Hello, I Love You

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Title: Hello, I Love You

Series: Tony & His SEAL

Story# as Written: 2

Chronological Order: 3

Previous Story: A Storm is Threatening

Author: SpencnerTibbsLuvr

Fandoms: NCIS and SEAL Team

Relationship: Tony DiNozzo/Jason Hayes

Characters: Tony DiNozzo, Jason Hayes, Patrick Sheppard, Clay Spencer, Various other character appearances

Genre: Hurt/Comfort, Canon Divergence

Warnings: Possible Perceived Character Bashing

Rating: PG-13

Word Count: 8,171

Author’s Note: This takes place during the first story between Tony going to stay with Jason and his confrontation with Abby. I would recommend you read the previous fic, but I don’t think its required. I tried to figure out the upper command structure for Navy SEALs and I think my brain melted. So, let’s just say it’s SecNav in my world even if that doesn’t match the real one. If I’m wrong, frankly I don’t care. This is fiction. Not much about NCIS or SEAL Team match reality.

I am a pantser. Previous stories will be tweaked as I go along to fit new things that pop up. I detested how Stella left Clay before Mexico (for those familiar with SEAL Team) so I am getting rid of her early. Since I shifted SEAL Team’s timeline forward, I am keeping the bits I want and ditching the bits I don’t want. I don’t dislike Mandy. I just don’t believe she’d ever be allowed knowledge of Stargate Command.

Summary: Tony escapes DC in the wake of Dead Air to stay one step ahead of Eli David and his vengeance. To keep him safe, his father and the powers that be decide to place him with Bravo Team for protection. Tony isn’t what you’d call upset by this. Some time with his SEAL is exactly what the doctor ordered to heal his wounded soul.

Hello, I Love You

Tony stood in the parking lot leaning against the hood of his 1970 Hemi Road Runner as he waited for Bravo team to come through the gates. The last few days had made his head spin in a way that reminded him of his bout with the plague and finding out that he was not actually a DiNozzo, but a Sheppard.

The morning after Tony confessed to his father what happened, Patrick had herded him out of DC and to the family estate in Caroline County, Virginia. His father had been concerned about Tony’s safety, and it seemed that once he made some calls, Patrick wasn’t the only one. From the day Tony had met Patrick Sheppard, he’d been adamant about not letting his billionaire father fight his battles for him. In the wake of all the betrayal going on at NCIS though, he just didn’t have the energy to stop the man any longer.

Around lunchtime the day after Tony’s confession to Patrick, former Judge Advocate General Ret. Admiral A.J. Chegwidden, SecNav Phillip Davenport, Homeland Security Assistant Director Tom Morrow, and NCIS Inspector General Pierre Bevan were sitting in his father’s study at the estate smoking cigars. Aiden was on his way from the base in Little Creek, and people were already stressed out over Eli David. Since his voice was still sore, Tony was sitting off to one side frowning as he tried to figure out the odd assembly of people.

SecNav and the IG he understood. Patrick was throwing all kinds of fits, and he wasn’t limiting himself to the most recent case. NCIS was in some serious shit, especially if they couldn’t prove beyond a doubt that things with Ziva were completely aboveboard. Considering the fact that she was still a Mossad Officer and in Tony’s opinion had way too much access to just about everything, he supposed if he tilted his head and tried not to think too hard that he could understand Chegwidden’s presence. Morrow though… Something else was going on that Tony just hadn’t figured out yet.

“You do realize that once Eli David gets wind of all of this Special Agent Paddington is not going to be safe, even here at this estate,” Inspector General Bevan pointed out, and while Tony wanted to argue, he knew the man had a point.

“I’ve been thinking about that,” Patrick murmured drawing the eyes of the others and Tony just snorted recognizing that tone as the ‘I have a plan and you’re damned well going to agree’ voice. “It seems to me like he’d be much safer if he was surrounded by the Navy’s top SEAL team.”

“And just how am I going to justify that?” SecNav Davenport asked sounding amused and clearly not buying his father’s attempt at sounding like he was just offering an option. When in reality, he was basically telling some of the most powerful people in DC how it was going to be. Balls of steel his father had and Tony was amused to see him in action.

“Antony has known Bravo Team’s Master Chief for over a decade. They are very good friends of not just Tony’s but our family. His ex-wife and children even stayed with us for a time during Hurricane Reyansh. I have no doubt that he would want to oversee Antony’s safety.”

Davenport arched an eyebrow now not even trying to hide his amusement. “You want me to put my best Tier One SEAL team on what is essentially a protection detail?”

“Are you saying you think Hayes won’t raise holy hell if you don’t?” Chegwidden countered with a droll drawl after releasing a puff of smoke from the cigar. “Kid’ll scorch the earth of us if you don’t put Bravo in charge of Tony’s protection. Hell, I haven’t been a SEAL for more years than I wanna think about, and even I have heard of Hayes and his exploits. There’s no way he’ll back down from this unless ordered, and then he sure as hell won’t be quiet about his displeasure.”

Davenport waved a hand in the air and drained the shot of whiskey in the tumbler he was holding. “Don’t remind me. It’s a good thing that he’s so damned good, ‘cause he’s a pain in my ass. I can agree to let Hayes and his boys protect Tony. We’ve been running them ragged lately. They could use some time at home. I’ll need them around base though. How am I explaining that?”

“I have an idea,” Morrow said speaking for the first time since he’d offered Tony a hello upon his arrival. “Patrick called me last night to see what I thought of Tony and Bravo Team joining… How did you put it, Patrick? The Super-Duper Top-Secret Project?”

Tony rolled his eyes at his father’s smirk, but just sipped his tea. So far things were heading in the direction he wanted them to, even if he didn’t know what the S-D T-S P was. Really, the thing was too ridiculous to even think. Initials were the best he could do. When Morrow continued, he forced his attention back to the discussion at hand.

“So, I went to see O’Neill this morning, and he was thrilled to accept a SEAL team the caliber of Bravo Team. Especially since they would be a perfect fit for the new uhh side Project O’Neill is forming.”

Davenport hummed as he studied the cigar he was holding, and it seemed to Tony the others were happy to give him the time to think before he responded. “As much as it burns my ass to lose Bravo, even on a short-term basis, that would actually be a perfect fit. We’d already chosen Alpha Team in part due to Aiden’s presence. Alpha and Bravo work together quite well. I’m curious though what that has to do with Special Agent Paddington’s presence on the base.”

“Tony is a near-genius when it comes to intel gathering,” Morrow replied as he turned Tony’s direction giving him a smile before turning his site back toward the other men. “Tell them that he’s being considered for an Intelligence type position via NCIS instead of placing a Naval Intelligence officer on the team. Jack was very firm in his denial of Bravo Team’s normal CIA Liaison joining the Project. So, she’s going to have to be replaced with someone that we trust anyway.”

“You people aren’t screwing over Ensign Davis,” Tony croaked as he glared at the people in the room, not giving a damn that any one of them could shitcan his career. He would be damned if he would gain at Lisa’s expense.

In response, Morrow and Davenport rolled their eyes. Chegwidden in the meantime just looked amused, and Tony’s father just huffed his annoyance. “No one is sacrificing Ensign Davis, Antony,” Patrick promised, and Morrow nodded his agreement as he continued.

“Quite right. In fact, she’s the perfect justification for you being there. Without her, we couldn’t justify putting someone with no pure intelligence experience attached to the team. However, with her there to act as a partner of sorts for you, it’s a perfect fit. We can say we’re testing your fit with Bravo and Blackburn overseeing you both if it fits.”

Davenport nodded and rested his cigar in the ashtray at his elbow. As he stood to move over to the mini-fridge and pull out a bottle of water, he spoke.  “Hayes is known to be picky about his team. So, it won’t surprise anyone that he wants to see how Tony will gel with the rest of the team. Ellis might be a problem, but I’ll leave that to someone else to deal with.

“Blackburn is an experienced Lt. Commander with a hell of a lot of respect from those both above and below him. He’d be a perfect fit for Tony’s skills. Hell, even if the David clusterfuck wasn’t going on, I’m not sure it isn’t a perfect idea. If this little side project of Jack’s is the one, I am thinking about, it’s the best of both worlds. Is this why I called this morning and advised Blackburn that SO Sheppard had been granted short term emergency leave?”

“I doubt that Tony will be fully recovered by the time Bravo team gets home. It’s my understanding that they’ll be here tomorrow? We can easily play off me raising a fuss worried Antony’s illness as something more serious. He is more prone to certain things after his bout with the plague. Then we’ll just say it was just a simple case of laryngitis and send him back to Virginia Beach with his brother and a new assignment.”

“People are going to ask why he’s leaving NCIS,” Chegwidden pointed out. “People long ago gave up hope he’d leave Gibbs’ side. We’re not going to be able to keep things at NCIS quiet, especially if things are as big of a cluster as they sound. Tony’s concerns about Officer David are valid, and frankly don’t paint Vance in a good light. Honestly, Phillip, I don’t know what the hell you have going on there, but I can already tell you I’m going to recommend you shitcan Vance and replace him with someone like Granger who’s about as incorruptible as they come.”

“Anyone who can put Hetty Lange in her place gets my vote,” Morrow agreed putting out his own cigar and letting it rest in the ashtray. Tony couldn’t help but flinch when Ziva came up and found himself staring out the window next to him as he tried not to hear the mess that was his career.

“Antony,” he heard and turned to look at his father noticing the room had gone quiet with his father’s guests watching him silently. “I think we’ve got everything we need from you. Why don’t you go lie down? The drive tomorrow will be long enough to tire you out, and I know you’ll want to catch up with Aiden. I’ll send him to your suite when he gets here to get the necessary information from you first.”

Tony wanted to argue, feeling something like the child ordered out of the room so the grownups could talk, but he didn’t really have the heart for it. Giving his father a quiet nod. Tony said his goodbyes and then headed to his suite of rooms in the estate. A nap sounded like a good idea.

Now, as Tony rested against his hood, he couldn’t help but look forward to getting to Jason’s house so they could curl up in bed together and his partner could make him feel better. On top of not feeling well, there was the mental strain of not just the crap at NCIS, but the knowledge that there was no way they could go forward without telling Bravo Team the truth.

On the drive down, Aiden had tried to assure Tony that Bravo was a tight team and everyone would understand. While it wasn’t that Tony didn’t believe him, he just couldn’t help but worry because he knew what his own experience with keeping secrets had done to a supposedly close team. Of course, Aiden pointed out that, in his opinion, Tony’s team had never been as close as Bravo was. It wasn’t much help though. Tony still just wanted some time with himself and his SEAL and no one else.

Hearing a car, Tony turned his attention toward the sound and saw Clay’s girlfriend Stella get out and lean against the side of the car. He saw her glance his way briefly and forced himself to turn his attention toward the gate the team would come through. Tony didn’t have much of an opinion of Stella of his own. He’d run a check on her when Jason told him about her, and while nothing suspicious came up, he wondered if the relationship would last the changes that were to come. He knew Jason already doubted they’d last in the long run, but also knew that his partner was worried about how Clay would take it if they didn’t.

Tony was just taking a sip of his water that was by that point mostly warm when Aiden tapped him on the shoulder. “They’re here. I’m gonna go check in with Scott. Call me if you need me, bro.”

Giving Aiden a hug then watching his younger brother leave, Tony turned his attention back to the team noting that Jason was leading the pack like the Alpha he was. Glad to have his sunglasses hiding his eyes, Tony watched a tad jealously as few of the girlfriends or wives rushed forward to give out hugs, wishing he could do something similar. Heaven only knew that he needed to feel Jason’s arms around him.

He watched the smile cross Jason’s face when he saw Tony waiting, and on his way to where Tony was waiting, the Master Chief tossed his bag in the back of his truck. It wasn’t until Jason was almost to him that he noticed Lt. Commander Blackburn walking beside Jason and forced himself to keep his own smile friendly but not too friendly.

“Tone!” Jason greeted as he reached out a hand, which Tony took only to be pulled into a one-armed hug. As he stood there with one arm around Jason, he tried to keep things friendly and kept telling himself to pull back. No matter how much he was screaming at himself to pull away soon but not too soon, Tony knew he’d lingered longer than was probably wise.

“Jase,” He croaked after finally forcing himself to pull away, not missing the concern on Jason’s face.

“Special Agent Paddington,” Blackburn greeted holding out a hand, and Tony called upon his undercover skills to paste an easy-going smile on his face. “I’m Lt. Commander Blackburn. I told the team we needed to have a meeting in the morning off base to go over some things. Jason has graciously offered up his house. I thought it would be best if you were the one to explain to him what was going on. Although, from the sound of things, I am wondering if that was the right decision.”

“No, I appreciate it,” Tony rushed to push out before he began coughing. It went on just long enough that he heard Jason call Trent’s name, the team’s unofficial medic. Waving at the man to stay where he was, Tony found himself glaring at the poor man when he came their way anyway.

“Jason, it’s fine. I’ll explain at home… err at your home. Please?” Tony pled and lowered his sunglasses slightly so Jason could see his eyes. “Jase, please.”

Tony watched a flash of concern and worry cross his partner’s face and cursed the homophobes in the world for the millionth time in the last 24 hours. When Jason’s hand curled, Tony wanted nothing more than to cover it with his own but knew it would be a bad idea.

“Is everything ok?” Trent asked as he reached where they were standing. “What’ going on? How long have you been coughing? Have you seen a doctor?”

Tony ran a hand over his neck and wished Aiden had stayed a little longer because his voice still wasn’t quite up to long conversations. It didn’t help that it was really hard for Tony not to talk, so his voice wasn’t recovering as quickly as it could or should.

“Yeah, look it’s fine,” Tony started forcing his tired voice to work. “Can’t explain much. Had a case. Had to interview a ton of people by myself. Lost my voice. Sore throat and allergies are making me cough.”

Trent nodded and Tony watched Jason turn to look at his teammate for explanation and reassurance that it could be that easy. “That happens. If I recall, you’re the one who has some problems breathing sometimes, right? Jason, it’ll be ok. He just needs to rest his voice. Have him drink or suck on sore throat lozenges or hard candy. I’ll bring my kit tomorrow morning to check him out.”

“Yeah, ok,” Jason agreed sounding distracted, and Tony had to fight not to reach out and take his hand. He could feel his eyes begin to water the need was so strong, and quickly flipped his sunglasses back down to hide his eyes. “You following me?”

Tony shook his head as he picked up a bag that had been resting at his feet. “Aiden will bring it by later. Have what I need till then.”

Tony turned his eyes toward Eric and thought his concerned gaze looked a tad bit too perceptive. He couldn’t help but wonder just what the man knew, but quickly decided not to worry about it. He was too tired physically and emotionally and just wanted Jason to take him home.

“Let’s get you out of here,” Jason said, and Tony nodded letting Jason pick up his bag to carry. When both Trent and Eric wished him a goodnight and assured them, he’d see them the next day, Tony smiled and gave a small wave of thanks before following Jason to his truck.

As Jason stepped away, Tony could see Clay watching them concerned, and didn’t miss the aggravated look on Stella’s face. He certainly couldn’t miss the sharpness in her tone when she called the youngest Bravo member’s name and found himself frowning. Offering Clay a nod, Tony kept following Jason but filed the incident away in his mind.

When they both settled inside the cab with the doors shut, Tony fought not to lean across the console between them. Instead, he settled for gripping Jason’s hand and taking off his sunglasses with his free hand so that his partner could see his eyes.

“What the hell is going on, Tone? You sound like shit. You look like someone shot Patrick. I’m trying not to get myself court marshaled here, but it’s really hard not to go all protective partner right now.”

“Ziva and McGee left me in the field looking for what we thought was a terrorist without backup. I was going voice prints like I said in this huge upper-middle-class neighborhood and they turned the sound off on my coms. They did it because Ziva was tired of my voice.”

Tony paused and wished he had some water only to have a bottle appear in front of his face. Smiling at his partner, Tony took a sip before putting the bottle in one of the cup holders. “Abby tried to cover it up. The only reason we have the original master copy is because I made a full copy of it then replaced the master with the copy and she didn’t notice. There’s more to tell you I just… I need some quiet time with you first. Please, Jase. Can we just go home?”

Tony let Jason study him, and when his partner let go of his hand to cup his cheek, he let him even though it was a risk. The touch didn’t last nearly as long as Tony needed, but it was better than nothing. Then, without any further questions, Jason put the truck that had been idling into gear and steered the vehicle toward the base exit. Exhausted, Tony just shut his eyes, sighing happily when Jason curled their hands together again.

It was the sound of the radio turning off that woke Tony up from his light doze. Opening his eyes, he could see Jason watching him with a concerned look on his face, and Tony couldn’t help but reach out and touch his cheek.

“It’s fine. I’m fine-ish. Pops is on things arranging the downfall of anyone who has ever looked at me wrong. Bravo Team has been assigned to protect me  because my father has balls of steel. The groundwork has been laid for you and me to make a case for us living in the same house until that idiocy that is DADT is repealed.”

Jason snorts, “I’ll just go ahead and hold my breath on that.”

“Pops says within a year,” Tony shared, and Jason’s eyebrow arched before his expression took a sad turn.

“Do you know how badly I wanted to hug you earlier? Clay’s hugging Stella. Ray’s hugging Naima. Hell, even Trent’s latest girlfriend was there.”

“Yeah,” Tony shared as he let out a sigh. “I was thinking the same thing. I really needed to that hug, and I hate that we have to wait until we’re inside your goddamned house before its safe for us to hug. Even then we have to make sure the fuckin’ blinds are drawn. Speaking of Stella, I think you’re right. Clay’s in for a huge heartbreak. Maybe it’s unfair since it was a 5-minute tops interaction, but I didn’t get the best impression of her.”

Jason snorted and kissed Tony’s knuckles before he opened his door. “Let’s go inside. We can watch TV while you stop that damned talking.”

Tony just rolled his eyes but didn’t argue as he got out of the truck. By the time he’d rounded the front, Jason was halfway to the door carrying both bags. Once they were inside, Tony headed to the kitchen to make himself some tea he kept there while Jason headed upstairs to shower and change. Tony didn’t need to change as he’d put on his comfiest pair of jeans that were well worn and fit him perfectly and an old t-shirt. He had no one to impress and Jason would have just been aggravated if he’d dressed up and been uncomfortable all day.

By the time Jason came down, Tony was settled in downstairs in the basement on the couch with the TV turned to TCM. “What are we watching? And if you answer instead of pushing the damned info button on that remote, I’m grounding you.”

Tony huffed and rolled his eyes but pushed the damned button as asked as he took a sip of his hot tea. “You and Me,” Jason read as he settled down next to Tony throwing an arm around his shoulder. “1939 movie starring Sylvia Sidney and George Raft whoever they are. An ex-convict marries a department store co-worker, unaware she’s on parole. Huh. I hope I’m not supposed to know who either of those people are.”

When Jason nudged him, Tony looked over to see his partner waving his phone at him. “I brought my cell so we can text. That way we can still talk but you can rest your voice. And, if you ever tell my kids we had a text conversation while we were sitting next to each other, I’m kicking your ass.”

Tony snickered knowing how much Jason hated when his kids sat in the same room as their friends and spent the whole damned time texting.  Opening their running conversation on the ShepMessaging App on their SI Jupiter 6. It was a new version with higher encryption and security features that they were testing for David. It would be intended for use by government agencies and such, but Tony was totally down for using it to chat with his Partner when they were on different sides of the world or sitting right next to each other on the couch.

After rattling off some facts about the actor, actress, movie, and director Tony let the device rest on his legs until the next commercial break before starting in on what was on his mind.

AgentOSU: I think maybe it shouldn’t have hurt as much as it did. I mean, I should be used to it by now. They’ve been letting me down for years, and yet like the idiot I am, I just told you and Pops and anyone else who tried to help that it was fine.

PhillySEAL: Stop that shit. You know I hate it when you put yourself down like that. Your team had been together a long time. It’s perfectly normal to expect loyalty and want things to keep working out.

PhillySEAL: I hate that I couldn’t be there when you needed me.

AgentOSU: You had a job to do that was as important as mine. I’ve never begrudged you being gone, and I never will. Besides, it’s all worked out now. Balls of steel that father of mine.

PhillySEAL: You keep saying that.

AgentOSU: I mean, he basically told SecNav, the Assistant Director at Homeland Security, the NCIS IG, and the former JAG how things were gonna be. Bravo Team was going to be assigned to protect me. I was going to be permanently assigned to be an Intelligence Analyst for your team. And my guess is after I left, he told them if anyone even thought of reporting you for us living together, he’d have them all offed.

PhillySEAL: I love your father.

AgentOSU: Ditto

PhillySEAL: How long you gonna be without your voice?

AgentOSU: If I am good the rest of the day and take it easy tomorrow it should be fine after that. 

PhillySEAL: OK, I’ll save the rest of the convo till then. Now tell me what the hell is going on with this movie. How the crap do my kids text and pay attention to the TV? I have no idea what the hell is happening.

Tony laughed till he started coughing, and then typed out a quick rundown during the commercial break. Late that night, Tony was laying in bed with his body curled around Jason’s. His head resting on his partner’s shoulder. Both of them naked after their time spent touching, kissing, and loving each other as they each confirmed their partner was safe and unharmed. They should both be asleep. Tony knew Jason was exhausted.

His partner never slept well when he was deployed or on a mission. Sure, he slept when he could, and at times got his 8 hours, but Tony knew his mind didn’t shut off enough to let him get the rest he needed. Tony knew because it wasn’t any different from when Tony was on a hot case. He might get to go home at night, but he never got the sleep he needed to really recharge. Normally though, when the two of them were in the same place, sleeping in the same bed they slept the best sleep of their lives. Tonight though, Tony’s mind wouldn’t shut off, and he knew it was what was keeping Jason from getting the rest he needed.

“OK, so I knew I said you couldn’t speak, but there’s obviously something you need to say,” Jason said softly, his voice gravely and deep from exhaustion.

“If it wasn’t for you, I’d think I was incapable of making long term friendships,” Tony replied equally as softly feeling like he’d fracture something important in the atmosphere around them if he spoke too loudly.

“You still have friends from college,” Jason pointed out and Tony just shrugged.

“Not the same, not really. I thought Abby was my friend, Jason. I thought that Tim was my Probie, someone I could mentor and teach my tricks to, pass along my knowledge to. Ziva, I will admit I am not surprised about at all, which is ironic considering that she’s the one whose downfall is going to cause me the most grief. Am I defective somehow? I mean, you’re the only person who’s ever wanted to stick around me so closely for any good length of time. I just… What Abby did really hurts, Jase.”

“I’ve told you before that you remind me of Clay,” Jason responded after a couple minutes of heavy silence hung between them in the night air. “Or, I guess I should say Clay reminds me of you. I keep wondering if I hadn’t known you how things would have gone when he joined the team. The two of you had the same crappy fathers. Spent significant portions of your childhood away from home and surrounded mostly by strangers because your crappy fathers thought they had better things to do.

“Both of them are pretty crappy human beings outside of their extremely questionable parenting. Neither of you knew how to handle finding a family who wanted to love you and protect you. Yours might actually have been blood, and Clay’s Bravo Team, but that doesn’t change the fact that they’re both families. Adam told me that he didn’t think Clay had ever had a close friend before Brian. Now he and Sonny have this epic bromance thing going on. Maybe the old quality over quantity thing fits here. Maybe you just haven’t found your Sonny yet.”

Tony closed his eyes and lifted a hand to grab one of Jason’s biceps. “I’m afraid that someone is going to come along or something is going to happen and I’m going to lose you just like I’ve lost everything else. I’m afraid I’ll lose my family. I’m scared shitless I won’t fit in with your team and this won’t work and you’ll end up in this crappy position between me and them. I’m so fucking tired of not having a place, Jason. I’m tired of not having somewhere to plant my feet and say this is it. This is where I belong. I can’t fucking believe Abby betrayed me and now I’m back to square one.”

“No, not square one,” Jason argued as Tony felt a finger touch under his chin. Shifting up onto one elbow, he looked down at his partner who could just be seen in the moonlight coming through the curtains.

“You’re still with NCIS. Eventually, you were gonna move on. Hell, in my opinion, you should have moved on a while back. Maybe being one of our Intelligence Analysts wasn’t the promotion you deserved, but maybe it’s where you belong. Your family loves you, and a man who is tearing apart DC because his baby boy was mistreated isn’t going to abandon him for any reason. As for Bravo, I think you’re gonna find those friendships you’ve been waiting for. You just gotta have faith. I may not believe in Ray’s God, but he has taught me sometimes you just gotta believe.”

“Swear we’re forever,” Tony whispered knowing it wasn’t fair but needing to hear the words, the reassurances.

“Till the end of time, babe. Even then we’re gonna go out together. I’m yours. You’re mine. I’m a possessive Alpha bastard. I admit it, and I am not letting you go. We’ve spent a lot of time getting to this place and I’m not giving it up now, especially if you think your father’s right about DADT.”

“Balls of steel, babe,” Tony said smirking, “balls of steel.”

Laying down, Tony rested his head on Jason’s chest again needing the contact with the man he loved to finish healing the wounds on his heart and soul. When he felt Jason’s lips touch the top of his head, Tony smiled and let the Sandman pull him into dreamland.

Saturday morning found Tony puttering around in the kitchen as Jason chatted with Sonny in the backyard. The other SEAL had shown up way too early in the morning in Tony’s opinion to put meat on the grill out back, but Jason had promised him he’d taste the difference when he bit into Sonny’s pulled pork.

Tony was just pulling fruit out of the refrigerator for the fruit salad he was making when the doorbell rang. Looking at the clock on the microwave, he wondered who else had decided to show up early, as they weren’t expecting anyone for at least another hour. After shooting Jason a text that he had it, he headed to the door to find Clay Spencer waiting on the other side looking part nervous and part miserable.

“Hey! Come on in!” Tony greeted, stepping to one side so Clay could come in. Seeing a variety of pop and non-carbonated drinks in his arms, Tony waved for the younger man to follow him then made his way back to the kitchen.

“You can just throw things there on that far counter,” Tony said as he went back to his fruit. “I think someone else is bringing ice and coolers. Until they get here you might as well leave it there.”

The younger man nodded his understanding then Tony watched amused as Clay made three more trips to his car and back with drinks. “Couldn’t make up your mind?”

Clay huffed as he rested his back against the counter finally done it seemed and crossed his arms across his chest. “It’s hard enough buying beer that will satisfy them all. Sonny said drinks were my job since I’d gotten so good at buyin’ beer, but Brock said non-alcoholic stuff since it was a work meeting. Who the hell knows what they’re all gonna want to drink. So, I tried to cover all my bases.”

Tony could help but chuckle as he got out his chef’s knife and started in on the pineapple. “Spendin’ a lot of money on beer huh? I remember those days. Did a lot of beer buying my first year in the frat. Jesus, I’m surprised I’m not still broke.”

Clay blinked and cocked his head to one side, and Tony waved him over. “You can help me cut fruit for the salad, and to answer the question you’re too polite to ask, yes Patrick Sheppard is my father. Didn’t know that though when I was in college.”

Tony took the time he spent getting Clay settled in with a cutting board and knife and a big bag of peaches as he thought about what direction he wanted to take the conversation. He could pretend that he couldn’t see something was wrong and turn the conversation light. Or he could suck it up and let the younger man know that he wasn’t the only one with a crappy father in his history. His late-night conversation with Jason the evening before helped him make up his mind.

“Didn’t know Patrick was my father until I got sick while working for NCIS. Before then I thought my dad was the jackass who likes to call me Junior, disowned me at 12, and then thought he had a right to my college fund from my maternal grandparents. So, first year at the frat was spent scrounging up money for beer for the older guys who probably drank less than they would normally have on my beer nights ‘cause they knew I was a broke ass.”

Clay was quiet for a minute or two before speaking, and when he finally did, his attention on the peaches he was cutting up didn’t waver. “Your dad disowned you?”

“Senior left me alone in a hotel in Maui and flew back to Long Island when he forgot he’d brought me along on his business trip. When the cops called him, he got embarrassed and disowned me. Parenting was never Senior’s strong skill anyway, and frankly, I was safer at boarding school. It wasn’t until Patrick came into my life, though, that I understood what the asshole had stolen from me my whole life. I figured out it was a lot more valuable than the money he took from my trust fund.”

“I keep expecting someone to tell me it was all a mistake,” Clay confessed quietly, and Tony just nodded. “I mean, my grandparents were awesome, and I owe them everything. They weren’t a dad though or a mom. They had a shit ton of people worse off than me to look out for but did their best. My whole life I wanted to be a SEAL.

“When I was real’ little it was because I thought my dad was a superhero and wanted to be him. When he threw me away, I wanted to be one because I wanted to prove I was a better man than he’ll ever be. Stella doesn’t seem to get that being a Tier One SEAL has been my dream my whole life. I don’t know how to pick between them and her.” Clay paused a second then wrinkled his nose in confusion. “I can’t believe I just said that.”

Tony forced himself to stay calm and took a second to pick up his phone telling Jason to keep himself and Sonny out of the house please and thank you before he responded. Seeing Clay was near the end of the peaches, he handed him several bunches of bananas and started in on the Macintosh apples that both he and Jason enjoyed.

“We may have just met but I feel like I know you,” Tony observed as he switched to a smaller knife. “Jason is forever telling me about you all, and my guess is he’s mentioned me to you guys as well. He and I have known each other a long time now. The day you got back from that first mission you joined them on, he called me and said that he forgot how annoying I was when we met.”

“If I can offer some advice?” Tony asked and waited for Clay to shrug to continue. “I think you and I have a lot on common. Similar crappy fathers who shipped us away when they couldn’t be bothered to take care of us and then ignored, we existed. That led to us learning to depend on only ourselves and we got used to it until suddenly we had those close family thrust upon us that we had no clue what the hell to do with.

“In my case, it was the Sheppards and in yours, it’s Bravo Team. I had a taste of it prior to the Sheppards with my frat brothers and you were on other SEAL teams before Bravo. The other thing we have in common is that our jobs are hard on relationships and most people don’t understand the commitment we have to our work.”

Noticing that Clay had stopped cutting to look at him, Tony wiped off his hands and then stepped back to lean against the counter behind him. “The two things I realized is that nothing is more important than my family and that I’d worked too hard to get to where I was to give it up for someone just because they didn’t get my life.”

Biting his lip Tony shot off a quick text to Jason again and had a quick conversation before nodding and setting the cell behind him again. “It wasn’t until I found someone who was willing to accept me as I was, family, job, and all that I realized I shouldn’t have to compromise. I’m not going to tell you some bullshit line like there’s other fish in the sea.

“Jason says that you love Stella, and I’ve been there. Hell, I was almost married once. Got dumped at the altar as cliché as that is. In the moment it seemed like losing her was the worst thing that could ever happen to me. Now I have someone who doesn’t make me feel like I am always being torn in half.
All I will say is that you deserve that same kind of relationship. If it were meant to be you wouldn’t feel so torn in half right now.”

Clay nodded and stepped up to the island where they’d been cutting fruit, but before he started flashed Tony a cocky smirk that immediately made him suspicious. “Someone, huh? That’s what y’all have decided to go with?”

Tony narrowed his eyes then huffed as the young SEAL just laughed at him. “Jesus, does everyone know?”

“Nah,” Clay denied as he set in on finishing up the bananas. “I know Sonny doesn’t know. Ray might, I mean he and Jase are really tight. Doubt Brock and Trent have thought about it much. They both hate others bein’ in their business enough that they don’t stick their noses where it don’t belong. ‘Sides, Brian was gay and Jase gets this look on his face when he talks about you like Bri did about his old boyfriend.”

“I was sorry to hear about what happened to him,” Tony offered quietly, and Clay took a deep breath before dumping the fruit on the huge bowl between them before he grabbed the bags of grapes.

“I think he was the first real friend I had, ya know? Fucker wouldn’t let me keep him out then he goes and dies on me. Didn’t think I’d let anyone else in that way. Sonny kinda snuck up on me though.”

“Teammates can do that to you,” Tony said quietly thinking briefly about Abby but then shoving her out of his mind with ruthless determination. “There are frat brothers I haven’t talked to in a decade but would still drop everything for if they called me. Jason’s the only romantic partner I’ve ever had that understood that. If Stella doesn’t then… Well, maybe she isn’t really the one.”

“I just hate coming home and it being nothing but quiet and empty and just,” Clay sighs clearly sad and upset even though he was trying his best to hide it.

“That’s no reason to stay with someone who makes you feel like half a person no matter where you are,” Tony pointed out as he pulled out some whipped cream and blocks of cream cheese he’d whipped earlier. “Especially when you have a whole team of brothers who would help you find a solution, Clay. Do what’s best for you, and if needed we’ll figure out another living plan for you.”

Letting Clay think about what they’d talked about, Tony folded together the whipped cream and the cream cheese then folded that into the fruit salad. When Clay stole a piece of pineapple Tony threw a mock glare but grinned when the young SEAL moaned. “Jesus that’s awesome.”

When the doorbell sounded again, Tony looked at the clock and realized that they’d talked for almost 45 minutes. Sending Clay to answer the door, Tony covered the salad bowl and put it in the fridge to set until it was time to eat. Then he shot Jason a text that it was safe to come inside. He wasn’t surprised when his partner made it to the kitchen about the same time as Brock and Clay.

Kneeling down to greet Cerberus, as the two youngest Bravo members got the drinks settled and filled the coolers with the ice Brock brought with him, Tony ignored the foot-tapping in his peripheral vision. He stood when Jason ordered Brock and Clay to the back yard and Tony let out a huff as he looked toward Clay.

“Y’all have been friends a long time,” Clay observed as he picked up a cooler. “I don’t expect you to keep any secrets. ‘Specially none that involve me. Trust Jas with m’life. Figure I can trust him with the rest too.” Clay then headed out back with Brock following and Cerberus towing one of the coolers with his leash hooked to one of the handles.

Motioning his Partner to stand in front of him, Tony pulled himself up to sit on a counter and waited until Jason was settled between his legs before he began relaying the conversation. When he got done, his Partner was both anxious and angry. “What upsets you more? The fact that someone guessed or Stella?”

“The fact that he’s staying with her because he doesn’t want to live alone?” Jason answered and Tony stopped himself from eye-rolling at the simplification of the issue with Stella. “Hell, if he doesn’t want to live alone he can move in here. You don’t care, do you?”

Tony smiled and shook his head before replying. “I don’t, but I have a better idea. Aiden needs a roommate. His house is almost as big as yours and he hates living alone constantly. They’d be in the country enough that they wouldn’t constantly feel alone, but the other would be deployed enough they wouldn’t feel like they had no alone time either.”

Jason nodded shortly. “Genius idea. Fuck, what if someone else guessed?”

“Relax,” Tony said rubbing Jason’s back but before he could say anything else the doorbell rang again sending Jason off to answer it. Knowing he couldn’t do much to calm Jason’s nerves at that point, Tony finished off the remaining items on his list before heading out to the backyard where everyone else was gathered. He had other teammates to meet and secrets to share.

Later that evening, Tony sat around the firepit in Jason’s backyard. His chair was close enough to his partner’s that Jason’s hand was resting on his leg and Tony’s arm was resting across Jason’s shoulders, his hand playing with the short hairs on the back of the Master Chief’s head. The team was situated around the fire. Even Blackburn had stayed to hang out with his boys and Aiden had come over after the meeting to hang out.

On Tony’s other side was Lisa, whom he’d asked to sit next to him so they could get to know each other. He was nervous about this new position that Morrow and Davenport wanted him to take. He felt like the odd cases here and there he’d been working first for Morrow then for the Counterintelligence and Terrorism team after he’d left was different from doing it fulltime. The fact that he could be putting Jason’s team in danger scared the shit out of him, but fortunately, it was something Ensign Davis understood.

Across the fire, Tony caught his little brother smiling in his direction as he seemed to be watching Tony and Jason. When Jason squeezed his leg momentarily, Tony glanced over as his partner and was rewarded with a quick kiss. He thought maybe the best part was the fact that they could actually do it, act like a couple in front of Jason’s team, and Jason not worry about getting in trouble.

The meeting had gone almost too well. The news Mandy would be replaced hadn’t gone over well with everyone, and Tony knew Jason himself was still conflicted about it. They were all curious about what the Super-Duper Secret Project was and had been listening to Clay and Sonny try and pull the secret out of Aiden. The news that he and Jason were a couple was received just about the way Clay had predicted.

Ray wasn’t surprised at all, and Blackburn had just smirked. Lisa admitted later that she had wondered but had never said anything to anyone mostly because she knew Mandy had a thing for Jason. There was also the fact that Jason was her friend, and she confessed that she’d kept her own secrets once upon a time and wasn’t about to poke into anyone else’s.

Sonny had been completely surprised but had quickly promised he didn’t give a rat’s ass who his Boss fucked as long as the man was happy. Trent and Brock both just shrugged and said ok. Tony almost fell out of his chair laughing at the calm acceptance of their announcement. It was as if their Team Leader dropped life-altering proclamations on them all the time. Lisa told him though that was just how Trent and Brock were.

Lifting his face to look at the stars, Tony just listened to the conversation around him. Ray and Jason were talking about Ray’s kids. Tent and Lisa were talking about some medical things the unofficial team medic thought they needed for the field. Brock meanwhile had joined in on the guessing game, and the guesses had turned so absurd that Tony was a little afraid Aiden was gonna pull something laughing. He had no idea what his future held.

Most likely his time with and the friendships that he thought he had amongst Team Gibbs were through. The evening before that though had been a heavyweight on his chest. That evening though, sitting around the fire, under the stars listening to Jason’s friends and family laugh and enjoy being together, Tony thought just maybe things weren’t as bleak as he’d felt.

His conversation earlier with Clay had felt like the beginning of something they both needed. His time chatting with Lisa opened his eyes to what a friendship with an awesome, competent, ass-kicking woman could actually be. He had a new position that was going to be both challenging and rewarding, and let him use his skills without the need to constantly hide his intelligence or his abilities. He had a relationship he could share with the people important to both of them, and one his family wholeheartedly approved of.

While there were still things at NCIS that needed settled, Tony thought just maybe things really were moving in the right direction. Now he just needed to find out what in the hell his brother John had been doing all these years, and maybe some normality would return to his life. Of course, then he actually found out what John was doing, and he realized normal would never describe his life again.

The End!

Next Story as Written: (If All Else Fails) Start With Being Jason’s

EndNote: Credit for Tony being a Sheppard goes to Jilly James, whom I saw write it first. My backstory for that though is different from hers. I have settled mostly around something similar to my story When Fate Steps in for those that have read that. This was written for my Hurt/Comfort square on my Trope Bingo card at Just Write on Discord.

I write fanfiction for fun. It’s a hobby and a stress relief. I refuse to angst over my writing. What you see is what you get. Errors, plot holes, and all. Thank you for reading my story!

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