Ghosts: 2. Chapter 2




Tony didn’t think he’d ever get tired of waking up to find Gibbs lying beneath him. He stretched out, luxuriating in being entangled so thoroughly in Gibbs’s firm body. He loved the feel of the man’s chest hair under his ear and the scent of his sweat from the previous night’s love-making.


He knew he had a habit of physically smothering his bed partners by lying half on top of them, his legs entwined in theirs, but he couldn’t help himself. He had never been great at asking for physical affection – he just stole it in the night when his lovers were sleeping. He didn’t dare ask when they were awake. He didn’t even know how. Physical affection wasn’t something his family had been in the habit of handing out, and he’d never learned how to get it any other way than by stealth.


His mom had offered the occasional absent-minded hug but had usually been too drunk to notice him. His dad…well, he couldn’t remember the last time his father had hugged him – he thought maybe he’d been about six, and even then it’d been a cursory necessity rather than a show of affection. He’d broken his leg climbing a tree, and his father had picked him up to carry him into the house while his mother had staggered off to call an ambulance.


His mom had been supposed to be supervising him while he played, but as usual she’d been drinking which is why the accident had happened in the first place. Tony wasn’t sure who his father had been most annoyed with – his mom for getting stinking drunk, or him for taking his attention-seeking to the extreme of throwing himself out of a tree to get noticed. Either way, all it won him was a sigh of exasperation and a half-hearted hug from his father as he howled in pain, and yet he remembered it to this day.


He remembered lying in his father’s arms as he’d carried him into the house, feeling his father’s solid presence beneath his thin cotton shirt, and smelling the man’s familiar scent of aftershave combined with whisky. And he remembered feeling for just a little while as if he might have some meaning in this man’s life. As if he might count for something. As if maybe, just maybe, he was precious in some way. It wasn’t a feeling that had lasted for very long, and he couldn’t remember his father ever hugging him again.


Now he had Gibbs…and he’d never thought during all those long, lonely years that this would ever be possible. He shifted a little and felt Gibbs’s cock stirring against his thigh. He grinned and slid down the bed, located Gibbs’s sleepy cock, and gently sucked it into his mouth. He heard Gibbs give a low moan and a second later a hand came to rest on his head and began stroking his hair. He needed no further encouragement and proceeded to give his lover the best blowjob he knew how.


Gibbs came with a satisfied, throaty growl that went straight to Tony’s cock. Tony swallowed down his come and then traveled back up the bed, emerging into the daylight to find Gibbs smiling at him languidly.


“Great way to wake up,” Gibbs murmured, reaching out an arm to pull Tony close. Tony went, resting his head on his chest again.


“About that…” Tony began. “Uh…about where we wake up…and…uh…how…” Gibbs glanced down at him, frowning. Tony bit on his lip. “Are we going slow, or…?” Gibbs was looking utterly mystified, so Tony decided to just say it. “When we get back to DC, I don’t want to wake up alone,” he said quietly. “Not ever again.”


Gibbs’s frown disappeared, and he gave a grunt. “That what the blowjob was for? Some kind of bribe?”


“No.” Tony sighed. “Maybe. I dunno. I’m not good at relationships, Jethro.”


“You’re not a hustler anymore, Tony – sex doesn’t have to have any kind of currency between us.”


“You paid for my goddamn education!” Tony blurted. Damn it, all those years, not knowing something so big. He understood why Gibbs had done it, but even so…so much money and such a big secret. It was hard to fully get his head around that.


“And I never damn well asked for anything back!” Gibbs retorted. “The money, the sex – they were never linked for me. Don’t link them now, Tony.”


“I wasn’t. The blow job wasn’t a trade in for moving in with you…just…”


Gibbs’s hands went down south, and he gently cupped Tony’s butt cheeks.


“If you think I’m gonna let you sleep anywhere else but in my damn bed, DiNozzo, then I’ll figure it was your head got bumped last night, not your knee.” He squeezed Tony’s ass firmly, like it belonged to him, which, Tony was happy to concede, it totally did. “How is your knee by the way?” Gibbs asked.


Tony moved it with a little wince. “Kinda hurts. Not as much as my pride though, obviously.” He grinned and ran his finger over Gibbs’s mouth. “It feels like I’m dreaming. I mean…living the happily ever after? How the hell did that happen to me?”


“Because you took a chance. You found me again, Tony. After all those years. You came looking – and thank God you did.”


He said it in such a heartfelt tone that Tony was surprised. He’d been so wrapped up in his own emotions that he’d somehow missed how huge this was for Gibbs too. Gibbs was looking at him from eyes that had never looked so blue, and there was an intense expression in them.


“I was terrified,” Tony told him. “That day, in the interview, I was so damn terrified. Bet you couldn’t believe it when I waltzed in there, bold as brass, and acted like we’d never met.”


“Wasn’t sure what the hell you wanted from me.” Gibbs gave a grim little laugh. “For a while I figured maybe it was just a coincidence, but I don’t damn well believe in ’em. Finally, I decided that if you’d gone to all that trouble to track me down, least I could do was see how you’d turned out.”


“Wanted to see you hadn’t wasted all that money on my education, huh?” Tony grinned.


Gibbs squeezed his ass again. “Wasted? Are you kidding! Best damn money I ever spent.” He grinned and angled his head up for a kiss.


“Hah! I’m that good an agent then?” Tony preened, obligingly depositing a kiss on Gibbs’s waiting mouth. Gibbs laughed into the kiss and slapped his ass.


“You’re not bad, but I was thinkin’ more that if I hadn’t done what I did all those years ago, you wouldn’t be here now, in my bed, makin’ out with me. And that…*that* doesn’t bear thinking about, DiNozzo.”


Tony didn’t think it was his imagination that Gibbs’s hands were shaking just a little, where they were resting on his ass. He kissed him again, more slowly and deeply this time, reassuring him that there was no place else he wanted to be other than in bed with him.


Gradually, he felt Gibbs’s body relaxing beneath him, as he kissed that reassurance into him. It felt strange but good to be reassuring Gibbs instead of it being the other way around, but then he guessed they were both more than a little fucked up in their own way.


He drew back with a wry little chuckle. “My fear of rejection, yours of letting anyone in – it’s a miracle we ever got together, Jethro.”


Gibbs gave a wry little laugh. “Hell yeah – so let’s not fuck it up, DiNozzo. We’ve fucked up enough between us in the past. Let’s make this miracle work.”






Tony stood in the men’s room at NCIS and gripped onto the basin tightly with both his hands. Shit, was he really doing this? Was he seriously going to go into that interview room and come face to face with Leroy Jethro Gibbs after all these years?


He couldn’t do it. He was an idiot.


“Wouldn’t it have been more sensible to pretend to bump into him in a damn coffee shop?” he berated himself. “Why engineer *this* way of meeting him again after all this time? It’s a *job* interview, idiot. This is your fucking *career* we’re talking about. Shit…you are such a stupid fucker.” He gazed at himself in the mirror, shaking his head.


Nobody had been more surprised than him when NCIS had accepted his application. He’d resigned from Baltimore PD, gone through the FLETC, and then immediately applied for a job with the MCRT. It had all been so easy – he’d jumped one hurdle at a time in a sort of numb haze, without even thinking about it. He could so easily have faltered at each one, but instead it had felt like the hand of destiny was upon him, steering him effortlessly towards his inevitable fate.


He’d even gained the highest grades of his entire intake at the FLETC. That might have surprised everyone else, but it hadn’t surprised him. He’d learned how to work hard back at college, when he knew he’d have to send every term paper to Daniel Weston, and if his grades dried up then so did the money. There was no way was he going back on the street again, so he’d worked his ass off. It wasn’t a habit he’d ever forgotten.


Now he stood here, at ten minutes to ten, shaking in his boots. He’d arrived an hour early, so terrified of being late, and now it was taking all his courage not to turn around and run straight out again.


“Stupid fucker. All this for some guy you haven’t seen in years,” he muttered to himself, splashing cold water onto his face and then gazing at his wet features.


He was wearing his best dark navy blue suit, a crisply laundered white shirt, and a blue and silver tie. He looked good, and he knew it. Looking good only took you so far though – he knew that too. It was convenient to use his dazzling good looks to attract and distract, but he never let himself be fooled by them. Only one person had ever got to know the man beneath the handsome mask, and that person was waiting for him in an interview room just down the hallway. No wonder he was scared shitless.


He wiped the water from his face and noticed that his hands were shaking.


“Idiot.” He threw the paper towel into the trash. “I’m going to do this,” he told himself. “I’m really going to do this.”


There was no more time to rehearse, and he was better flying by the seat of his pants anyway. He’d deal with the situation when he set foot inside the interview room that was his own personal lion’s den. Then he’d see whether Leroy Jethro Gibbs remembered the down on his luck hustler he’d shared a motel room with for two weeks ten years ago.


He glanced at his watch: 9:58. It was time. He pulled himself together, straightened his tie, plastered his most confident smile on his face, and walked along the hallway.






They took a long, slow shower together, and then ate a late breakfast before heading off. The Ferrari purred like a cat and ate up the ground like a cheetah, but Tony was in no hurry to get home. He wanted to savour each and every single moment of this journey. It had been seventeen years in coming after all.


“Gotta collect some stuff, ’cause I figure it’s gonna be me moving in with you,” he said as he drew up outside his apartment.


“Well yeah, DiNozzo.” Gibbs gave an impatient jerk of his head. “Unless you’ve got a basement in that tiny place of yours where I can build my next boat?”


Tony laughed. “No basement. No guest room, either, for when I wanna get away from your snoring.”


“I don’t snore.”


“Sure you don’t. You just breathe heavy.” Tony snorted. He leaned over anyway and kissed Gibbs’s surprised mouth. There was nobody around, but Tony didn’t give a damn. He’d been hiding all his life; he wasn’t going to hide anymore.


They collected several boxes of his belongings and threw them in the back of the Ferrari, and then Tony turned to Gibbs with a raised eyebrow.


“Home?” he suggested nervously.


Gibbs grinned. “Home,” he said firmly.


It felt like home too, the minute he walked through the door. Gibbs went over to his safe, stowed his gun away, and pulled out a spare set of keys to the house. He threw them at Tony who caught them deftly in one hand.


“Thought you never locked the door,” he said, with a raised eyebrow.


“Never had anything here worth protecting before,” Gibbs said, with a meaningful look in his direction. “Do now.”


Tony thought that might be the closest Gibbs would ever get to any kind of declaration of love, and it warmed him through and through. He put the keys in his pocket, and they took his boxes up the stairs and into the main bedroom.


Gibbs opened the closet and shoved his own clothes to one side.


“That’s not really gonna be enough space,” Tony pointed out, glancing at his many suits and the collection of casual clothes that he’d unpacked and laid out on the bed. This wasn’t even the half of it – he’d had to leave just as much behind for them to pick up another time.


“I’ll build you another closet over here.” Gibbs pulled a tape measure from the dresser drawer and began measuring up a space on the far wall.


“In the meantime…how about I put these in the guest room?” Tony suggested, gathering up an armful of his belongings.




It wasn’t so much the word itself as the tone of voice that made Tony stop dead in his tracks. He glanced back to see those old, impenetrable walls back in Gibbs’s blue eyes.


“Just put the ones you need in the closet and pack the rest away again. I’ll get the new closet built next weekend.”


“Okay…” Tony said uncertainly. He wasn’t sure what that was about, but, for the first time since they’d got together, he felt anxious about how this would turn out.


He did as ordered, while Gibbs went downstairs and cooked them some steak over the fire. After they’d eaten, Tony rested his head on Gibbs’s shoulder, unable to shake that feeling of unease. Maybe he was just tired. It had been a long few days, a rollercoaster of highs and lows, and he was embarking on something he’d never done before; he’d just moved in with a lover. No wonder he was jittery. It had to be the same for Gibbs too.


“Hey – sleepyhead. Time for bed.”


Gibbs got up and held out his hand, pulled him to his feet, and then led him up the stairs to the bedroom. Then he proceeded to strip him naked and make love to him with such gentle care and loving attention that Tony’s doubts melted away.


He didn’t question that Gibbs loved him and wanted him here…but what the hell was he hiding in the guest room that he didn’t want Tony to see?






The walk along that hallway to the interview room seemed to take forever. Tony could feel his palms sweating as he made the journey although he knew that he looked calm, relaxed, and completely confident on the outside. There was a woman sitting outside the door. She looked up and nodded to him as he approached.


“Agent Gibbs is ready to see you now. Just go in.”


So this was it. Tony took his courage in his hands and knocked on the door, then opened it and breezed in without waiting for an answer.


He found himself in a small room with a desk in the middle and a chair on either side. And there, pushing the chair away from the table as he stood up, was Leroy Jethro Gibbs.


Time seemed to stand still. He felt as if he’d found a time machine and traveled back ten years to a grungy motel room in Ohio.


Gibbs’s hair was dark grey now, compared to the dark brown it had once been, but it suited him. Apart from that, nothing about the man appeared to have changed. How was that even possible?


Tony gaze lingered on a lean, muscled body, and he was suddenly vividly aware of what it felt like to lay on that body, and to have that body lie on top of him. He remembered how good it had felt to trail a line of kisses over that area of collarbone exposed by the open collar of Gibbs’s shirt. He remembered lying back and welcoming that body onto and into his, and how it had felt so good and right, as if that was where both their bodies belonged.


Those memories assaulted him so violently that it took him a moment to collect his thoughts and return to the moment. When he did, he found Gibbs standing there, looking at him, his blue eyes as deep and intense as they’d always been.


He’s not crazy anymore, Tony thought to himself. His eyes didn’t have that edge of madness combined with a terrible sort of grief that they’d had back then. Now that edge had dulled into something else, something guarded and closed off.


This man had found a way to live with himself – Tony could tell that just by looking at him. The sharp edges of his sadness had turned into an inner steel. Gibbs didn’t go to bed each night with a gun under his pillow now. He had built a wall around himself instead.


Gibbs was still standing there, looking at him, and neither of them said a word. Did Gibbs remember him? Tony looked for some hint of it, but Gibbs had never been the kind of man who gave anything away. Even now, Tony had no idea what kind of grief had caused him take that road trip all those years ago.


Those blue eyes were still gazing at him. They were impenetrable, giving nothing away, and as hard and cold as ice.


Gibbs glanced down at the file on the desk in front of him and then up at Tony again. “Anthony DiNozzo?”


His voice was the same; it was a voice Tony had heard in his dreams for years. Low, deep, and unbelievably sexy. It went straight to his cock.


“No,” he wanted to reply. “It’s me, Andy. Remember me? You fucked my ass into the mattress for two weeks ten years ago, and I haven’t been able to forget you since.” But he didn’t say that. He just nodded, gave a polite smile, and moved forward, his hand outstretched.


Gibbs moved towards him, his own hand extended too, and there was this surge of *something* as their hands met. It felt so strange to be touching this man again, to have exchanged the fantastic abandon of love-making for this falseness and formality all these years later.


“I know what you look like when you’re making love,” Tony thought to himself as they shook hands. “I know what it feels like to kiss you. I know what turns you on.”


They finished shaking hands, and Gibbs gestured to Tony to sit down in the waiting chair. He took his own seat on the opposite side of the table.


Gibbs asked some questions, and Tony was aware that he was answering them. He was on some weird plane, inhabiting his body and watching himself at the same time, and he was on fire! He knew he was making some brilliant replies, but he didn’t have a clue what he was saying.


He knew what his eyes were saying though, as they gazed at Gibbs across that table.


“I miss you,” they said. “I love you. I’ve always loved you. Do you know who I am? Do you remember me, Jethro? Have I changed that much?”


Gibbs’s blue eyes made no reply, or if they did it was no reply that Tony could decipher. They were assessing, but then he was in an interview. They were guarded, but then this was a man who never let his guard down…except maybe once, in a motel room ten years ago with a fucked up kid who had a giant crush on him.


“Ohio State…” He heard himself saying words that should have meaning for both of them, but still there wasn’t even a flicker of recognition from Gibbs. “Phys ed…basketball…” Nothing. “Decided to be a cop…” You remember. You were there! He wanted to yell. And how have the years treated you, Jethro? Are you better now? ‘Cause you were fucked up as all hell back then. I was too – but look at me now. I turned out okay, Jethro. I gave up being a hustler. My dad paid for me to get through college after all. It all turned out for the best and meeting you seemed to be the turning point. Thank you for that. Even if you were a bastard and ran out on me.”


He hoped Gibbs saw all that in his resume and in the pride in his voice as he recounted his job history. Okay, so he hadn’t stayed anywhere very long, but that wasn’t his fault.


“It’s yours,” he wanted to say. “Couldn’t settle,” he said instead. “Always felt I was missing something. Haven’t found the right…” he paused for a long moment, never taking his gaze off Gibbs. “Path,” he finished eventually. “Right career path.”


“And do you think working Major Crimes at NCIS is what you’re looking for?” Gibbs asked.


“Yes,” he replied, without any hesitation at all. “I’ve found exactly what I’m looking for.”


Gibbs’s blue eyes bored holes into him, but he never once dropped his gaze. Maybe it was his imagination, but he thought those eyes were talking back to him, asking him what the hell he was doing here, what he meant by it, and what he wanted. Then the moment passed and those walls came down again. Gibbs glanced at his file.


“Okay then. We’re done.”


“Did I get the job?” Tony couldn’t leave this room without knowing. He hadn’t joined NCIS just to work some other team. Now that he’d seen Gibbs again he knew it wasn’t enough. He had to keep seeing him again; every day; day in, day out. It wasn’t enough to work in this building and know Gibbs was here too. He had to stand beside this man, where he belonged, always on his six.


He might never again get to share a bed with him, but sharing a working life with him would be enough.


“I’ll be the best I can be,” he found himself saying. “I will work my ass off for you, Agent Gibbs. I’ll never let you down. Please…I want this. I want this so much.”


That much at least was true, but it wasn’t just the job he wanted – it was a chance to be near Leroy Jethro Gibbs every day of his life. That was priceless, and he wanted it so badly it hurt. He put all that emotion into his words, and he saw those blue eyes flicker just a little. Gibbs might not remember, but he did believe in his sincerity.


“Yeah, DiNozzo. You got the job. You start tomorrow.”


Tomorrow. He felt as if the room was reeling around him. Tomorrow. There was still no sign that Gibbs knew him, but that didn’t matter. Now they could get to know each other all over again, and get to know each other properly this time. They weren’t the suicidal drunk and the fucked up hustler anymore. This time they were both in a much better place, and he could finally find out just what made Leroy Jethro Gibbs tick.


He might never be this man’s lover again, but he could be his friend, his colleague, and his valued second.


He’d settle for that.






Tony awoke with a start, shaking.


“Hey…you okay?” Gibbs traced gentle patterns over his back with his fingers.


“Yes…just…had a dream that I was back in that interview room with you seven years ago.” Tony shivered. “Scares the hell out of me how close I came to not going into that room; and how close you came to not giving me the job.”


“What makes you think I wasn’t going to give you the job?”


“Were you?” Tony looked at Gibbs in the dark bedroom, resting his hands on Gibbs’s chest.


“I nearly didn’t,” Gibbs agreed with a chuckle. “Wasn’t sure what the hell you were doing there. Wasn’t sure what you meant by it.”


“I just had to see you again.”


“I thought that was it. Thought that once you’d had your curiosity satisfied that’d be it. Then you said that thing, right at the end.”


“I told you how much I wanted it.”


“Yeah…and then I realized you weren’t just havin’ some fun with me, or scratching an itch. You really meant it. Couldn’t let you down.”


“Thank God.” Tony rested his head back on Gibbs’s chest. He loved how it felt. He wished he could spend his life here, listening to the strong, steady beat of Gibbs’s heart. It made him feel safe. It didn’t matter where they lived; Gibbs would always be home.


“Go back to sleep,” Gibbs said, and there was just a hint of a chuckle in his voice. “Everything’s fine.” He rested his hand on Tony’s hair and stroked.


Tony closed his eyes, but he didn’t go back to sleep. He listened as Gibbs’s breathing deepened, and he began to snore.


Tony got up slowly, quietly, and slid out from under the sheets. He felt as if he was still in a dream as he walked out of the bedroom and along the hallway. He didn’t know why he was doing this, or what he thought he’d find in the guest room, but he was *Tony*. This was who he was.


“Nosy fuck up is what you are,” he muttered to himself in his father’s voice. “And you’re gonna ruin the best thing that ever happened to you by sneaking around in the middle of the night. Stupid fucking idiot. Always was a total fuck up; always will be.”


He pushed open the door, paused for a moment, and then stepped inside.


He didn’t know what he’d been expecting, but it wasn’t this.


The room was a shrine to people long since dead. There was a little girl’s bed, hand-made – no doubt by her doting father – painted pink with horses and ballet shoes stenciled around the edges, reflecting an eight year old’s obsessions.


There was a dresser with perfume bottles and jewellery on it. Tony let his fingers trail over a photograph of a woman with red hair cradling a newborn baby in her arms.


There was no dust on the photo frame. This place wasn’t a forgotten shrine – it was visited regularly and well cared for.


What had all Gibbs’s ex-wives made of the ghosts who lived in this room?


“No wonder he got divorced so often,” he muttered, reaching out to open the closet door. Then he paused. None of Gibbs’s relationships after Shannon had lasted. What the hell made him think he’d be any different?


He opened up the closet anyway and found a mix of dresses – some that belonged to a little girl and some that belonged to an adult woman.


“You never could get over them, you poor bastard, and I don’t think you ever will.”


Maybe he should have been surprised by what he’d found here, but he wasn’t. This was who Gibbs was, and didn’t he, more than anyone else, know exactly what effect losing Shannon and Kelly had had on him? Hadn’t he been the one who had seen and dealt with Gibbs in his darkest hour?


A hand touched his shoulder, and he jumped and let out what might have been a ludicrously high-pitched scream. Then he laughed in relief when he saw Gibbs. The laughter faded in his throat when he realized where he was and what he was doing.


“Sorry. Snooping. You know me. Can’t help myself,” he murmured in apology. “Couldn’t sleep. Kept wondering what you could possibly be hiding in here. Didn’t guess it was this. Should have…”


He trailed off as he looked at his lover’s face. Gibbs looked pained but not surprised or disappointed. Just…sad. Hadn’t that always been the case though? And wasn’t it his job to cheer him up, then and now? That much hadn’t changed.


“Damn it, Jethro, you’ve got three ex-wives!” he said shakily, sitting down on the corner of the bed. “Didn’t they ever…?”


“Object?” Gibbs raised an eyebrow.


“Well yeah.” Tony made a face. “Couldn’t be easy on the second Mrs. De Winter…or the third. Or the fourth.” Or the fifth, he added silently to himself because that was, effectively, him. “Uh…that’s a movie reference. It’s also book…haven’t read the book, because, well, we both know I don’t read books, but I’ve seen the movie. Damn good movie. Rebecca…”


He knew that he was waffling again. He always did when he was nervous.


“Rebecca was the first Mrs. De Winter, and her ghost was always there, hanging over the second,” Tony explained as Gibbs quirked an eyebrow upwards. “The second Mrs. De Winter never had a name. Unlike me. I’m greedy. I’ve got two: Andy…Tony…not sure either of them can defeat these ghosts though, Jethro.” He waved his arm at the eerie room.


“Andy already did,” Gibbs said gruffly, closing the closet door. “Seventeen years ago. I’d be dead if it wasn’t for him. I’d have swallowed that gun and killed myself.”


“And Tony? What the hell can he do against ghosts this powerful?” Tony asked, glancing around the shrine to a woman and a little girl that Gibbs had loved too much to ever let them go.


“I’m not the only one with ghosts, Tony,” Gibbs told him. “I heard you talking to yourself just now. Telling yourself what a fuck up you are. You sounded just like your father.”


“Well…he’s always in my head.” Tony sighed. “Old bastard. Should have known I wouldn’t get rid of him just ’cause he died.”


“Some habits are hard to break.” Gibbs touched the photograph on the dresser with his fingertips.


“I wouldn’t ever ask you to forget them,” Tony told him.


“And you couldn’t forget your father if you tried,” Gibbs replied.


“Well, then I guess you’re right. We both have our ghosts, benign or hostile.” Tony managed a wan smile.


Gibbs came over to him, tipped up his chin, and looked in his eyes. “We always did. That’s how we began.”


“Can we defeat them together? Like last time?” Tony asked. “I mean, you didn’t die, and I didn’t end up on the streets. Somehow it worked.”


“And it’ll work again this time.” Gibbs leaned down and kissed him gently on the mouth. “Trust me,” he said as he pulled away.


Tony smiled. “I do. I always did.”


Gibbs grinned. “Come back to bed. It’s cold in here.”


Tony gave a little shiver. “You’re right,” he said. “Too many ghosts.”






Tony gazed at the pictures on his computer screen, his heart thumping wildly as he read about Gibbs’s first wife, Shannon, and his little girl, Kelly. They had been murdered in 1991; killed by some bastard drug dealer.


Tony had been working with the man for the past five years, getting to know him as a real person, not just the fantasy object of his hero worship. The man, the real man, was infinitely more complicated and rewarding than the fantasy from that motel room years ago. Over time, his crush had turned to something far deeper and much less self-obsessed. He hadn’t been in love with Gibbs before, not really, that had been something closer to infatuation. Now though…*now* he was in love.


And now, also, the final piece of the jigsaw that was Leroy Jethro Gibbs fell into place.


1991. Shannon and Kelly had been killed just before Gibbs went on his road trip that ended up in a motel room in Ohio.


Now, finally, Tony understood what had been behind that savage, all-consuming grief. No wonder the poor bastard had slept with a gun under his pillow every night.


The last thing Gibbs must have wanted back then was some stupid kid intruding on his grief and insinuating himself into his bed and his life.


Tony could have gone looking for the answer to this part of the puzzle years ago, but something had always held him back. It felt too much like intruding maybe…or maybe he was just scared of what he’d find out. Either way, he’d held back until Gibbs had walked out of his life for the second time, leaving NCIS to go to Mexico.


Being abandoned again had made him angry, and he’d overcome his initial reluctance and gone searching for answers. It had taken him a few months – and in the meantime, Gibbs had come waltzing back into his life to resume his job at NCIS without a word of apology or explanation.


Director Shepard had offered him a job in Rota, and Tony had decided to take it so he could walk out on Gibbs the way Gibbs had walked out on him. That was before he found this. Now, as he gazed at the smiling faces of the little girl and the red haired woman, he knew he couldn’t take the job. He couldn’t leave Gibbs, no matter how many times the bastard walked out on him. He closed down the screen, got up, and went to tell Jenny his decision.


Later that night, when he was alone in his apartment, Tony took out the neatly folded piece of paper from his wallet and smoothed it out, as he’d done so many times over the past fifteen years.


“I forgive you,” he murmured, tracing the lines of the faded writing with his fingertip. “I forgive you for running out on me – twice. Shit, I didn’t know about your wife and daughter. I didn’t damn well know.”


He’d known Gibbs was screwed up, just like he was, but he’d never guessed about *this*. The grieving widower and the hustler; you couldn’t make it up.


“Should’a been a movie,” he said to himself. “Like Pretty Woman, except one hell of a lot darker.”


He folded up the piece of paper again and returned it to his wallet.


Now at least he understood. Gibbs had lost the great love of his life, and he wasn’t looking for another.


All that was left for him was to keep the promise he’d made at his job interview; he’d be the best he could be, and he’d never let Gibbs down.


Gibbs wasn’t his to love. He never had been. He belonged to that red haired lady and that pretty little girl, long dead though they were. He walked every day with ghosts, and the past still cast its long, dark shadows over him.


Tony could only watch over him and hope that one day he’d step back into the light.






“Hi honey, I’m home!” Tony yelled as he walked through the door.


Gibbs came jogging down the stairs, dressed in an old pair of sweats and a dusty tee shirt.


“You ever gonna get tired of that joke?” Gibbs growled, pulling him close and kissing him deeply anyway.


“Hmmm. Let me think…” Tony pretended give it some thought. They’d been together a week, and every time he’d returned home he’d yelled out the same thing, like a kid too excited to ever let it drop. This was their first weekend together, and he’d left Gibbs to work on the new closet while he went out to run some errands. “Uh…no.” Tony grinned and pulled Gibbs back in for another kiss. “Mmmm…you’re sweaty. I like it. And the whole handyman thing? Totally works for me. Hmm, is that a chisel in that tool belt or are you just pleased to see me?” He gave a lascivious grin, reaching for Gibbs’s fly, but Gibbs batted his hands away.


“You’re late. Chores take longer than you thought?” he asked.


“Aw…you were worried about me.”


“I was worried about getting a hot meal before it’s time to go to bed. It’s your turn to cook, remember?” Gibbs retorted.


“Oh yeah.” Tony glanced around the dark hallway. The boxes he’d brought his stuff over in were piled up by the door. They hadn’t been there when he’d left this morning. Maybe Gibbs had finished the closet already and thrown his stuff into it and was now getting rid of the boxes.


“I…uh…look…I wasn’t just running some errands like I said,” he muttered, feeling his ears go hot. Gibbs raised an eyebrow. “I was doing something else. See…I was thinking about those ghosts…and…well…if I’m gonna fight back then I’d like to actually do something; something real, not metaphorical. If you get my meaning.”


“Not really, DiNozzo.” Gibbs grunted. “You gonna start making sense any time soon?”


Tony took a deep breath, reached into his pocket, and took out an envelope. “This is for you,” he said.


Gibbs looked at the envelope, a puzzled frown on his face, and then back at Tony. Then he slid his finger through the seal and drew out the slip of paper inside.


“It’s a check,” Tony said hurriedly. “I don’t know how much you paid to put me through college, and I don’t know how to figure out all the interest over the years, but I figure…this kind of pays off the debt.”


He could feel himself flushing even more as Gibbs’s intense, blue-eyed gaze came to rest on him questioningly.


“See…my father’s voice is always in my head, telling me what a worthless, lazy, no good shit I am, and I wanted to prove him wrong by doing something right for a change.”


“You didn’t need to do that, Tony. There were no strings attached to that money,” Gibbs said softly.


“I did need to do it. I’m my own man, Gibbs. I will always be grateful to you for what you did…but I want you to know I’m in this relationship as an equal, not some kind of pity case.”


“Never thought of you as that.”


“I know that…but the ghostly voice in my head didn’t.” Tony gave a wry grin.


A suspicious look entered Gibbs’s eyes. “Where did you get the money, Tony?”


Tony sighed. “It’s okay. I didn’t want anything of his. I’ve got something a hell of a lot better now. Something you can’t buy with all the cash in the world.”


“Tony…if you’ve done what I think you’ve done…”


“Look, I might have wanted that car when I was a kid, but I grew up!” Tony interrupted.


“Damn it! I knew it. You sold the Ferrari! Aw, hell, Tony – you loved that damn car.”


“Yeah…but I love you more.” Tony pulled Gibbs into his arms and kissed him again. “A hell of a lot more,” he said softly.


When he pulled back, he thought he saw a glimmer of a new kind of respect in Gibbs’s eyes. The man had always loved him, he knew that, but maybe he’d never seen him exactly as an equal before. He did now.


“So…you want a hand throwing out these empty boxes?” Tony went to pick one up, only to find that it wasn’t empty as he’d expected. It was heavy, packed to the brim. “Uh…are you throwing me out, Jethro?” He stood up and looked at Gibbs, startled, wondering what the hell was going on.


“Idiot.” Gibbs rolled his eyes. He flicked open one of the boxes, and Tony caught sight of a pink dress and a toy horse. “Can’t throw out the photos, Tony. I’ll never do that. But…what the hell am I gonna do with a bunch of dresses and some old toys?”


“Shannon and Kelly are part of who you are, Jethro,” Tony said quietly.


“I know. But that doesn’t change whether I keep all this stuff or not. They’ll always be part of who I am. Just as your old man is part of who you are. What we have to do is make sure it’s a good part.”


“Not sure any part of my old man was good,” Tony said.


Gibbs laughed. “You just sold his car. I actually think he’d be proud of you for that.”


“I’d prefer it if you were proud of me for that, not him.”


“Tony – I’ve always been proud of ya.” Gibbs rested his hands on Tony’s shoulders. “You never once disappointed me, or let me down. When you walked into that interview room seven years ago, so strong, and proud, and confident, you blew me away. You weren’t that kid I’d pulled out of that dumpster all those years ago. You grew up good.”


“If I did it was because of you, not my father.”


“No, it was because of you – the man you are inside. I didn’t need the proof, but thank you for it anyway.” Gibbs folded the check and slipped it into his pocket. “Now…are we done fighting ghosts? ‘Cause I’m starving! Time to eat.” He jerked his head towards the firelight glowing in the living room next door.


“Oh yeah…” Tony glanced around at the piled up boxes in the dark hallway. “We’re done fighting ghosts, Jethro.”


Gibbs put an arm around his neck and pulled him close for another kiss, and then they stepped back into the light together.


The End


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