Title: Fear and Determination
Characters: Tony DiNozzo, Aaron Hotchner, David Rossi
Relationship: Tony DiNozzo/Aaron Hotchner
Content: AU for NCIS Mid-season 3 and after, AU for Criminal Minds, Angst, Emotional Hurt/Comfort, Haley never existed, Aftermath of a Spousal Argument, Guilty!Hotch, Emotional!Tony, Tony leaves NCIS, Post Boxed In, Anti-Senior, Anti-Ziva
Notes: This isn’t my normal story tone, but it just sort of came out of nowhere. I want to stress this is NOT a domestic abuse or alcohol abuse fic. That is not what is happening. It’s not my intention and it’s not what was on my mind when I put the words down. This is very much an AU. I have mentally altered both Tony and Aaron’s backgrounds. Haley never existed.
Summary: Tony DiNozzo has known Aaron Hotchner since college and been in a committed relationship with him almost as long. One night when dual bad days collide the two partners butt heads resulting in an argument, which leaves hurt and guilty feelings all around. Aaron gets called out on a case before things can be resolved, and when he gets home neither man is sure what is going to happen next. Can two men very much in love patch things up, or have they reached the end of their road?
Tony was walking around the house feeling like his chest was going to cave in when he heard the front door open. Freezing in the hallway outside of the library, he waited like a deer frozen in an oncoming car’s headlights until Aaron swept into the hall. He wasn’t sure at first that the other man would see him, as he seemed focused on getting upstairs. His go bag was slung over his shoulder and his suit bag laid over one arm. The stairs were at the very beginning of the hallway, but there was a good chance that Tony wouldn’t be seen unless his husband looked up at the right moment. Even then, there was a chance that he was enough in the shadows that he might not be seen.
Apparently, the fates had other ideas though, because Aaron did look up at just the right moment, and the clouds shifted outside enough that a brief burst of sun came through the library windows to light up the hallway. The library that Tony hadn’t been able to go into since Aaron left on his case. The library that still held a broken decanter of scotch and a now alcohol soaked rug. He hadn’t cared then though, and he didn’t care now. There were too many memories of the past mixing with the presence to make him go into that room. Not after what happened.
He knew realistically that it could have happened the other way around. It wasn’t like he believed that Aaron had a drinking problem. He didn’t. It wasn’t like he believed that Aaron was abusive, verbally or physically. He wasn’t. Aaron was as controlled in his drinking as Tony was. Frat boy persona aside, outside of entertaining dignitaries and other important people for work, he didn’t drink much. When he did, he had very strict rules for himself. Just as he knew Aaron did. The problem was that Aaron’s really super horrible bad day collided with Tony’s day where he felt more insecure and vulnerable than normal. This made him the perfect target for Aaron’s burst of anger and frustration.
Aaron said the wrong thing in a burst of anger, his mind still in Unit Chief Mode, and Tony knew he overreacted because memories of an abusive childhood collided with the present blowing it out of proportion. The thing was that he wasn’t sure he wasn’t still feeling insecure and vulnerable and was scared to death that they wouldn’t be able to find a way to make sure it didn’t happen again. Because one thing was for sure, it absolutely could not happen again. It wasn’t good for Tony and it wasn’t good for Aaron. It certainly wouldn’t be good for the boys once they became theirs.
“Tony,” Aaron almost whispered as his bags dropped to land on the floor in a pile.
Wanting to wrap his arms around himself, Tony instead curled his hands into fists and shoved them into his front pockets as he stared at the man he’d been in love with since college. “Aaron,” he replied softly shifting his weight from one foot to the other.
“Sweetheart, I’m so sorry,” Aaron confessed quietly moving as if he was going to take a step toward Tony but stopped himself at the last minute. “I would never…”
“I know, Aaron,” Tony insisted firmly before taking a deep steadying breath. “I know you aren’t your father or mine for that matter. I just… If we were at work… If I was Special Agent Tony DiNozzo Senior Field Agent for the Major Crime Response Team at NCIS and you were Unit Chief Aaron Hotchner for the Behavioral Analysis Unit at the FBI, I could take anything you throw at me. Here though…”
“You shouldn’t have to take it here,” Aaron stressed urgently, his hand curling tightly around the banister. His knuckles turning white. “I don’t want you to take it here.”
“But the problem is that lately, you’ve been bringing him home,” Tony said quietly and painfully. He hated that he felt weak and flawed, but he did and he’d never had the shields around Aaron that he did everyone else. “You go into that study and he goes with you and I have too many memories…”
Tony stopped and cleared his throat to try and swallow the ball of fear and despair clogging it. “I’ve told you about Senior. Hell, you’ve met him. I know you remember the scene he caused at the wedding reception. When I was a child, he’d call me into his study and make me stand there in front of his desk as he drank his scotch. The more he drank, the worse it got. The worse the names he called me were and the worse the insults and taunting got and I was expected to just stand there quietly and absolutely still until he excused me. If I so much as flinched he beat the crap out of me. I can handle a lot of things, babe, but to stand in that study and listen to you talk to me like I’m some stupid LEO… I can’t… I’ve tried so hard to forget, but I just can’t get over it.”
“You shouldn’t have to, just get over it,” Aaron insisted. “You and I both know that some scars from childhood just never go away. I don’t want you to have to… You shouldn’t have to act a certain way in your own home or be afraid to go into a room. I think that we need to make some changes. Because you are too important to me and I love you too much to keep hurting you like that.”
“Changes like what?” Tony asked shifting forward a few steps before he stopped again.
“No more hard liquor in the house first of all,” Aaron said, and Tony immediately shook his head.
“Babe, you shouldn’t have to,” Tony started but got stopped when his husband cut him off.
“Yes, I should,” Aaron said carefully. “You hate it. You’ve always hated it. Even when you’re drinking it, you hate it. I can tell by the look on your face when your nose wrinkles and your lips curl inward as if you’re disgusted. You hate the taste. You hate the smell. You don’t even like seeing the bottle or decanters. Tell me I’m wrong, and I’ll drop it.”
Tony shifted his weight again but didn’t speak. Aaron was right. He hated it. He’d just never been able to get past the association he had with it to his father. Finally, his spouse took his silence for what it was and continued.
“Alright then. From now on, no more hard liquor, only beer in the house. If I’m out alone with Dave I might indulge in a tumbler, but when we’re together in public I’m not drinking hard liquor either. Next thing is that I need you to call me out when I’m being Unit Chief Hotchner at home. I don’t always even realize I’m doing it, and I don’t want him here in our house. He doesn’t belong here. Even if it’s something as simple as calling me Unit Chief Hotchner. That should be enough to snap me out of whatever mind space I’m in.”
Tony nodded as he took a deep breath while taking another couple steps closer to Aaron. “I can do that. I’ll try to tell you when I’m… having a bad brain day. That’s how I always think of them. I just… I hate being so pathetic.”
“Stop,” Aaron ordered then took a breath himself before continuing. “I hate it when you put yourself down like that. You aren’t pathetic. You’re a man who survived horrible mental and physical child abuse and neglect. The left scars that make you the man I love, and I hate hurting you when you’re vulnerable. Sometimes even I can’t tell with your masks though and my teasing comes across wrong because I don’t know.”
Tony nodded. “I try not to bring them here. I just can’t…”
“They are a part of who you are,” Aaron said understanding. “I know that sometimes you probably don’t realize you’re doing it any more than I do when I bring Unit Chief Hotchner home. When I can’t read you, I’ll just tell you instead of keeping quiet and trying to guess. Sweetheart, there’s one more thing that I don’t think you’re going to like, but I really need you to at least consider.”
Tony cocked his head to one side not sure where his husband was going but stayed quiet waiting to hear. “I would appreciate it if you would consider moving on from NCIS. If Morrow was still there I would say that maybe you just need to think about transferring off of Gibbs’ team. Ever since Shepard took over and put Officer David on your team though, it seems like your bad days, at least at home, have gotten more frequent. I know that some of it is you trying to deal with Kate’s death and how she died, but I don’t think that’s all of it and I’m worried about you.”
“I’m worried about me,” Tony confessed as he moved to stand in front of Aaron who moved to stand on the floor in front of him instead of the step he’d been perched on. “Normally I would argue with you about Gibbs, but ever since Ziva joined the team I’m not sure I know who he is anymore. There’s something going on there and I have my suspicions on what it is but I have no evidence. Just experience and an understanding of bullet trajectories. I umm, I did a thing while you were gone that should put your mind at ease.”
Aaron just arched an eyebrow but didn’t comment allowing his partner to continue on uninterrupted. “I handed in my resignation and accepted a position with Morrow at Homeland as an inter-agency liaison. There was a thing while you were on your case. Ziva and I got locked in a shipping container. Apparently, in Mossad, they teach them to shoot their way out of a locked shipping container. I went to see Brad because we had to burn counterfeit money to stay warm and I was worried about my lungs. So, he stitched me up from where her ricochet hit me and gave me some breathing treatments to do and a course of antibiotics just to be on the safe side.
“Then when I got back into work to do my report I find out that she had a dinner where everyone on the team was there besides me. It sounds or at least it feels like grade school behavior that that was the deal breaker, but it was.” Tony frowned as he stared over Aaron’s shoulder going over the events one more time in his head to see if he’d made the correct decision.
“It’s not Grade School behavior. It’s recognizing that a bad situation is only getting worse and that your superiors don’t care to correct it. She shouldn’t legally be on your team anyway. If I was the defense lawyer for a case she’d worked I’d fill the judge’s desk up with motions to throw out evidence and such just because of her very presence. You’re doing the right thing. Tell me about this job.”
Tony carefully leaned in and pressed a chaste kiss to Aaron’s lips. “Why don’t you go change and get more comfortable. I’ll throw some wings and French fries in the oven I already have a bag of veggies and some ranch dip made up. We can talk about the new spot while we eat?”
Aaron nodded and smiled offering Tony a peck on the lips himself before stepping back up onto the stairs. “Sounds good. I love you, Tony. Thank you for still being here when I got home. I was afraid that I’d crossed a line and you’d leave.”
Tony smiled back shaking his head. “It’s just a speed bump, not a road block. I love you back. Now go change! I’m starving!”
“Yes, sir!” Aaron quipped throwing a mock salute as he bounded up the stairs feeling much lighter than when he came home.
Tony just shook his head and watched him go enjoying the view before heading to the kitchen. He knew his partner would take a while, and thought maybe he could get in a call to Edward to fill him in on the talk as well as go over what Tom had said about taking Ashcroft into Homeland. He was excited to have his Paddington cousin in the states with him and hoped that Aaron would be ok with him staying with them for a while.
Pausing a moment in front of the refrigerator, he took a deep breath and tried to let go of the anxiety and fear that he’d lose his partner that he’d been living with. Aaron was the most important relationship in his life. He meant more to him than his career, his friends, and even the Paddington relatives that adored Tony. A flare of anger aimed at Senior hit him, but stubbornly he shoved it away. The second Senior found out that they were having a commitment ceremony because it wasn’t legal for them to marry yet, and on top of it that his partner was a male FBI Unit Chief it was obvious that there wouldn’t be any more contact with him. Which was just fine with Tony, because he was over dealing with his abusive drunken criminal father.
Shaking his head, Tony opened the freezer and pulled out the bags he needed turning his thoughts away from his father. He had happier and more important things to think about. There was no part of his future that he wanted the man who called himself “The Real Tony DiNozzo” to be a part of.
The next day, Aaron walked through the doors into the area where the BAU was housed. After dropping his things off at his office, he headed to Dave’s office knocking on the door frame before heading in and sitting in front of his desk. He’d called his friend the night before and told him that he’d be in late. Tony had a breathing treatment that he needed to do that morning, and Aaron had wanted to sit with him while he did it. He knew how much his partner hated them, and wanted to offer what support and comfort that he could.
“So?” Dave asked curiously. Aaron had confided in his mentor about the incident in the study at home on their last case. He’d been torn up with guilt knowing that he’d been in the wrong and the words he’d thrown at the man he loved hurt him deeply.
“Let me know when you leave for the day,” Aaron requested, “and I will walk out with you.”
“I have a box of liquor and decanters from the house for you.”
“Sounds like the talk went well then,” Dave observed. “How did he take the part about you wanting him to quit NCIS?”
Aaron frowned feeling conflicted about the events that led to Tony’s exit from the agency. “He’d already handed in his resignation effective immediately and accepted a position at Homeland with Morrow as a liaison between them and the various other agencies domestic and abroad. Tom figured that between his contacts here, and his family connections within SIS and Scotland Yard that he’d be the perfect person for the position. It was a time sensitive offer though so he had to give an answer before I got home.”
“And you’re ok with this position?” Dave asked hoping that they weren’t trading one issue for something new.
“I respect Morrow, and more importantly so does Tony,” Aaron assured quickly. “And, more importantly than that, I agree that Tony would be perfect for the position. There will be traveling, but I am the last person to complain about that. I’m just glad that he’s out of that cesspool that NCIS has become and that he’s forgiven me.”
“That boy loves you to death,” Dave pointed out. “He’d never leave you over a fight. However, I hope you keep this whole fiasco in mind because I will kick your butt myself if you hurt him, again.”
Aaron snorted at the comment. It never failed to amuse him how quickly the two Italians bonded after he introduced them. He figured it was partially their shared heritage mixed with the fact that Tony reminded Dave of what he’d imagined James would be when he grew up. Because of that, the two men had developed a sort of father and son vibe that Aaron was more than happy to encourage. They both deserved to have that type of connection to someone.
Nodding his understanding, Aaron stood and headed to his office to start his day feeling much better than he had when he left the day prior. He’d been sure throughout their last case that he’d put his relationship with Tony in jeopardy with his careless cold words meant to hurt that had done their job perfectly. The fact that he’d been in the process of pouring himself a drink and had in the end thrown the glass and decanter in anger hadn’t helped. It was something he’d never done before and was ashamed that he’d done then.
He’d been plagued with nightmares while he’d been gone replacing his father with himself and the abused victim was Tony instead of himself. It made him sick to his stomach that he’d done it, and planned on speaking with one of the department psychologists to make sure that there were no underlying issues. He was not going to take any chances at the past repeating itself. He simply loved Tony too much to risk it. Then there were the boys.
Opening his briefcase, Aaron took out the picture of the two little boys that they were adopting. As he looked at it, his resolve to get this fixed before it becomes a real issue hardened. The boys weren’t related, but lived in the same foster home and had become attached to each other. They had never intended to have children, but when they were contacted by the local PD after they got the results of the DNA search on the younger boy Tristan Jordan, or TJ as he was called, came back to Tony it became something they needed to consider.
Then, once they found out what both boys had been through, there was no question they’d adopt them even though Jack was no relation to them, and TJ was the product of the sperm Tony had donated back in college to make some money. As far as they were concerned these children were coming into their lives for a reason, and they were both committed to being better fathers than their own were. Tony’s Paddington relatives were even sending over one of the nanny’s that worked for the family to help them out. With their work schedules, it was something they knew was a must.
Sitting down behind his desk, Aaron decided to make an appointment right away. Picking up the phone, he called and set a time to talk with them later that day before they were called away again. Some things were just too important to be put off. Tony had forgiven him this time and said that he didn’t believe it was a problem, but this was for the best. Tony deserved better, and Aaron was determined that he was going to get it.