Chapter Note: Some of the cannon background for Tony and Derek may be wrong. I didn’t check it out because I wrote it as I wanted it for the story purpose. If it is inaccurate, please just consider it AU for this universe.
See the Main Page for Characters, Relationships, Content Warnings, Etc.
Chapter 5: Christmas Eve Continued
Tony let himself into Gibbs’ house, knowing the older man would have to talk to the Director before leaving, dropping his overnight bag by the staircase, before walking into the living room open mouthed at the transformation. A tree was now in front of the window fully decked out in lights and what looked like old antique ornaments waiting to turn on. Tony could hear the timer clicking away, and couldn’t wait to see the tree lit up. The fireplace mantle had what smelled like fresh garland draped over it.
Grinning he put his gifts that he’d gotten Tobias, Ducky, and Gibbs under the tree with exception of the necklace, which he placed on one of the branches in the upper middle of the tree. He was happy to see that it was able to be seen, but not too obvious. It wouldn’t do to take away all the surprise. The bag that he’d had the gifts in, still had a few left inside of it, but those were for his friend and he hadn’t wanted to leave them at home, unsure when they were going to touch base. Picking the bag up he moved it to set by the wall shared by the entrance way so that he could put it back in his car later.
When Gibbs came through the door later, having spent a half hour with the Director filling him in on Tony’s case and discussing Leon’s plans for their first Christmas without Jackie, he could already smell Tony’s hard work in the kitchen. Spotting the overnight bag on the floor by the stairs, he rolled his eyes. Picking it up, he carried it up and into the master bedroom, where he and Tony would be staying, and dropped it on the bed, before undressing so that he could change into more comfortable jeans and a sweatshirt.
Going back downstairs and into the kitchen, Gibbs hesitated as the past and present combined momentarily. Shannon had loved spending time in the kitchen and one of his favorite things had been to watch her cooking, usually singing along with something on the radio as she cooked for her family. Now, Tony could be seen bopping in front of the stove along with the song on the old radio he must have brought up from the basement. He’d found one of the stations that was playing 24 hours of Christmas music, singing along to Jingle Bell Rock, and Jethro was glad that he’d paused to listen.
He’d certainly heard Tony sing in the car a handful of times, but that was always short and so softly that Gibbs had never gotten a real appreciation for how good of a singer the other man was. With a husky, rich voice Gibbs found himself relaxing, almost feeling as if Tony’s voice was filling him with the magic of Christmas. In the car Gibbs had always gotten the feeling that Tony just had to sing, but knew his boss would skewer him if he did. Here in the kitchen thinking that he was alone, Tony held nothing back throwing himself all into the joy of the song.
Finally after listening to that and then a rendition of Silent Night that gave Gibbs goose bumps and in his humble opinion was better than whatever that person on the radio thought they were doing, Gibbs headed in. Almost shyly, he leaned in and kissed Tony’s cheek. “Merry Christmas, Tony. What can I do it help?”
Tony turned quickly and smiled big, the rare honest smile that lit up his eyes, but that few people ever got to see. Gibbs considered himself honored to be on the list of people who did, and found his breath stolen from him for the second time I since coming home. “That means I get to be in charge, Boss?” Tony asked cheekily, eyes dancing and clearly happy.
Jethro snorted at the glee in Tony’s eyes at the mere thought, and shrugged his shoulders thinking, ‘What the hell.’ “Not at work, Tony, and as far as I’m concerned this is your kitchen. All I know how to do in here is make coffee and easy breakfast stuff like eggs, breakfast meat, and hash browns, toast and cereal, too, but mostly things that are almost foolproof. You’re doin’ things in here I couldn’t home to replicate.”
Tony paused then nodded, and smiled that smile again. Jethro found himself mentally changing the clicker to 3 in his mental tally on the How Many Times DiNozzo REALLY Smiles counter. “Ok, Jethro.” Tony started slightly emphasizing his name happily, “the veggies for the tray need to be cut up. They’re all down in your crisper tray, minus the lettuce, carrots and tomatoes. Lettuce we won’t use ‘til tomorrow, and the tomatoes are little cherry tomatoes so you don’t need to cut them. Similar goes for the carrots. I bought the baby carrots so we won’t have to do anything with them. The mushrooms just peal the outer layer off. I know it’s weird but…”
Tony shrugged as he turned back to stir his broth. “I like them better that way. Can I ask you a question or few while we’re doin’ this?” Tony sneaked a peek at Gibbs as he asked seeing the older man nod. “Gotta couple of things that I’d like to ask myself, Tone, but you go ahead and start. M’glad you brought it up ‘cause I wasn’t sure how.”
Tony nodded watching Gibbs as the soup broth simmered behind him. He didn’t want to move too far away from the stove, since he was unfamiliar with it and didn’t want the broth to begin to boil. So he wanted to stay where he could quickly turn the heat down and pull the pot off the burner for a minute or two if needed. “We haven’t really talked about what we’re doing here. I don’t necessarily need labels or want to skip through the bullpen holding hands, and singing Its Raining Men, but I would like to make sure that we’re on the same page here. I… this is… Even though Wendy and I were certainly in a long committed relationship somehow this feels… different, and I just want to make sure we’re at least reading the same book, ya know?”
After Gibbs nodded, Tony took a deep breath knowing that he was about to lay himself open, but also knew that it was up to him to do it. Chances were Gibbs would never initiate a conversation like this, as he’d already admitted he didn’t even know where to begin.
“I know what my reputation is, mostly because I worked damned hard to cultivate it. I’ve always been more flexible than people expect. Some of the women that I talked about were actually men, and some of the interactions may have been in some part fictional or enhanced, for the most part though the lack of long term was deliberate. Partly that was because I wasn’t ready to trust someone would want to put up with me long term. Another part of it was because I knew that you were the one that I wanted, and I had learned the hard way that substitutions wouldn’t work.”
As Tony paused to take a breath, Gibbs cocked his head to one side, pausing his careful slicing, and looking over at Tony asked, “Jeanne?”
Tony nodded sighing as he thought back on the disaster that was that undercover assignment. “Looking back I think that she was just the result of a perfect storm. You were gone when it began and with the way that you left, I wasn’t sure that there was any hope that you’d be back. Jenny was all over me about The Frog thing. I was working insane hours with the undercover time figured in. If I was lucky, I was getting maybe 4 hours of sleep most nights. I had almost no backup or support. If it wasn’t for Jimmy Palmer I would have had no one. I just felt so isolated and lonely at the time and it just seemed like everyone wanted to take without giving back. Looking back I think that it just became easier to slip into Tony DiNardo, whose life was pretty damned good, than it was to be myself.”
Gibbs frowned at the almost confirmation of the things he’d heard over the years since his return. He wasn’t a fool. He knew there would be some upheaval as people settled into the new dynamics after he left, but when he heard words like “isolated” and “no backup” he was more than a little disturbed. Tony speaking again brought him out of his own head, but mentally he filed away the questions he wanted to ask later.
“I think, and Jesus I’m not putting this on you because I can’t even imagine how you survived losing your girls twice, I think that if you’d been here I wouldn’t have slipped over the line. I just… Jeanne felt like all the real support I had most days and I was scared to death that I’d die alone someday. Given the fact that I was working an unsanctioned backup-less case the chances that I would end up dead were… well at the forefront of my mind. I just… I wanted something good and real and… she felt like the most real option available.”
Gibbs nodded as he processed all he’d heard, before Tony continued. “But back to us, I have wanted this chance for what feels like forever. Right now it feels like it’s everything that I’ve been waiting for my whole life. I want this to be a relationship, serious and committed and all that jazz. There is no way that I could do casual or friends with benefits with you. As it is I may scratch the eyes out of every redhead that comes within 100 yards of you. Considering the new SevNAv’s hair color that obviously is an impulse I am working on containing and I will do my best not to get myself fired though, Boss. I promise.”
Gibbs snickered as Tony just shrugged before starting back up again. “I have always embraced my Italian heritage, for the most part anyway, so I fully expect there to be large quantities of passion and possessiveness if the few past relationships I’ve had are anything to go by. I know that you’re the Alpha male here, and that everyone thinks that I am just some submissive lapdog, but even lapdogs will bite the hand that gets too close to their master.”
“I want this… us thing, Gibbs, and I won’t just roll over for anyone who tries to step between us whether they are friend or foe. I am 100% committed to a long term relationship with you if that is what you want too, Jethro.”
Gibbs nodded and paused to process before responding understanding the seriousness of the conversation and fully aware that his usual grunt and nod method would not be sufficient. Tony needed to hear real words and reassurance and given Gibbs’ previous realization that he had to do better in his personal relationships, he was determined to give this his best effort, even if he may not be able to state his feelings as well as Tony did.
“First off, I want to say that you commented on something while you were talking about Jeanne that I want to come back to later. When you used words like isolated and no backup it concerns me and makes me wonder where the hell Abby, Ziva and McGee were. Especially McGee considering he was your SFA at the time. I know there’s been a lot of water under the bridge since then, but the fact that you mentioned it tells me that something is still unresolved and giving you pause with this… whatever we’re calling what we’re doing. I don’t understand how you could have been left to feel like that, and I want to understand. They are your friends and isolated with no backup should never have happened.”
When Tony just snorted Gibbs frowned again and filed the response away with the questions. He had a feeling it was an instinctual reaction and made him even more uneasy about what had gone down all those years ago. It also reinforced his belief that whatever happened then had something to do with Tony’s unease at this whatever building between them. While Ziva was gone (and the longer time went on, the more he had to wonder if maybe that wasn’t a good thing), McGee and Abby were still there, and while he may respect McGee and love Abby like a daughter, he would not allow them to come between this second chance he was being blessed with.
“As for the rest, well you know I’m not as good with using words as you are, but I want you to know I’m serious about this, too. I could never share you with anyone like that. You already know I’m a possessive bastard and that just flat out won’t change. I also want to warn you that while I won’t ever be… well… I’m not… or I used to not be, when Shannon was alive, as big a bastard outside of work as I was at work. There was my “the second B is for Bastard” work personality and then there was Jethro at home. Somewhere that second at home personality got buried, and I’m tryin’ to get him back. I want to be able to be with you like I was with Shannon, I wanna… I’m not… Hell.”
Jethro ran a hand through his hair, but calmed as Tony smiled encouragingly. “I ain’t ever gonna be big on suckin’ face in public, but… I’m not opposed to holdin’ hands and little touches and things once we’re comfortable like that with each other. I… I want to be able to express I love you in my own way, which I’m sure you’ll guess is more about gestures than this talkin’ shit.” Tony snorted, and Gibbs could see the amusement in his eyes as he put a hand over his mouth, but he didn’t take offense understanding Tony meant no disrespect by it.
“Just to interject quickly, I’m good with the touching stuff… like I said Gibbs… Italian. Along with the possessive and passion comes touching and things I try to rein in, but would like to let go when we aren’t at work so. That’s good with me too.” Tony nodded just to confirm his words and Jethro sighed feeling a little more at ease knowing unlike his three ex-wives Tony would accept him for who he is, then head slapped himself mentally for even thinking Tony would do anything else.
“As for the whole lapdog submissive crap… Anyone who thinks that is just a damned moron.” Gibbs stopped and scowled at the thought wishing he could go right out and kick the ass of whomever made Tony feel that way. “There’s a difference between loyalty and lapdog. You’ve always got after me when you thought that I’d gotten off track or think I’m goin’ too far. I know maybe not so much lately because I probably have made you think you couldn’t. Somewhere I got off track at work too, and I wanna change that as well, but that’s something I also wanna hold off for later.”
“Anyway, lapdogs don’t stand up to their masters, and I wouldn’t have an SFA who didn’t want to and couldn’t kick my ass when I needed it. That’s one of the reasons that despite his aspirations, I’m not sure McGee will make it as high as he thinks he will. Somethin’ like that can only be taught out of ya so far, ‘cause in certain situations you will always be prone to reverting back to your natural instincts. So while it’s true he’s come a long way from where he was, mostly thanks you, he’s still too easily manipulated and intimidated into keeping his mouth shut.”
Gibbs briefly wished he had something to drink, ‘cause all this damned talkin’ was making him dry. When a bottle of beer suddenly appeared on the counter next to him he snorted and shook his head and hoped there would never come a time when Tony couldn’t anticipate his needs. It was nice to know someone knew him that well and was willin’ to stick around. Something else Tim was gettin’ better at, but would never have Tony’s natural instincts for.
“Tim seems to especially have trouble when it comes to people he knows. One of the things looking back that I wished I would have put a stop to was Ziva’s manipulation of him. It wasn’t good for him, and I should have stopped it, instead of calling it harmless because most of the time it was in house pranking and letting it go. In my opinion if anyone from the team has what it takes to be Director of NCIS it’s you. Hell I think Leon’s even comin’ around to the idea. I know he’s more aware that having nothing but yes men underneath him is a bad idea. It’s one of the reasons he promoted Granger, and if anyone shows my gut isn’t wrong about your potential it’s that man. You have all his strengths, but unlike him don’t tend to alienate the people below you like he does.”
Gibbs shook his head as his thoughts circled back to the yes man idea. It seemed his psyche was as irritated with the thought as the rest of him. “There’s a damned difference between being a yes man and knowing when and what battles to pick to fight. When the day comes that you’re sittin’ in that leather chair, I just hope that I am still around to say I told ya so.”
Tony blushed deep red at the praise, and turned back to fiddle with the broth adding the clams and checking the things in the oven, prosciutto parmesan twists, and pizza bread. Gibbs let him get away with ignoring the compliment, giving it a few moments before he asked his question.
“I appreciate you lettin’ me include Tobias and Ducky in this. I know you may be wary about them knowin’, especially Tobias, but you have my word that neither of ‘em would betray this trust for anything. Tobias may like to give you a hard time, but he really respects you. Hell if he thought I wouldn’t kill him and chop up his body in my basement, he’d probably make a bigger effort to get you to go over to the FBI and be on his team. I know for a fact that he’d replace Sacks with you in a heartbeat if you’d give him a chance.”
Gibbs took another sip of his beer and turned back to his vegetables before continuing. “If we hadn’t invited them to stay here, they’d both be alone. Diane has Emily this year, and it’s always hard on Tobias not bein’ able to see her at Christmas, and Ducky never misses his mother more than he does around this time of the year. I know I shoulda asked before but, do you have… is there anyone who you’ve told about all of this?”
Tony nodded absently as he took the twists and the bread out of the oven, setting them on cooling racks on the other end of the counter, and turning the oven down to cook the mushrooms later. He then turned on the heat under the pot he’d filled with water earlier before Jethro came home, that he would use to boil the shrimp. He wanted to get them cooked and cooled down in time to eat. One thing he hated was warm shrimp cocktail. “I know it may sound weird, but Jimmy Palmer is my Ducky.” Tony finally answered turning back to watch Jethro cut up the rest of the veggies.
Gibbs snorted softly at the irony of a bond having formed between the next ME and the future MCRT leader, but didn’t comment as Tony had continued mostly ignoring his response. “When you were… off in Mexico, and I was the one trying to do everything, almost always by myself… I don’t… I don’t want to go into the why’s of the situation. I am good with you wantin’ to talk about the specifics later like you mentioned before though as long as I can stipulate later being after the Christmas holiday weekend. I think… maybe… I think that it’ll piss you off. I won’t lie and say that there isn’t a part of me that hopes it does, but there’s also a part of me that’s afraid that you’ll NOT be upset and… I would be hurt if you weren’t at least a little upset by how they acted. Given that Abby is one of them, I know it’s a possibility and I just… “
Tony shook his head and took a swig of his beer. Once he composed himself he spoke softer than before forcing Gibbs to stop again and turn to look at him to hear what he was saying. “I know Abby is your favorite. Hell she makes sure everyone knows. For the most part, and on most days I’m ok with it, and I can swallow the bullshit because I know I don’t have other options, but also because I know I give out my own bullshit. Sometimes it’s hard to accept the get out of jail free forever card that Abby has with you, especially when you let her get a pass on things that hurt other people.”
“There is a big part of me that is really fucking scared of what is gonna come of us when everything comes to light from when you were gone as it relates to her, because I don’t know if I could survive the hurt of you picking her side and..” Tony swallowed, and then whispered, “And I lose you.”
Clearing his throat, Tony wiped impatiently at his eyes that had gotten misty. “So I don’t want to talk about that all today or this weekend because it scares me and I want to be happy right now. I think that I need to feel more secure in us before we address anything to do with Abby including her being let in on this new us. I think if we try to talk about it now when I’m insecure about what’s goin’ on here, everything will get jumbled together and I may misinterpret what you’re sayin’ because I’m already unsure of where I stand. I think if we give it time to be together and hopefully be happy together, it will go better.”
Shaking his head impatiently with himself, angry that he’d let himself get upset, Tony forced himself to get back on track. “Jesus, anyway… back to Jimmy… at the beginning when you were gone I didn’t have anyone. The first month or two was a nightmare. Then one night I was in the bullpen alone. Ziva and McGee had left already and I was trying to do my own reports so that I could do yours, but I’d been running on fumes between this rough case we’d just closed and Jeanne and my brain just didn’t want to focus.”
“So, I’m sitting there staring at my computer screen trying to get the letters to focus, when this paper ball hits me on the side of my head. I looked around, but didn’t see anyone. So, I stood up and was about to walk around to see if I could find the person, when another one hit me from the other side. So, I moved out from behind my… your… my desk and walked around our area and the area around us, but I couldn’t see anyone. When I got back there’s Jimmy at the desk with my favorite Chinese grinning like a fool.”
I think that I was so stunned and tired that I forgot to be pissed, not to mention the kid had a grin on his face a mile wide and was obviously proud of himself. Plus there was the fact that right about the second I got to my chair, my stomach growled ‘cause I was starving. I hadn’t eaten since the day before.” Tony grinned and shook his head.
“So I just sat and we ate and gabbed. It turned out that we had more to talk about than I’d expected. Jimmy’s not half bad once you got used to his sense of humor, which is a little on the warped side. When I asked him why he’d done it, bringing me dinner and staying to talk, he said that Black Lung’s job was to provide food and supplies. He said that he knew how long it’d been since I’d eaten and I hadn’t relaxed in forever.”
“Then he said that he couldn’t help with the way the others were treating me, ‘cause he was scared of Ziva, and he couldn’t help with the cases ‘cause he was just an assistant ME. He said that what he could do was make sure I ate and bugged me into going home to sleep occasionally and give me someone to talk to whether it’s to talk bullshit or vent. He didn’t really care which one it was. Then he finished by saying that it was what Ducky did for you and if he was lucky someday he’d be able to be my ME. So, he might as well start practicing on how to take care of me now.”
Tony smiled remembering the conversation and blushed slightly remembering his reaction to the whole thing. “Jimmy… he was the first one who acted as if not only did I belong in your position, but seemed to think that I would succeed. It… well it meant a lot to me. We’ve been friends ever since. He says that you returning didn’t change the future so he has to keep practicing.”
Tony chuckled and eyed Gibbs before going on. He couldn’t help but wonder how Jethro would take his next bit of news. “And then when I need a Tobias, I call my buddy Derek Morgan over at the BAU.” Gibbs’ eyebrow lifted at this news, but he managed to remain silent if only just barely. Tony having a friend who was not only in the FBI, but also a profiler was a story that he definitely wanted to hear. He knew how the younger man felt about the agency after their three attempts at pinning murder on him.
“Derek and I go back to college, kinda. He was the starting QuarterBack for Northwestern when I was starting for Ohio State. So we saw each other every year, and were… friendly the way you are in sports with people you see regularly. College football is mostly a big fraternity. We didn’t keep in touch or anything though, just hey nice game type of shit you say after one of you has kicked the other’s ass. After Dr. Pitt broke my leg, I couldn’t play in the Northwestern game that year, so we lost touch.”
“One of the first things I did after I moved here though was to join the Y so that I could play basketball when I had time. It’s usually cheaper than a regular gym and you get to spend more time workin’ with kids who were like me and need a stable adult in their lives. The first damned time I went to play, there was Derek. So after we got done with the how the hell are you’s and what the fuck are you doin’ here’s we played a game of one on one. Different sport than we were used to playing against each other, but not even a little bit any less competitive. I took out my frustration about my new asshole boss, that would be you by the way, on him, and he took out his frustration about his pencil pushing geek boss Gideon out on me… And as they say a friendship was born.”
“We call each other a few times a week and play ball still on the weekends when they aren’t out of town on a case. Sometimes when it’s a really long out of town trip I go over and take care of Clooney his dog. He can be left alone for a few days, but more than that and he gets restless. When his boss Hotch’s wife was murdered and Hotch had to take time off, they made Derek temporary team leader. So, he’d call me for pointers.”
Tony chuckles and shakes his head, then grins at Gibbs’, eyes twinkling. “He swears the next time Fornell tries to arrest me for murder he’s kickin his ass. They were out of town the first two times, and you guys mostly had it covered the second. He said the next damn time he better be my one call though. ‘Course he had the same problem once in Chicago when he went home to see his mamma and I said the same thing, so I guess it’s pretty even. When our teams play either football or basketball we try to get together to watch when we’re both in town and not on a case. If we can’t one of us records it and we watch together later. “
Tony pauses to size up how Gibbs was taking the information so far, relieved to see equal amounts of disbelief and amusement. “He knows that I have a crush on you, and I know that he suspects his boss and his best friend who is also on the team have the hots for each other, but haven’t done anything about it yet, at least not that he knows. I also know that he wishes that they would just pull their heads out and get it on already. We’ve plotted ideas how to make it happen, but so far he’s staying out of it.”
Gibbs does snort in amusement at this, and Tony just shrugs grinning. “We both hate the CIA. When we have stalking or bombing cases he lets me pick his brain. If they get anything close to organized crimes he calls me.” Tony shrugs again, but Gibbs isn’t surprised about that. Gibbs would be surprised if that was the ONLY time this Derek called Tony to pick his brain. Anyone who knew Tony for any length of time would know he’s a valuable resource when you needed someone to bounce ideas off of, even when it wasn’t a case that he was familiar with. Gibbs knew for a fact other team leaders inside NCIS called Tony up to do it all the time.
“I thought about asking if I could invite him to our Christmas sleepover thing we have goin’ on. He usually goes home to Chicago to see his mamma and sisters, but this year the girls decided to take her on a Christmas Cruise. He’s too damned stubborn to admit to his friends on his team that he doesn’t have anywhere to go. He says they all had plans and he didn’t want to be a tag along. I wasn’t sure about Fornell though, or how you would feel about it. He’d have to bring Clooney and…” Tony shrugged chewing on his lip. Gibbs rolled his eyes handing over his phone. “Call him.”
Tony grinned and nodded. “On it, Boss,” he replied before dialing Derek excited.
“I thought you had plans.” Is what Tony was greeted with when the phone stopped ringing. Tony couldn’t help but laugh at how much he sounded like Gibbs right then not bothering with hello and getting right down to business. He couldn’t remember the last time he was so happy, and didn’t feel the need to try and hide it, knowing Derek would hear it anyway. “I do, jerk, and so do you. Pack up Clooney and get your ass over here.”
Tony grinned at the muttered bitch from the other end of the line, but just talked over him. “Just bring my gift and we can exchange gifts tomorrow. Stop on the way and get some good bourbon for your host and bring a tin or two of that loose leaf English breakfast tea that Emily sent you by mistake instead of the bags, and you don’t use. Ducky will love it. Fornell… shit… just get him some booze when you buy Gibbs’, but you certainly don’t gotta break the bank for him as long as you don’t buy Gibbs the cheap shit I’m good. You and Toby Boy can fight over the second guest room, loser gets the couch. Clooney will have a big backyard to run around in just like at home, and I’ll make him a special doggy dinner tomorrow.”
Tony could see Derek frowning and shaking his head on the other end of the line. “Look, man, I appreciate it but…”
“Look yourself you jerk,” Tony said cutting him off, waiting for and getting the expected bitch back in return. “This was ordered by The Gibbs himself. You can argue with him as soon as I get to start calling up Hotch and arguing with his orders to you.” Tony pump fisted at the dead silence at that, knowing immediately that he’d won, earning a chuckle from Gibbs’ direction.
“Gimmie the address and we’ll be there in about an hour and a half or so.” Tony laughed again and flashed a thumb’s up to Gibbs. Turning back to the stove to decide what to cook next, he rattled off the address and hung up, not giving Derek time to change his mind. He knew he wouldn’t call back since he wasn’t familiar with the number Tony had called from.
Gibbs smiled and patted Tony on the back thinking to himself that he and this Derek person certainly sounded like him and Tobias. Going back to his cutting, Gibbs sensed that Tony was about worn out with the serious talk, and knew that he himself was. So, cheating, he asked another question to turn things to something lighter, even though it was Tony’s turn technically. So for the next hour or so he found himself being schooled on the variations in cinema of Ebenezer Scrooge.
Note: Had to throw in a shout out to one of my old fandoms. If for no other reason than it amused me, but I did try and make it subtle. *g*