Tony’s got some balls.”
He grabbed the keys out of Pete’s hand, ignoring his stupefied look, and strode out of the front door, slamming it shut loudly behind him. He found Pete’s car and got in. At that moment his cellphone rang again.
“McGee – what do you have for me?”
“He’s just pulled up somewhere,” McGee said, and Gibbs could hear his fingers clicking away on his keyboard.
“Where?” Gibbs demanded impatiently.
“Uh…seems to be a hotel near your current location, boss. The Holiday Inn in Westbury. Is that where you’re staying?”
“You can go back to bed now, McGee.” Gibbs threw his cellphone down on the seat beside him and drove Pete’s car down the driveway and out of the gate at 70 mph.
There was no traffic on the roads at this time of night and he drew up outside the hotel within minutes. He parked the car and ran inside, heading straight for Tony’s room. There was no reply to his knock on the door so he picked the lock without a second’s hesitation – only to find the room empty. He wondered if Tony was in the bar, and considered calling McGee back to make sure he’d got this right. Then a thought occurred to him; Tony was just as good at picking a lock as he was – hell, he’d taught him.
He took out his key and let himself into his own room. It was in darkness, and for a moment he thought he’d guessed wrong – and then he saw Tony, standing by the floor-to-ceiling window at the far end of the room, one arm resting on it, his forehead pressed against his hand as he gazed out.
“Tony?” Gibbs said, turning on the light.
Tony didn’t turn around. “No,” he said firmly. His shoulders were hunched and he looked like a man who had taken too many body blows this evening – one more might have him out for the count.
Gibbs thought about it for a moment. Seventeen years led inexorably to this single point in time and there was no use pretending any more.
“Andy?” he asked.
Tony moved his head to look at him. “Yeah,” he said softly. He looked unbelievably tired, and in his current vulnerable state Gibbs thought he really *did* look just like Andy again. “So you do remember,” Tony murmured, never taking his eyes off Gibbs.
“I remember,” Gibbs nodded.
“Well of course you do. See, I was never sure before today. I could see how you’d forget two weeks all those years ago – they were probably far more important to me than they were to you anyway – but I guess it’s a lot harder to forget someone when you’ve put them through college.”
Gibbs wasn’t sure what to say.
“Christ, Gibbs!” Tony exploded. “All these years you knew what you’d done for me and you never said a damn thing!”
“I didn’t want you to know.” Gibbs shrugged. It sounded pretty lame now but it had all made sense at the time.
“Clearly.” Tony walked slowly towards him. He came close, too close, and Gibbs stood his ground, wondering where the hell this was going.
“Why?” Tony asked, and there were a dozen unanswered questions in his voice and a whole world of pain.
“I had the money and you needed it,” Gibbs replied, as if it had really been that simple.
“No – why did you run out on me?” Tony asked. He reached into his pocket and pulled out his wallet, and then fished around inside it. He found a very old, very tattered piece of paper and handed it to Gibbs. It was surreal, after all this time, seeing his own writing on the note he’d left for Tony on the night he’d walked out.
“You kept it, all this time?” Gibbs asked.
“Why are you surprised? I tracked you down, didn’t I?” Tony ran a hand through his hair, leaving it standing up on end. “You’ve always been my little obsession, boss, and in the end it was too much for me – I just had to find out what happened to you. Took me awhile but being a cop helped. Then it turns out you were recruiting agents and, well, you know me…that was too much for me to resist. I had to see you again – had to see if you remembered me.”
Gibbs remembered the interview. He’d seen the name on the resume and wondered what the hell was going on, but, like Tony, he’d been too intrigued to resist.
“I wondered if you were there to confront me, but you never said a thing,” Gibbs murmured.
“Because you never gave any sign that you knew me!” Tony protested. “And what was there to say? ‘Hey – I’m the guy you fucked ten years ago – how about a beer for old time’s sake?’ You were on marriage number four at the time and not many married men want to hear that kind of thing.”
“I couldn’t figure out what you wanted – so I thought I’d offer you a job and find out,” Gibbs said. “Never did figure it out though. Why did you stick around so long, Tony?”
“The same reason I tracked you down. The same reason I kept your note all these years. The same reason I never took that job in Spain that Director Shepard offered me a few years ago. The same reason I’m here right now,” Tony replied, in a heated tone. Gibbs stared at him, and Tony shook his head. “You really don’t get it, do you?” he said quietly.
Gibbs held his gaze for a long moment, and then nodded. He sat down on the side of the bed and rubbed a hand over his jaw, feeling it rasp over the stubble. “Yeah. I do,” he said. “I do, Tony.”
Tony paced around the room. “There were things I didn’t understand back then,” he said. “They became clearer over time. I pieced it all together slowly, over the years, bit by bit, like some giant jigsaw of Gibbs. Wasn’t hard to finally figure out what you were on the run from; it was soon after Shannon and Kelly had been killed, wasn’t it?”
Gibbs cleared his throat. “Yeah.”
“You used to look at that gun you kept under the pillow like you wanted to stick it down your throat and pull the trigger.”
“Yeah.” Gibbs nodded.
“Sometimes I was scared you would.”
“I was thinking about it.”
“I know. I was terrified I’d go back to that room and find you in there with your brains blown out. Or else that you’d kill yourself in your damn car. You were drinking a hell of a lot – you can’t always have sobered up when you set off again and there was a look in your eyes that sent shivers up my spine. Then it went away, after…” He hesitated.
“After you let that guy knock you around for cash?”
“Yeah.” Tony shook his head, a little grin on his lips. “I didn’t always make the best choices back then,” he muttered wryly.
“Ya think, DiNozzo?” Gibbs raised an eyebrow.
“Nobody ever took care of me before then, boss. Dad never gave much of a shit about me, and Mom cared but she was so drunk all the time that I was always the one taking care of her. And it turned out that when you weren’t drunk you were kind of cool – a bit scary but cool. And then you ran out on me.”
“It wasn’t going anywhere, Tony,” Gibbs said wearily. “I’d just lost my family – I wasn’t ever going to be what you wanted me to be. The only way I could see to help you was to leave.”
Tony stopped pacing. “I fell for you, boss,” he said quietly. “I really did. Took me a long time to get over you walking out. Pressed all my buttons.”
“Yeah, I knew it would,” Gibbs sighed. “Had to do it anyway.”
“I got back to the motel room that evening just in time to see your car pulling away.”
“I didn’t think you’d be coming back that evening. I thought you’d found a date,” Gibbs said, surprised. Tony frowned.
“No – I looked around and you’d gone. I chased after you but I was too late.” He sat down on the bed beside Gibbs, looking deflated. “I know,” he sighed. “I was just a screwed-up kid and you weren’t in any shape to fall for anyone, let alone someone like me. I can see that now but not back then.”
“You were just looking for a father, Tony – and having met your dad I can see why,” Gibbs grunted.
“It was always more than that,” Tony replied. “I’m not saying that wasn’t part of it, but it was always more. You know that. I mean, trust me, I have never – ever – had any sexual fantasies about my father.” He shuddered. “And some of the things we did…they weren’t exactly things you do with close relatives.” He gave a ghost of his usual bright smile, and then it faded. “Christ, I still can’t believe you sent me all that money. Three years. You sent me money for three years.”
“Gave me a reason to get up in the morning,” Gibbs told him. “When things were tough. It made me take the job at NCIS – it was the kick in the ass I needed to keep going.”
“Why didn’t you want me to know?” Tony asked. “I mean, all those years making that fuck awful yearly phone call to my father because I felt it was my duty, because he’d relented and paid for me even though he thought I wasn’t worth it. Why let me believe it was him?”
“You were the one who wanted the fantasy,” Gibbs pointed out. “The perfect dad, playing pro basketball, the double life…I didn’t want you to be hustler any more, or to have to feel grateful to some guy you fucked when you were down on your luck. That was kind of the point. I wanted you to forget about that, and lead the life you’d chosen to lead with your friends. That’s what I wanted to give you.”
Tony stared at him. “I guess I’m not the only one who knows how to lead a convincing double life,” he muttered.
“What do you mean?” Gibbs frowned.
“Always trying to make people believe you’re a bastard?” Tony grinned. Gibbs slapped the back of his head.
“I *am* a bastard, Tony – don’t ever forget that,” he said, with a faded grin of his own.
Tony fell back on the bed. “Christ I’m tired,” he yawned. “That fucking room and my fucking father…now, *he’s* a bastard.”
“Yeah. He really is a piece of work. I always wondered who screwed you up so badly and now I know.”
“I can’t believe he’s really dying,” Tony said, putting his hands beneath his head and gazing up at the ceiling. “After all these years of doing battle with him – I just can’t believe it. It doesn’t feel real.” He looked over at Gibbs. “How did it work? Danny Weston made me send him all my term papers and got really pissy with me whenever I was slow about it. I thought it was my dad hassling him to make sure I didn’t screw up and knowing the money would dry up if I slacked off kept me focussed. I suppose you knew me well enough even back then to know I wasn’t a model student,” he grinned.
“You didn’t screw up though. Weston sent me a report every semester – you never flunked a class. I wondered if you would when you busted your knee – thought that might throw you but it didn’t.”
“Nah – you were right – I was never really going to be tall enough – or good enough – to turn pro anyway.” Tony shrugged, but Gibbs knew that he must have had a hard time dealing with the loss of that particular fantasy. “What happened after I left college? Did you check up on me?”
Gibbs shook his head.
“Weren’t you ever curious to see how I’d turned out?” Tony frowned. “Weren’t you tempted to show up at my graduation or something?”
Gibbs shook his head again. “No. It was in the past. I’d learned how to live without my family – it wasn’t easy but I’d found a way of getting by. I was working in Europe at the time so I couldn’t have gone to your graduation in any case. And I’d done what I set out to do.”
There was a long silence. Tony glanced at the clock on the night-stand, and then he glanced at Gibbs.
“It’s late. I don’t want to be alone tonight, boss. Can I sleep in here?”
“On the floor maybe?” Tony grinned. “With a blanket?”
“Like there’s any chance you’d stay on the floor all night,” Gibbs snorted, rolling his eyes. “Yeah, you can sleep in here, Tony – in the bed. I’m too tired to argue anyway.”
They both stripped down to boxers and tee shirts, and then climbed into the bed. Gibbs turned off the light and closed his eyes, feeling completely and utterly exhausted. He felt Tony lying stiffly beside him and could almost hear him waiting for Gibbs to fall asleep so that he could…
“Oh for god’s sake,” he sighed, moving his arm. Tony rolled over immediately, and rested his head on Gibbs’s shoulder, and threw his arm over Gibbs’s midriff, then slid his leg over Gibbs’s legs so that they were entangled, and it felt much like it had all those years ago – like being suffocated by a giant puppy. Tony was heavier now, but the weight of him, the feel of him, and the smell of him felt strangely familiar, even after all these years.
Gibbs relaxed, and felt Tony relax against him now that he was clinging on like a limpet, in his favourite sleeping position – and within seconds they were both fast asleep.
The sun was shining through a gap in the drapes when Gibbs woke, illuminating a single bright stripe down the centre of the bed. Gibbs blinked. He was still lying on his back, and Tony was still lying half on top of him, his hand resting on Gibbs’s chest, his tousled hair soft beneath Gibbs’s chin. It felt like the years had rolled back, and they were in that motel room again. Gibbs moved his hand and ran it lightly down Tony’s arm, trying not to wake him. It had been hard, these past seven years, working with Tony, *worrying* about Tony, and never allowing the fondness he felt for Andy to bleed over into their working relationship.
He remembered that time Tony had the plague, and Director Morrow had ordered him to call Tony’s father and let him know that his son was close to death. That had been one of the few direct orders Gibbs had disobeyed in his life. He didn’t want Tony’s father anywhere near him, especially not when he was ill and vulnerable. Besides, he suspected that his own presence would help Tony far more – if his father had been there Tony might have died just to get away from the coldness and the accusations. All he’d had to do was tell Tony to live and he had.
A cellphone rang, breaking into his thoughts, and Gibbs reached out a hand to locate it on the nightstand, where they’d both thrown their phones last night. It was Tony’s phone ringing – he glanced at his agent, still fast asleep despite the noise, and answered the call himself.
“Uh…Tony?” Pete’s voice.
“No, it’s Gibbs,” he said. There was silence for a moment. Gibbs wondered if Pete was smarting from what he’d said to him last night, but he didn’t regret saying it. All Tony’s family tiptoed around his father like he was some kind of god – Tony was the only one who didn’t and he’d suffered years of crap as a consequence.
“Oh. Right. Is Tony there?”
“Yes.” Gibbs glanced down at Tony. The only part of him that was visible was his tousled hair.
Another hesitant silence. “Is he okay? Can I speak to him?”
“He’s fine, and no you can’t. He’s asleep, Pete.”
There was another silence and he could almost hear the cogs in Pete’s brain turning as he tried to figure out why Gibbs and Tony appeared to be sharing a room.
“What do you want, Pete?” Gibbs growled impatiently.
“It’s my uncle – it looks as if the end is near now. I thought Tony should know. If he wants to say goodbye he should come straight over.”
“I’ll tell him.” Gibbs shut the phone and tossed it back onto the nightstand. Tony woke at *that* sound, and jumped, startled. His head emerged above the blanket and he gazed at Gibbs blearily.
“Not a dream then,” he muttered.
Gibbs looked at him. They’d only had a few hours sleep, and Tony had been shattered when they’d gone to bed. He looked a little better now but Gibbs wasn’t used to the expression of naked vulnerability he saw in his eyes. Usually Tony was so good at disguises that it was easy to be taken in by them. Now it looked as if he was too tired and emotionally wrung out to bother – or maybe it was just that he trusted Gibbs enough to let him see him with his guard down.
“Didn’t think it would feel this easy,” Tony said, with a little grin. Gibbs raised an eyebrow. “Waking up in bed with you again after all these years – I thought it’d feel weird but it doesn’t. It feels like it used to.”
“Yeah.” Gibbs nodded because it *did*. It felt lazy and comfortable and he wanted to lie here all day like this, holding Tony, but he couldn’t because of what Pete had just said. He braced himself, because this wasn’t going to be easy for Tony. “Pete just rang,” he said quietly. Tony grimaced.
“I must have freaked him out running out like that last night.”
“Yeah – you did, but he didn’t call about that,” Gibbs said. Tony sat up. “He said – if you want to say goodbye then we need to go straight over. Your dad’s not got much longer.”
There was no reaction. Tony just sat there, hair messy from sleeping, eyes barely awake.
“You don’t have to go,” Gibbs said. “You don’t owe that bastard anything.”
Tony thought about that for a moment, and then he moved his head and placed a quick, almost furtive kiss on Gibbs’s cheek, as if he wasn’t sure Gibbs would allow it, before sliding out of the bed.
“Yeah. I do have to go,” he said, getting up and walking towards the door, picking up his clothes as he went. He opened the door and then glanced back. “I need to make sure he actually dies,” he said, with a faint hint of one of his usual stupid grins.
Gibbs took a hurried shower and got dressed and then knocked on Tony’s door. Tony opened it and stood there, unmoving; clearly he was finding it hard to access his usual armour in the current circumstances.
“Changed your mind about going?” Gibbs asked, seeing the sense of dread in Tony’s eyes.
“No. Just…trying to get up the strength to climb back into the ring,” Tony replied. “Still feeling a bit punch drunk.”
“You can do it. You’re down but not out yet,” Gibbs told him. Then, without even thinking about it, Gibbs did the one thing he thought might help him get through the day; he took Tony’s jaw gently in his hand, pulled his chin up, and kissed him on the lips. It wasn’t a long kiss – it wasn’t really more than a brief press of his lips against Tony’s – firm, purposeful and reassuring, but it seemed to work. When he pulled back Tony seemed to have found some resolve, and he gave Gibbs a decisive nod.
“Yeah. That did it. Let’s go,” Tony said.
Pete had clearly done a lot of phoning around because the kitchen was full of people when they got there. Everyone was walking around quietly, or gathered in huddled groups, talking in undertones as if Tony’s dying father could hear them all the way down here. Pete was arranging them into groups to take up to say goodbye.
Gibbs had never been part of a large, extended family like this, and it felt strange to be with all these people who were waiting around for one man to die. He wasn’t aware people did this hanging around a dying man’s bedside thing any more but it seemed they did; he felt like he was trapped in a movie. Gibbs followed Tony up the stairs and back into the bedroom he knew they both hated, to find a couple of women sitting by the bed, one of them crying loudly into a handkerchief.
“That’s Aunt Maria,” Tony whispered.
“Were she and your dad close?” Gibbs asked, startled by the decibel level of the tears.
“No, she cries like this about everything. There are pictures of her crying her eyes out at my parents’ wedding,” Tony replied, with a grin. “Although…with hindsight, tears were probably appropriate on that occasion.”
Tony’s father seemed to have shrunk overnight, and Gibbs thought Pete was right; the old man clearly didn’t have much longer left.
Tony sat down on a chair beside the bed and Gibbs stood beside him, allowing his hip to touch against Tony’s shoulder for reassurance because god knows Tony needed as much of that as he could get right now.
Tony’s father slipped in and out of consciousness. When he was awake there was something angry about him, and Gibbs got a sense of the man’s fury. He wasn’t ready to die yet. He was old but a long way off from extreme old age. Just a few months ago he’d been running his business, and, no doubt, terrorising his staff, and now he was reduced to this – a shrunken shadow of himself, shuffling towards death, and he was livid about it.
When he was conscious he was lucid, although he was clearly struggling to get his words out now, in contrast to the way he’d been the previous day. Gibbs thought that if anything he’d probably rallied yesterday just because of Tony, his rage towards his son spurring him to a last few moments of coherency before he surrendered to the inevitable.
It was a long day. People came and went, everyone looking subdued and a little scared, as if they weren’t sure what they were going to do when the old man died. Gibbs could understand that; like all the best monsters, Tony’s father had acquired a retinue of people who were attracted to his strength and certainty, and they had come to depend on him. Gibbs felt a quiet sense of pride in Tony, as he sat there silently. He, at least, had dared to stand up to his father, and while the price for that had been high, he’d shown that he was his own man and would lead his own life – and damn the consequences.
Late in the afternoon the old man regained consciousness again, and looked straight at Gibbs. Gibbs looked straight back at him; unlike most of the other inhabitants of this room, he wasn’t scared of him. The old man gave a grunt, as if he recognised that fact, and Gibbs saw a glimmer of that fury in him again. DiNozzo relished a fight, and he longed to be well again so he could take on the challenge that Gibbs represented, and finally claim victory in his war with his son. Gibbs suspected that there were a number of battles this man still wanted to fight.
Gibbs stared the dying man out, and DiNozzo stared right back at him. Gibbs raised an eyebrow, and then leaned forward, under the pretence of adjusting the man’s pillow.
“It’s not too late, old man,” he whispered into DiNozzo’s ear. “You can still say those words to Tony that we talked about yesterday. If you don’t say them now then it will be too late. This is your last chance.”
He knew the old man had understood. He saw the recognition in his eyes – and with it one last, faint hint of total obstinacy – and he knew in that second that he would never say those words. DiNozzo raised a feeble hand to brush him aside.
“Where’s my son?” he whispered, in a thin, reedy voice. “Where is he?”
Gibbs moved back to his former position and Tony leaned forward.
“I’m here, Dad,” Tony said.
DiNozzo shook his head. “Not you. I mean Pete. Where’s my son Pete?” he cried, looking around.
He saw Pete, sitting on the side of the bed opposite Tony, and patted his hand feebly. Gibbs felt a surge of anger on Tony’s behalf, but when he looked down at Tony he saw a glint of amusement in his eyes; Tony clearly admired his father’s insistence on prolonging their feud to the bitter end if nothing else.
Gibbs was glad the old man hadn’t managed to deliver a knockout blow just before his death, but then he had a sudden flash of realisation as to why: It was because of him. It was because he’d let Tony sleep in his bed last night, and kissed him on the lips this morning. *He* had given Tony the armour he needed to deflect anything his father threw at him.
Gibbs watched as DiNozzo turned and gazed at his son, his eyes flashing triumphantly in expectation that he’d landed the final, decisive punch that would give him his victory, once and for all. Gibbs wasn’t going to give him the satisfaction. He decided they’d all played fair with this old monster for long enough; he didn’t deserve for them to pull their punches any more.
He moved his hand, placed it on Tony’s shoulder, and squeezed, and at the same time he flashed DiNozzo a victorious, derisive smile. He didn’t say anything but his smile said it for him: “He’s mine now, old man. You’ve lost. He’s won. He’s got me now – you can’t hurt him any more.”
Tony seemed to understand perfectly that there was an unspoken battle going on. He glanced at his father with amused eyes, making it clear that he just didn’t care any longer, and then he glanced up at Gibbs, and smiled at him.
DiNozzo’s look of triumph faded, and his lips twisted into a bitter line, his jaw clenching spasmodically as he gazed at Gibbs and Tony, his eyes dark in defeat. Then he closed his eyes and his head rolled sideways and Gibbs realised, before anyone else reacted, that he’d died. He heard Tony exhale loudly, and Pete mutter something, and then Aunt Maria started wailing.
The next hour or so passed in a blur of people talking in muted undertones, as if they could somehow still disturb the dead man. There were phone calls and arrangements to be made – and Pete was in his element.
“Pete’s a small detail kind of guy,” Tony whispered to Gibbs, as they stood by and let Pete take centre stage. “He loves this kind of thing.”
Pete was speaking to the funeral home on his cellphone, arranging for the collection of the body after the doctor had finished certifying that Tony’s father was dead. He finished the call and came over to them, and Gibbs was surprised to see that his eyes were glassy. Maybe the old man really had been more of a father to him than he’d been to Tony.
“Your dad and me talked about the kind of funeral he wanted. He had…well, you can imagine that he had some strong views on that so it’s all been arranged for some time now,” Pete said.
“Great. I’m glad I don’t have to handle that. You’re as organised and efficient as ever, Pete,” Tony said, patting his arm affectionately. Pete rubbed his hand over his eyes.
“I’m going to miss him, Tony,” he whispered.
“Yeah. I know, Petey.” Tony wrapped his arm around him, and Pete buried his face in Tony’s shoulder, his own shoulders shaking suspiciously. Tony, by contrast, remained dry-eyed as he comforted his cousin. Eventually Pete drew back, and pulled a large, white handkerchief out of his pocket. He blew his noise noisily, and then took a deep breath and got himself together.
“Uh…the funeral will take place the day after tomorrow,” he said. “I can tell you what’s been planned if you want…”
“No.” Tony shook his head. “This is your show, Pete.”
“You are going to be there, aren’t you?” Pete asked anxiously. Tony nodded.
“I’ll be there,” he replied. “Don’t want the family gossiping about me not showing up – they’ve gossiped about me enough over the years as it is. Look – we’re going to head back to the hotel now. Call if you need anything, okay?”
They drove back to the hotel in silence. Gibbs wondered what was going on in Tony’s head – he had no idea how he was feeling right now: Upset? Angry? Relieved? They drew up and Gibbs parked the car and turned to look at Tony to find that Tony was already looking at him. His eyes were dark but determined.
“Look,” Tony said. “Say no if you want, because I don’t want your pity, but…would you fuck me, Jethro? Would you fuck me like you fucked me that first time – really hard? Would you fuck me so hard that I can’t think about anything else except being fucked? Except being fucked by *you*?”
Gibbs gazed at him expressionlessly.
“I’m sorry,” Tony grimaced, looking away. “I shouldn’t have asked.”
Gibbs thought about what had happened in that room back there. He’d just staked his claim to this man, and he wouldn’t have done that if he hadn’t meant it. He reached out, put his finger under Tony’s chin, and drew it up so that he was looking at him again.
“I’ll fuck you,” he said, surprised by how throaty his voice was. “But that time I fucked you before – that first time – I was in a bad place. I didn’t have anything to give you back then. I do now. If I fuck you this time I’ll want to keep fucking you – now, tomorrow, when we go back home, hell – forever probably. I won’t be one of your three week flings and I won’t share you with anyone else. If this is what you want too then go get what we need and come meet me in my room. If it isn’t – then I’ll be here for you but I won’t fuck you. Understand?”
Tony stared at him, his eyes wide and startled. “I understand,” he replied.
“Good. Then it’s your call.”
Gibbs got out of the car and slammed the door shut behind him, then walked into the hotel and up to his room. He took off his jacket and threw it on the chair, and then took a deep breath and sat down on the side of the bed. He had meant what he said but it had taken him by surprise all the same – not that he’d said it but how much he wanted it.
He wondered if Tony was capable of committing to one person the way he’d asked, and whether he’d want to give up all the women and the occasional furtive flings with men, just in order to have him. He remembered how insatiable Andy had been but that had been a long time ago and Tony wasn’t nineteen any more. Gibbs had no doubt he still had a pretty active libido though – this was Tony after all. And he might be vulnerable right now but he was still capable of making this decision, and knowing exactly what he was getting into if that was his choice. He wondered how long Tony would take making up his mind but he hadn’t expected the knock on the door quite so soon.
He got up and opened it, to find Tony standing there with a tube of lube in one hand and a pack of condoms in the other. Gibbs looked at them, and then at him.
“You sure?” he asked.
“Jethro – I’ve been in love with you since I was nineteen. I’m sure,” Tony replied, his eyes deadly serious.
Gibbs took the condoms and lube off him and threw them on the nightstand, then he grabbed hold of Tony’s jacket, pulled him into the room, kicked the door shut behind him, pushed him against the wall and kissed him. Tony made a little squeaking sound of surprise, and then recovered, wrapping his arms around Gibbs’s waist. He was a lot beefier now than he’d been seventeen years ago but he still tasted the same, Gibbs thought, as he opened Tony’s mouth with his tongue and pushed himself deep inside.
He held Tony against the wall as he plundered his mouth with ruthless efficiency, needing to explore him and reacquaint himself with how it felt to kiss him. He remembered the surprising softness of Tony’s lips, and the half-remembered rasp of stubble on stubble.
He grabbed Tony’s hair and pulled his face even closer, his hand tangled in the thick softness, remembering how he’d enjoyed holding him like this that first time he’d kissed him. Tony kissed him back just as eagerly – with more finesse than years ago but just as good. Gibbs drew back.
“You’ve been practising,” he said.
“It has been nearly two decades,” Tony pointed out. “I picked up a thing or two in that time.”
“I don’t even want to know how many people you’ve kissed since then,” Gibbs growled, feeling his possessive streak kick in. Tony grinned.
“Maybe not as many as you’d think,” he said. “Not everyone found me as charming as I know I am. I never have managed to figure out why.” He gave another, more self-deprecating grin, and Gibbs gave a little grunt of amusement. He wasn’t fooled though – Tony’s armour wasn’t at full strength again yet, and he wondered whether it ever would be around him. Maybe he’d been right earlier, and Tony was letting him see him with his guard down because he trusted him. After all, Gibbs had known him when he’d been a fucked-up kid blowing strangers in bars – he didn’t have to pretend around Gibbs.
Tony’s eyes were dark with need, and Gibbs saw in them everything he’d been through over the past couple of days. Tony nuzzled into his neck, his arms tightening around Gibbs as he held onto him for dear life.
“Please fuck me, Jethro,” he whispered desperately into Gibbs’s ear. “I need you to fuck me.”
“I know.” Gibbs put his hand on the back of Tony’s head, holding him close. “It’s okay. I know. Ssh.” He kissed Tony’s ear, feeling Tony press against him, his body shaking. “Ssh. It’s okay. I’ve got you.” He rocked Tony for a couple of minutes, kissing his hair and ear repeatedly until the shaking stopped. When he thought Tony was over the worst of it, he released him.
Tony stood there, looking as if he didn’t know what to do next, so Gibbs did it for him. He pulled Tony’s jacket off his shoulders and pushed him over to the bed.
“Get undressed, Tony,” he whispered throatily in Tony’s ear. Tony shivered but complied immediately, taking off his clothes with mechanical, shaky movements of his hands. Gibbs got undressed too, watching Tony the entire time. He took a moment to enjoy seeing Tony’s naked body after so long. He’d filled out a lot – his legs, his shoulders, his neck – and he had considerably more chest hair than he’d had back then. He was much more solid now as well, but it suited him. His cock was pulsing, standing erect, and Gibbs felt his own cock harden in response as he looked at it.
Tony got onto the bed, on all fours, and glanced at Gibbs expectantly over his shoulder. Gibbs shook his head.
“Not like that,” he said. “I know you think that’s what you want but it isn’t. I can make it better than that. Let me take care of it for you, Tony. Just do what I say and relax.”
He guided Tony firmly onto his back, and then lowered himself down on top of him, covering his upper body with purposeful kisses. Tony gazed at him in the semi-darkness of the room, his eyes completely trusting. Gibbs took Tony’s head between his hands and kissed him on the mouth again, gently, slowly, taking his time, and Tony seemed to unwind beneath him, his body relaxing, muscle by muscle. Gibbs kissed him insistently but tenderly, until every single ounce of the tension that had built up in the past couple of days had dissipated, and Tony was boneless beneath him. Only then did Gibbs reach for the lube.
He pushed Tony’s legs apart and slid a finger inside him, never once taking his eyes off Tony’s face as he worked his finger in and out of Tony’s body. Tony opened up sweetly for him, offering himself up with a trust that Gibbs found surprisingly arousing. It didn’t take long to make him ready, and then Gibbs rolled a condom onto his hard cock, and settled between Tony’s legs. He nudged himself against Tony’s entrance, and then moved forward, sliding his cock easily into Tony’s welcoming heat.
It felt so good that it took his breath away, and he hung there for a moment, looking down on Tony as a wave of pleasure rippled along his cock and through his entire body. It had been so long but it still felt as good as it had all those years ago. The last time he’d fucked Tony, he’d been too lost in his own grief to care that much about pleasing him. He’d wanted the release that came with thrusting into a hard, willing body, and had enjoyed the fact that Tony was a sturdy, robust recipient of everything he could throw at him.
This time around he did care about pleasing Tony. This time around Tony was fragile, and Gibbs wanted to make sure he got what he needed. He adjusted his position and thrust into him, and Tony gave a little gasp. He wrapped his legs instinctively around Gibbs’s body, desperately trying to force him in even deeper, and Gibbs complied, thrusting harder next time. Tony never took his eyes off him, and Gibbs kept his own gaze locked with Tony’s as he fucked him with long, deep strokes.
Time stood still and there was just the motion of his hips, and the feel of Tony’s body clenched hard around his cock, and the sensation of being *in* Tony again after all this time. There was the deep connection of Tony’s gaze, and the total trust he saw in it, and the little sounds Tony was making, those old, familiar sounds that he hadn’t even realised he’d been missing.
He leaned forward and kissed Tony’s mouth, and Tony arched up into him, moaning. Gibbs kissed him and fucked him, kissed him and fucked him, and he didn’t think either of them wanted to come because they both wanted this sense of connection to last for as long as possible. Finally Gibbs knew he was close, and he took Tony’s hard cock in his hand and began rubbing it firmly with each inward thrust of his hips. Tony was whimpering loudly now, his gaze never leaving Gibbs’s face.
“Come for me,” Gibbs told him. “Come for me, Tony.”
Tony convulsed beneath him, and then he spurted out over Gibbs’s hand, gasping for breath as he came. Gibbs smiled at him, and continued thrusting into him with slow, measured thrusts, feeling his own climax build. He liked the way Tony was looking up at him as he fucked him, liked how loose his body was now he had climaxed, and how good it felt to be inside him.
Gibbs felt himself starting to climax and he gave a groan of pleasure as he came, still keeping his gaze locked with Tony’s. He hung there for a moment as he got his breath back, and then reached forward and stroked Tony’s hair, and ran his hand lovingly down the side of his face. Tony’s breath hitched, and Gibbs leaned forward and kissed him again. Tony’s body rose up against his, seeking the connection, and Gibbs kissed him with a kind of quiet, purposeful passion, needing to make Tony understand the way it was going to be between them. He wasn’t going to be walking out this time around; Tony had someone who was going to be there for him from now on.
Finally, Gibbs drew back, and pulled himself out of Tony’s body with regret. Then he broke gazes for the first time as he removed the condom and chucked it into the trash. Afterwards he got into the bed beside Tony and pulled him over so that Tony was in his favourite position, head resting on Gibbs’s shoulder, arm slung over his body, legs entwined in his. He pulled up the sheets around them and held Tony close, and Tony burrowed into him like he never wanted to be released.
“Thank you, Jethro,” Tony murmured into his chest. “I was right you know,” he added.
“About what?” Gibbs asked, feeling lazy, sated and genuinely happy for the first time in years.
“You do know how to give a good fuck,” Tony said, glancing up at him with a grin.
“That wasn’t fucking, Tony,” Gibbs told him, dropping his head down to claim another kiss from Tony’s lips. “That was making love.”
They spent all that night and the following day in bed. It was strange how familiar that felt, even after all these years. Gibbs read the paper while Tony watched TV, throwing his pillow around the bed and pursuing it to get comfortable with only slightly less fidgeting than when he’d been a teenager. Gibbs wasn’t complaining. He liked it best when Tony ended up lying with his head and shoulders resting back against Gibbs’s bare chest, his hand loosely wrapped around the remote as he endlessly changed channels. Gibbs slung his arm around Tony’s body and pressed the occasional idle kiss to his hair, continuing to read his paper whenever Tony wasn’t making him look up at whatever trashy piece of TV he was watching. Gibbs’s only comment most of the time was a grunt but that seemed enough to satisfy Tony.
They had room service delivered and ate that in bed too.
“I wish we could stay here,” Tony said, diving straight into the donuts.
“Worried about the funeral?” Gibbs glanced at him over his glasses.
“No…well, yes, but that’s not it. Just…all we ever had was this, Jethro. Us, holed up in a room somewhere. We never had work before, or life, or, you know, nosy co-workers.” Tony grimaced.
“Tony, none of your co-workers comes close to you in the nosy stakes,” Gibbs pointed out, with a roll of his eyes, all too well aware of Tony’s insatiable appetite for gossip and almost non-existent respect for other people’s privacy.
“True,” Tony grinned. “But how do we handle this? When we go back to DC? What happens then, Jethro?”
Gibbs saw the flash of anxiety in Tony’s eyes, and he took off his glasses and put them on the nightstand. Clearly they had to talk about this.
“You think I’m going to run out on you again?” he asked.
“No. Yes. Probably.” Tony shrugged. “I know you said it wouldn’t happen but things will get very complicated when we go back. You’re not a man who likes complications, Jethro.”
“Tony – I have three ex-wives. I’m *used* to complications,” Gibbs pointed out.
“Yeah, but this – me – I might be one complication too far,” Tony said quietly. “How *are* we going to handle it when we go back home?”
“Well, I’m not going to enter into that double life shit you’re so good at. I can’t go around lying the whole time. It’ll irritate the hell out of me,” Gibbs replied.
“Yeah, well, your whole ‘ask me anything personal and I’ll break your legs’ approach won’t work for me,” Tony told him. “I don’t have the steely glare and head-slapping down to a fine art yet, either. Nobody’s going to be scared off the topic by me – diversionary tactics are all I’ve got.”
“So we have a basic difference of style,” Gibbs grinned.
“But then again we always did,” Tony grinned back.
“Look, Tony, nothing’s going to change back at NCIS,” Gibbs told him. “I’m not going to suddenly start calling you ‘sweetie’ and patting your ass in the squad room, and you’re not going to start making goo-goo eyes at me across the room when you’re sitting at your desk.”
“It’s tempting…” Tony grinned. “But no,” he added, as Gibbs shot him a warning glare.
“Work’s work,” Gibbs said firmly. “I won’t be treating you any differently there and if you treat me any different your ears will start ringing from all the head-slaps you’ll get. Got it?”
“Got it, boss,” Tony said smartly.
“But I’m not hiding, and I’m not lying, or making up any kind of shit, so don’t ask me to. If people find out – well I don’t really give a damn.”
“Could be awkward though,” Tony pressed.
“You ashamed of me?” Gibbs shot back. Tony looked confused.
“No…just…you’re new to this, Jethro, but a lot people really aren’t comfortable with the whole bisexual thing. I’ve always found it easier to hide it than risk getting caught.”
“That’s your father talking,” Gibbs grunted.
“Maybe.” Tony’s eyes were suddenly bright and intense. “But do you want to know what kind of a formative experience it was to be in love for the first time, to be really in love, and to creep out every night to meet him, so you could fuck, and then to be caught with your dick in his ass and your hand on his cock, and have the school principal haul you off him by the scruff of your neck?”
Tony’s fingers clenched into fists, the half-eaten donut now abandoned. Gibbs sat back, startled.
“Do you have any idea what it was like to have the principal *scream* at you for being depraved, and dirty, and evil, while your dick is hanging out and the boy you were just fucking is being hauled up too, and he’s looking at you like you’ve betrayed him. Then he’s saying that maybe it wasn’t the mutual thing you thought it was, and he wasn’t as totally into it as you know he was, and that sounds like it’s one step away from you *raping* him and you sure as hell know that wasn’t what happened. And then you’re dragged back to the principal’s office and it’s the middle of the fucking night and he’s calling your *father* and telling him about it and saying he has to come and get you now – *right now* – because you’ve disgraced yourself, and the academy, and the family name and you can’t be allowed to stay there for another single second in case you decide to stick your dick into some other boy’s innocent fucking ass.”
Tony broke off. He hadn’t raised his voice the entire time, he’d just talked in a low, intense undertone, but the emotion in his eyes was heart-breaking. Gibbs nodded to him to continue.
“And then you have to pack up your stuff with someone watching you the whole time in case, I don’t know, you corrupt some other boy while they’re not looking, and then, worst of all, you have to sit in a car for the long drive home beside a father who can barely stand to look at you. And you sit in your room for a few days until he can bring himself to talk to you and you wonder why this whole thing is making everyone go so crazy when it was just sex, and you *like* sex – with girls, with boys, whatever – and it was hot, and it felt good, and nobody got hurt so what’s the big fucking deal?”
Gibbs watched and waited, needing Tony to let all this out, because he doubted he’d ever told anyone else about it in his entire life. Tony took a deep breath, and his eyes darkened. Gibbs knew he was scaring himself by how much this all hurt – that maybe he hadn’t even known it hurt this much because he’d kept it bottled up for so long.
“What happened next, Tony?” he asked softly. “Tell me.”
“What happened next is that my father finally called me into his study but only to tell me that he’d disinherited me, and he’d arranged for me to go and live with my alcoholic mother, and that he wasn’t going to pay for my education again because that was just throwing good money after bad. Of course he’d always known I was trouble, and a dumb little shit as well, but he never thought I was a fag and he fucking hates fags and why couldn’t I be like my cousin Pete instead of embarrassing him and the family, and did I know he had a business to run and what the hell would people think of him? And then he got his *lawyer* to drive me to my mom’s house because he couldn’t stand the sight of me. Then when she died, he showed up at the funeral and told me he hadn’t forgiven me and he wasn’t going to spend another dime of his hard-earned cash on me unless I proved to him that I wasn’t going to be worthless my entire life and that was going to take some doing because he didn’t think I had it in me.”
“It’s a good thing he’s dead,” Gibbs commented, “‘Cause I want to go over there and kill the son of a bitch all over again.”
“Yeah, so now you know, so don’t sit there, Gibbs, and judge me for hiding it, for pretending to be oh-so-freaked out when I discovered I’d kissed a transsexual during an undercover op, or for flirting like crazy with every hot girl I see just so people never suspect my tastes are a little broader – because I *know* just what happens when you get caught with your dick in the wrong place and I don’t want to go through that again.”
“I wasn’t judging you, Tony,” Gibbs said quietly. He reached out and put a hand on Tony’s shoulder, wondering if he’d shrug it off, but instead it seemed to calm him down and he nodded, and managed a faint grin.
“I know. I know that. I just…don’t think I can be any different,” Tony told him. “This is the only way I’ve ever found of protecting myself, Jethro.”
“Okay. Then we take it one step at a time,” Gibbs said. “I’m not in any hurry and I won’t tell anyone without talking to you about it first.”
“Okay.” Tony nodded.
“But it’s going to come out one day,” Gibbs said. “And it won’t be as bad as you think. You’re not a kid any more, Tony, and you can handle it. Christ, if I can take it then I’m damn sure you can.”
Tony laughed at that. “Yeah. I’m guessing that’s going to shock a few people. The whole ex-marine, three ex-wives, tough guy federal agent thing will confuse the hell out of them. You’ll just stare them down though, boss, if anyone dares to say anything.”
“And you’ll joke your way out of it. Like I said, difference of styles – but both of them work, in their own way. Now come here.”
Gibbs pushed the half-eaten donut aside, ignoring Tony’s squawk of protest, and kissed him on the mouth. Tony opened up immediately and Gibbs felt his hard cock pressing into his thigh.
“Christ – it was just going to be a kiss,” he muttered after he released him. Tony grinned, looking a little shame-faced.
“You’ve always been my wet dream, Jethro; around you my body is always going to think it’s nineteen.”
“I’m flattered,” Gibbs grinned, kissing him again. He slid his hand inside Tony’s bathrobe, found his hard cock, wrapped his hand around it, and then rubbed it with long, firm strokes. Tony started making his usual orgasmic noises and Gibbs silenced them with another deep kiss, caressing his cock the entire time. Tony gasped, his body convulsing against Gibbs as he was thoroughly and expertly kissed and jerked off at the same time, and then he came over Gibbs’s hand with a series of happy little squeaks.
Gibbs laughed and released him, then leaned forward and kissed his forehead.
“Your father is dead, Tony,” he said. “And you’ve been living by my rules for the past seven years anyway, remember?”
“Uh, I don’t think you have a rule to cover this situation, boss,” Tony pointed out, grinning up at him.
“You’re right.” Gibbs nodded. “Here’s a new rule. Rule number twelve: Never feel guilty about being who you are.”
“I think there’s a rule number twelve already,” Tony frowned. “Isn’t it ‘never date a co-worker’? Because we’re kind of breaking that one.”
“That’s why we’re replacing it with the new rule,” Gibbs said impatiently. Tony laughed.
“Okay. New rule number twelve. I’ll try and remember it, boss!”
Tony grew quieter as the day turned into evening. He received a few phone calls from Pete about the funeral arrangements, and each one made him quieter still. Gibbs felt in his gut that this wasn’t good. They still had one last hurdle to jump – he’d feel a lot happier when the funeral was over and he could take Tony back to DC and love him back to his usual self. Annoying though Tony’s usual self could be, he’d take it over this hunched-shouldered, dark-eyed version any day.
Neither of them slept much the night before the funeral. Gibbs lay awake, gazing up at the ceiling, one arm around Tony, while Tony lay in his usual position, head on Gibbs’s shoulder, tracing one finger in endless little circles over Gibbs’s chest.
Gibbs was relieved when the morning came and they could finally get this over. They washed, shaved and dressed in silence, and Gibbs wondered what he could say that would make this any easier for Tony.
“What’s going on in there?” he asked eventually, pressing a finger to Tony’s forehead as Tony buttoned up his stiff, formal white shirt.
“Just…mixed feelings,” Tony replied, fumbling with his cufflinks. “I’m not sad he’s dead but…I just wish it had been different between us, you know?”
“Yeah. I know.” Gibbs took the cufflinks out of his hand, and threaded the first one through his shirtsleeve.
“I did love him, Jethro,” Tony sighed. “As fucked up as it always was between us, I did love him.”
“I know that too,” Gibbs said, fastening the other cufflink.
“And then there will be everyone staring at me. They all know why I got expelled from Drewes and god knows it was years ago but it’s the best gossip they’ve ever had so they’ll never let it drop. You’ll almost be able to hear the whispers. ‘Is he married yet?’ ‘Is he gay?’ ‘Does he have a girlfriend?’ ‘Who’s that guy with him?’ ‘Are they together?’ ‘Hey, Tony’s date is *hot*’.”
Tony grinned and pressed a kiss to Gibbs’s freshly shaven cheek.
“And then there’s the will – they’re reading that after the wake and everyone is pretty sure I’ve been disinherited but they’ll be hoping for some nice, juicy scandal there too. They’ll all be looking at me to see how I react. Nosiness kind of runs in our family.”
He grinned again, but his hands were shaking slightly as he reached for his black tie and began knotting it.
“And I don’t *know* how I’ll react,” Tony said quietly, making a mess of the knot and starting again. “I don’t know if I’ll just feel relieved the old monster is finally six feet under, or whether I’ll screw it up and say something inappropriate at the graveside. Or even whether I’ll do something really dumb, like cry, because there’s still a kid inside me who loved his dad and just wanted him to love me back and now it’s too late.”
Gibbs batted Tony’s hands away and undid his second completely useless attempt at a knot, jerking it apart with terse, purposeful movements of his fingers. He thought about what he’d asked Tony’s father to tell him, and how he’d even asked him lie to him if it wasn’t the truth, and how the old bastard had remained stubborn to the end. He wasn’t sure that Tony’s father *had* loved him, and he was damn sure he hadn’t been proud of him, but, in the end, he also wasn’t sure that really mattered right now. What mattered was that Tony heard those words from somebody; somebody he loved and respected, somebody he looked up to almost like a father – and somebody who really did mean them.
He did up Tony’s tie for him, and adjusted the knot with a smooth flourish of his fingers. Then he rested his hands on Tony’s shoulders and looked him in the eye.
“I love you, Tony – and I’m proud of you,” he said firmly. Tony gazed at him, wide-eyed. Gibbs squeezed his shoulders. “You hear me, son?”
“Yes. I hear you.” Tony said quietly, and Gibbs knew that it meant far more coming from him than it ever would have done coming from his father.
Tony’s whole body seemed to change; his shoulders broadened, and he stood up straight, no sign of even a hint of self-doubt, his eyes clear and focussed. Gibbs helped him into his jacket, and then they walked out there together, side by side.
Tony didn’t cry, and he was graceful and charming to a fault throughout. Gibbs could feel the eyes of hundreds of relatives and family friends on them both, could hear the little ripple of whispers as Tony walked down the aisle of the church, could see how people were studying the black sheep of the family, assessing and scrutinising him.
He was proud of the fact that Tony held his head up high and didn’t react. He didn’t pull any stupid faces or make any inappropriate jokes, and afterwards, when they went back to the house, he made the rounds of the guests, shaking hands, smiling, making polite conversation and behaving with the utmost dignity.
After an hour or so of that, he returned to where Gibbs was standing, grabbed his arm, and pulled him to one side.
“Okay, I’m done. We have to get out of here before I snap, boss,” he hissed out of the corner of his mouth. “All this being on my best behaviour is exhausting.” He caught the eye of an old lady with immaculately coiffed white hair and smiled at her benignly. She smiled back, nodding at him approvingly.
“I’m ready to go when you are,” Gibbs told him. “The car’s all packed up and the shuttles fly every half hour.”
“Then let’s find Pete and say goodbye.”
Gibbs followed Tony out of the room and they found Pete in the hallway talking to Daniel Weston.
“Pete – we have to go now,” Tony told his cousin.
“You’re not staying to hear the reading of the will?” Pete asked, surprised. Tony glanced at Weston.
“Nah. I don’t think there’s any point,” he said.
Pete looked embarrassed. “Look, Tony, I’m sorry…” he began.
“Don’t be,” Tony interrupted him. “Despite what he thought, I never did want his money.” He glanced at Gibbs. “And I’m more than happy with what I got out of this trip,” he added.
Pete looked at Weston and then back at Tony. “Look…there’s one thing I want to give you – if you’ll accept it? It’s not from your father – it’s just something I’d like you to have.”
Tony frowned, looking puzzled. Pete reached into his pocket, pulled out a set of keys, and threw them to Tony.
“It’s outside,” he said.
Tony glanced at Gibbs, still looking confused, and all four men walked out of the door and onto the driveway. Tony took one look at the bright red Ferrari standing out front and gave a whoop of sheer joy. Gibbs couldn’t stop himself laughing out loud at the expression on Tony’s face; he was like a kid with a new toy as he circled the car, still whooping as he traced one finger over all the gleaming red metal.
“You sure about this, Pete?” he asked, fondling the car in a way that was positively obscene.
“I’m sure, Tony. She’s all yours,” Pete beamed.
“What about the rental?”
“I’ll get someone to take it back to the airport for you,” Pete told him.
Tony made another circuit of the car and then stopped beside Gibbs, a shit-eating grin on his face.
“How about it, boss? Feel like a road trip back to DC?”
“Sure,” Gibbs said, grinning back at him. “You know me – I like road trips.”
They transferred their luggage from the rental car into the Ferrari, watched by the little crowd of people who had gathered out front, intrigued by all the commotion.
They said their goodbyes, and then Tony got into the car and rested his hands lovingly on the steering wheel. Gibbs got in beside him. Tony was silent for a moment, and then he turned to face him.
“You know, I don’t think I ever said thank you,” he said. Gibbs raised an eyebrow.
“For putting me through college. I have no idea where the hell I’d have ended up if you hadn’t done that. You pretty much saved my life. “
“Just returning the favour,” Gibbs said softly, remembering how close he’d come to blowing his brains out back then, and how taking care of Andy had given him something to live for.
Tony nodded, understanding. “Yeah – but thank you all the same,” he said sincerely. “I might be saying it years too late, but I want to say it.”
“You’re welcome, Andy,” Gibbs said softly. Tony’s eyes sparkled in response to the name, and he gave a bright, goofy smile that was all Andy. “Now – let’s go home,” Gibbs said.
Tony nodded. He glanced out of the window at the little crowd of people who were gathered around them, and then a spark of total mischief flashed in his eyes. He looked sideways at Gibbs, then leaned over, took hold of Gibbs’s head in his hands, pulled him towards him, and kissed him on the mouth – hard and passionately – for several seconds.
A little murmur went up from the watching crowd, and Gibbs could feel Tony grinning into his mouth as he kissed him, and then he was released. Gibbs raised an eyebrow.
“What happened to the not being comfortable with anyone knowing thing?” he asked.
“Hey – new rule number twelve, remember? Besides, I wanted to give them something *else* to talk about for the next couple of decades,” Tony said, with a jaunty wave at the crowd. He put the car into gear, released the brake, slammed his foot on the accelerator, and they shot down the driveway at high speed.
“So…I was thinking…we could…I don’t know…stop over at a motel along the way, fuck each other’s brains out, and maybe get roaring drunk as well, just for old time’s sake?” Tony said, with a sly wink. “Whaddya say, Jethro?”
Gibbs rolled his eyes, but he grinned anyway. “Sounds good to me, Andy.”