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Chapter 6: Yet more Christmas Eve and FINALLY Christmas Morning
Tobias stood in a corner of the kitchen by the outside door frowning, watching Ducky entertain Tony and Derek Morgan with some story of an escapade from his time at boarding school as a lad. When a beer bottle appeared in front of him, Tobias took it without thinking and chugged about half of it. Gibbs chuckled softly beside him.
“Explain to me again what one of those bastard stuck up profilers is doing here again.” Gibbs just rolled his eyes and absent mindedly petted Clooney, who had stuck close by his side since their introduction. He’d already explained the same story three times, and by his tone in the fourth telling, Tobias better damned well be able to tell that this would be the last time. Gibbs hated Feebs as much as anyone, but personally he thought Derek seemed like a pretty good guy, at least so far. Certainly if he passed the patented DiNozzo rule #2 ‘Don’t trust the FBI until your gut tells you to’ then he must be ok.
“For the very damned last time, Tobias, he’s a friend of Tony’s who had nowhere to go for the holiday. He an’ Tony played college ball against each. They reconnected with other after they both moved here to DC. Derek is and I quote straight from DiNozzo himself ‘my Tobias’. They take out their work frustrations on each other when they play basketball at the Y and make bets when their teams play. Any of this sinkin’ in jackass? At least Derek didn’t marry Wendy!”
Tobias glared and opened his mouth to respond, but was cut off by Gibbs before he could speak. “Look he’s one of the few real friends Tony has outside of NCIS, and that he’s comfortable enough to be himself around that he can drop his masks including the people that he knows at NCIS. As far as I’m concerned, anyone important to Tony is important to me, So pull the stick out or I’m keepin’ your damned Christmas gift for myself.”
Tobias glared, but gave in, no longer having the heart to argue when Gibbs pointed out how thoroughly Tony trusted this profiler. As much as he liked to harass DiNozzo, he had a lot of respect for the kid. He knew how isolating their profession could be outside of work. Most people couldn’t understand the necessity of the all-consuming nature of working in any branch of law enforcement. Having friends who worked the job, especially for another agency came in handy both at and outside of work.
Tobias watched Tony and Derek start to lay everything out on the counter so they could fill their plates buffet style before heading to the table in the dining room. The ease that the two men moved around each other, even when one was in a completely unfamiliar environment confirmed the trust and familiarity the two had with each other. Gibbs moved to let Clooney out into the backyard and then moved to put his special doggy safe Christmas Eve dinner in his bowl that Tony had prepared for him apparently earlier.
As he watched DiNozzo and Morgan, Ducky came up smiling happily. “What a delightful man Anthony’s friend is!” Fornell snorted, but was saved from responding as Tony chose that moment to call them to dinner. The Christmas Eve meal was a huge success with all five men getting along, even Fornell once he settled down and stopped grumbling about the damned profiler. Although Tony did make a tinfoil hat at one point and put it on Tobias’ head, which amused the other three immensely.
After dinner Ducky corralled Gibbs and Fornell into helping with the cleanup saying that Anthony had cooked and Derek not only had assisted him, but was a guest. Gibbs tried to protest that he’d helped too, and Fornell claimed he was also a guest, but Ducky was having none of it, and both men realized that it was just easier to give in. By the time they were done, Tony and Derek had set up the table for a good ol’ night of cards playing Oh Hell, which was a rousing success. By midnight everyone was tired enough that everyone shuffled off to their assigned rooms. Derek took the couch, not even willing to discuss taking the guest room, despite Tony’s warning that his back would not thank him for that decision in the morning. Eventually, after Clooney came back in from his final round of potty and sniffs in the back yard, everyone headed to their beds.
Around three AM, Tony found himself sneaking back downstairs to sit in front of the fire in the recliner and watch the tree that had been left on. He’d tried hard to sleep. He and Gibbs had talked quietly for a while until Gibbs fell asleep mid-sentence, but Tony found that his mind just couldn’t shut down enough for him to fall asleep himself. He was hoping Gibbs stayed asleep because he wasn’t sure that he could explain to the older man where his head was at. Worries had started creeping up on him as the night progressed, and Tony had found himself using his many years of undercover experience to maintain his carefree happy go lucky exterior, although he wasn’t sure how well it’d worked.
Tony had thought that after the unexpected date the previous weekend and their long talk that afternoon while cooking that everything was worked out inside of him. Obviously he was mistaken. Slowly as he’d sat there trying to enjoy the evening, something began to settle in his gut, and then started squeezing his lungs until he had to physically restrain himself from running. He couldn’t help but look toward the front door, as his hands clenched the arm rests as if they were the only things keeping him seated.
“If you so much as twitch towards the front door, I’m gonna tackle your ass, bitch.” Tony’s head whipped toward the couch, where Derek was still laying with his eyes closed and offered an automatic, “jerk”. As Tony watched him though, Derek finally sat up and stared at him. “Sorry,” Tony offered quietly, “I didn’t mean to wake you up.”
“I tried my best to be quiet.”
Derek rolled his eyes. “Wasn’t sleeping. This couch sucks.” Tony snorted. “Told you not to argue with Fornell and take the damn guestroom, but does anyone ever listen to DiNozzo? Nooooooooooooo.” Derek huffed and muttered something, but all Tony caught was the world old. Derek rubbed a hand over his face then gave Tony his “I’m a profiler and you can’t con me” look. “What’s goin’ on with you? You’ve been in flight mode all night.” Tony shook his head and ran one hand through his hair, making sections stand on end, while he ran the other hand through Clooney’s for after the dog moved to his side.
“I don’t know. The only thing that I do know is that I’m scared shitless, and I thought I’d gotten past this. I just can’t help think… Fuck! It doesn’t ever work.” Tony tried to swallow the lump in his throat unsuccessfully. “Man, D, I can’t even tell you how bad I fucking want this. I don’t think there’s anything in my life, including my father’s love and approval, I’ve ever wanted more than this relationship with Gibbs. The thing that has crept into my head though and won’t leave is when the fuck has the universe ever given me the thing that I wanted the most? If anything it holds it out in front of me and then at the last possible fucking second snatches it away. What the fuck am I supposed to do then, D? You fucking tell me. What the fuck do I do then?”
Derek nodded at his friend hearing his voice break, and the emotion behind his words. It was at times like this that he wished profiling came with more answers than it did. Sometimes it seemed like the times when he needed answers the most, were the times he had least to offer. “I don’t know, man, but I’ve never been one to live my life by the bad things that could happen. When I was a kid after my dad was killed, my Gramma Morgan once told me that every good thing we get has to be balanced out by a bad thing.”
“She said that everything had to balance out because that’s just the way the universe works, but that doesn’t mean that it’s tit for tat. She said that sometimes you get a lot of little good things and one bad thing, or a bunch of equal good and bad. Sometimes though when it seems like you’ve gotten nothing but a lot of really big bad things one right after the other with only teeny tiny good things, it’s because the universe is savin’ up all that good stuff to give you one really big good. All the bad you had was just storing up to offset that huge good that was comin’ along later in life. So no matter how hard it got, you just had to remember that there must be something that much bigger of good comin’ along later.”
“I can tell you for sure that if the worst happens, ain’t no way that I’m lettin’ you walk that road alone, brother. I also can tell you that as someone who gets paid to read people that everything I saw tonight screams that you’re man up there loves the hell out of you. No matter where you stood in this room tonight, unless it was right at his side, his eyes were on you and you alone.”
“I can tell you that despite what my co-workers would say that is something that I would kill for. So, while I know that I’m not a relationship guru, my paycheck says the government at least thinks I’m pretty good at reading people. So in my professional BAU opinion the only thing I see snatching that man away from you, is the reaper. Like I said before, brother, if that happens nothin’ will tear me from your side.” At the top of the stairs, unseen by either man, Gibbs nodded and turned to go back to his room, where hopefully Tony would come back to soon.
Back in the living room, Tony turned his attention to Clooney as he considered Derek’s words. Finally, having made a decision, Tony gave Clooney a final pat on the side, stood, and nodded to Derek before heading back upstairs to bed. After stripping back down to his boxer briefs, he climbed back between the covers on his side, which was the furthest from the door. Rolling over to face Gibbs, trying to get comfortable, he startled when he saw a pair of blue eyes watching him. “Feel better?” Gibbs asked softly, and Tony nodded biting his lip. “Sorry, Jethro, I don’t know what is wrong with me.”
“This isn’t work Tony, I don’t need you to have all the answers right now and I never want you to apologize to me about how you feel. That isn’t something that you can control, and I would never get upset at you because of how you felt. I know all of your experience with me is as a boss, but I’d like to think that I’m not as demanding in my relationships as I am at work. Or at least I hope I wasn’t with Shannon. I realize my ex-wives would most definitely argue that point, but I’d like to believe that at one point I knew how to leave the ‘second B is for bastard’ at the door when I came home.”
“I understand that this is all new to you, and to be honest, I haven’t been this committed to wanting a relationship to work since I lost my girls. For the record also, I am completely ok with you talking things through with Derek and Jimmy. All I ask is that you keep me in the loop, even if it’s as simple as a ‘hey, I’m struggling with something and not ready to talk to you about it yet’. I also realize that I am pretty much the functional mute you joke about me being, so I promise to do my best at giving you the same courtesy. I know he isn’t your favorite person, but it’s possible sometimes there are things I will need to talk over with Fornell. I will try my best to leave sensitive things that may involve stuff you don’t want him to know to talkin’ over with Ducky, but sometimes Fornell will be the one I need to talk to.”
Tony though about this and nodded carefully. Jethro was right. He wasn’t crazy about having Fornell know about his personal life, but if he really thought about it, chances were that Jethro probably wasn’t really crazy at having Jimmy Palmer know such intimate details of their relationship either. “I can handle that, and I promise to try and keep things that are really personal to being things I talk to Derek about. I know you probably would feel better if Jimmy doesn’t know intimate details either.” Gibbs smiled, and Tony nodded then pushed the older man onto his back so that he could snuggle down to sleep with his head on Jethro’s shoulder.
When Tony woke up in the morning, he was alone in bed, but the spot that he’d rolled into was still warm, so he must not have been alone too long. Knowing it was going to be a rare moment to himself, Tony snuggled deeper into Jethro’s abandoned spot, inhaling his scent, and pulling the covers up to his nose. Taking another deep breath of Jethro’s scent, Tony took a moment to internally assess how he felt that morning.
He had to admit that between Derek and Jethro he did feel somewhat better than he had the night before about this whole relationship situation. He counted himself lucky to have made a friend who had his back like Derek did. It definitely helped knowing that if the worst happened he’d at least have the profiler, and most likely Jimmy, also, to help keep him functioning. Hopefully the worst would never happen, but it was nice to know that if it did that he wouldn’t be alone as he had so many times in the past.
His new found support of course didn’t mean he had no more concerns, because he did, but he also trusted Jethro enough that if he said that those concerns were understandable, and he wasn’t worried about it, that it really was ok. He was definitely moving down roads that he’d never travelled before. Not with Jeanne, who was as much if not more of a product of Tony DiNardo’s feelings than they were Tony DiNozzo’s. Snorting he couldn’t help but thinking that he sounded more than a little like Sybil with that comparison. However, he had long ago accepted it was just one facet of working undercover that you had to be comfortable with. Even Wendy, whom he had almost married, hadn’t felt like this. Looking back Tony could admit that while yes he did care for her, it was something easy, safe, it was everything that Tony believed at the time that he was supposed to want, but didn’t come anywhere close to what he felt for one Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
Since there was no one privy to this conversation he was having with himself, Tony let himself ponder how much he wanted this. This new bright and sparkly shiny relationship was most likely the most important thing he’d ever longed for in his entire existence. It was funny, because he realized that when he focused on that fact, and that fact alone, letting nothing else invade his mine, listening to that thought bounce around until it was so big and loud that it shattered all other thought, nothing else mattered.
This certainly was not the first adversity that Tony had faced. It was not even close to being the first time that something he wanted may contradict what society or even more specifically people who were close to him though that he was capable of or worth possessing. It was absolutely not the first time he had stood at the bottom of a mountain and looked up, and felt scared to death that he’d never find the top. The thing was that never, even in all the years he’d been on this planet, had he ever let himself be talked out of or away from something that he really wanted. Life may steal it from him, but he had never and he would never lose because he stopped trying. If he’d been prone to quitting when the obstacles in life seemed insurmountable, he would no doubt not have made it out of childhood.
Just as that realization took hold in his mind, Tony head the bedroom door open, and felt the bed dip as the smell of coffee reached his nose. “You gonna get up some time today?” Tony smiled as he felt Gibbs’ fingers in his hair, and if he’d been a cat, he would have arched his back and purred.
“Warm,” Tony muttered then turned his head toward Gibbs. “Morning. Merry Christmas. Coffee. Don’ wanna get up.”
Gibbs chuckled and held a mug in front of Tony’s face. “Morning. Merry Christmas. Coffee. Get your ass up.”
Tony laughed happily and sat up, then leaning in got a quick kiss, before stealing his coffee mug. Taking a big swallow, he was happy to taste peppermint mocha, and rewarded Gibbs with a big smile. “Mmm Peppermint Mocha!”
“Ok, I’m up. Let me take a shower and I’ll be right down.” Gibbs nodded and stole a kiss of his own, before leaving and shutting the door again. Tony took another sip then got out of bed, leaving his coffee on the side table before stripping and heading into the bathroom to shower and get ready for the day.
Note: I don’t know where the animosity from Tobias toward the BAU came from, but it seemed to fit so I left it. I seriously love the interaction between Tony & Derek, there needs to be more fic with the two of them having a nice quality friendship.