Title: ...In the Eating
Summary: Gibbs and Tony have a long overdue discussion.
Warnings: Spoilers for all seasons.
Disclaimer: I don’t own, no harm intended.
Word Count: 3, 779.
Feedback, as always, is appreciated.
Gibbs watched Tony stalk out of Abby’s lab, fury rigid in every line of his body. Sighing, Gibbs walked over to a stool and took a seat.
“You are an ass.”
Gibbs head snapped up at Abby’s cold and uncharacteristic words.
“Don’t give me that Gibbs. You had no cause treating Tony like that.”
“He disobeyed a direct order!” Gibbs’ anger flared at having his actions called into question.
“To save you!” Abby refused to stand down, recalling the look of hurt and anger on her friend’s face as he’d passed her on the way to the elevator.
“I was fully capable of protecting myself. I didn’t need Tony endangering his life to save mine.”
“Well, you should’ve thought about that before you started sleeping with him.” Abby’s voice was low, but her words rang loud and clear in Gibbs’ ears.
Gibbs’ eyes went cold as he stood, stepping into Abby’s personal space. “That is none of your business.”
“You’re wrong. Tony is one of my best friends, so his happiness is my business. And he has been through hell these last few years, watching you date any red-head that caught your eye, being one-upped by his teammates, and I’ll admit that I wasn’t the best friend I should’ve been in that regard. He tried to hold it together when you vanished, he threw away a golden opportunity to run his own team out of worry for you, all while working an undercover op that was killing him. Then after all that seems resolved, the Director is killed, which of course Tony feels responsible for. Director Vance takes over and splits us up. Tony spent months on that damn ship, praying that he could get back. He finally does, and I finally can see a bit of happiness in his eyes. Then you go and do this shit, and take even that away. So, yes, this is very much my damn business!” Abby’s entire body was radiating fury, her face gone red from the effort to keep her voice down and her anger contained.
Gibbs’ stepped back.
Abby took a few deep breaths, closing her eyes as she did so. Opening them back up, she sighed and stepped closer to Gibbs, wrapping him in a warm hug. “Please, Gibbs, you gotta fix this. Tony can’t keep holding everything in, and you can’t keep dumping shit on him and assuming he can take it.” Abby stepped back, looking Gibbs in the eyes. “I know you love him, Bossman. I know how miserable you were while he was away. But you have to prove that to Tony. Sometimes ‘sorry’ just isn’t enough.”
Gibbs knew Abby was right, had known even before she’d had the balls to give it to him straight; and now he had to do something about it.
Pulling her into a strong hug, Gibbs quickly kissed Abby on the cheek and strode out of the lab.
Hearing the ding of the elevator, Abby prayed that Gibbs and Tony would be okay.
Gibbs entered the bedroom quietly, knowing that his lover was asleep from the soft snores he’d heard as he’d walked down the hall. He’d been surprised that Tony had even come here, considering their argument, but he tried to take it as a good sign.
Walking over to the bed, Gibbs looked down at his lover, feeling a bone-deep sadness wash over him.
Tony was curled in on himself, as much as a man his height could, and his posture simply reflected the misery he was feeling. Every once in a while, Tony would flinch, as if receiving a harsh blow, and Gibbs knew, even without the soft mumble of his name, that Tony was rehashing their argument in his dreams.
Sighing, Gibbs rubbed a hand over his face as he took a seat next to the bed. He didn’t know what to do about this thing between him and Tony. Lately it seemed like no matter what he did or said, it always came out wrong.
Today’s argument was just one in a string of many that they’d had in the last two weeks. Gibbs knew he’d flown off the handle, but when he’d looked up to see Tony coming up behind their suspect, something in him had snapped.
Gibbs knew that this wouldn’t end well, not unless he did something. The Petty officer was high, and the added fact of being confronted by Gibbs’ was making him nervous.
Glancing at the panicked woman in Petty Officer Tomlin’s arms, the gun pushing painfully against her temple, Gibbs felt compelled to put this to a swift end.
“Okay, George. How about we make a trade? That sound like a plan?”
“What are you talkin’ about man? There ain’t gonna be no trade. You come one step closer ‘n I’ll blow this bitch’s brain’s out!”
Gibbs had stopped, seeing the increased panic in the woman’s eyes. “Okay, I’m not gonna come any closer. Just here me out. That lady, she’s not what you need. If you kill her, the officers outside will just fill you full of holes. But, if you trade, and take me as your hostage instead, they’ll listen to you. I’m too important to the Navy, and they are not gonna let you kill me. So they’ll listen to you, give you a chance to voice your grievance.” Gibbs knew he was playing a dangerous game, but the woman was panicking, and he feared she was gonna do something to agitate this already erratic man.
Gibbs could see that his plan might be working, as the man seemed to be contemplating his plan. His eyes were on the gun in the Petty Officer’s hands, watching for just the moment when he released his grip or pointed it slightly away from the woman’s head. As he was waiting for the perfect moment, he noticed movement out of the corner of his eye, just behind the Petty Officer.
He didn’t have to look to know who it was, and he pushed down his anger, carefully watching the gun.
The Petty Officer raised the gun just above the woman’s head, a nervous gesture as he contemplated Gibbs’ idea.
It was all the time Gibbs’ needed, as he shot the officer in the shoulder, taking Tomlin down as the gun fell away from his hands with his pained cry. Ziva and McGee ran onto the scene once he yelled clear, and he glanced up as Ziva took the hysterical woman away.
“Good shot, Boss,” Tony called as he cuffed the Petty Officer, waiting for the paramedics to arrive.
“I thought I told you to wait outside,” Gibbs growled. Out of the corner of his eye he noticed McGee make a hasty retreat.
“You looked like you could use the help, Boss.”
Gibbs’ reply was interrupted as the medics arrived to look at Tomlin.
When he looked up, Tony was on the other side of the warehouse, talking softly to the hostage.
Gibbs stormed off of the elevator, searching for Tony. It had taken him two hours to wrap things up at the scene as well as another two waiting on Tomlin’s condition. And all the while, his anger at Tony for disobeying his order had not dissipated. “Where’s Dinozzo?”
McGee swallowed thickly, noting the look of outrage on Gibbs’ face. “He’s down in Abby’s lab. He was checking up on evidence from the Shriver case. There was nothing he could do on the Tomlin case, since the Petty Officer…” McGee’s voice trailed off at the sight of Gibbs’ retreating back.
“Dinozzo?!” Gibbs barked as he walked into Abby’s lab.
“Yeah, Boss.” Tony replied, nonchalantly, standing over a layout table as he reviewed some files.
“What the hell where you thinking?” When there was no reply Gibbs stalked over to Tony, getting into his personal space. “Answer me.”
Tony sighed, turning towards Gibbs’, fists clenched to his side.
“I gave you a direct order. How dare you disobey me?”
“How dare I? How dare I?!” Tony ran a frustrated hand through his hair, “Gibbs, you walked into a hostage situation! As if that wasn’t bad enough, you offered to trade yourself! What the hell was I supposed to do, just stand there and watch you die?!”
“Yes! Dammit, Dinozzo, the next time I give you a direct order, you better obey it. My job is to protect my team, so if I put myself in the line of fire, so be it.”
“Well, I thought part of the job, as team leader, was to make decision for the greater good of the team as well as the resolution of the crime. Excuse me if I don’t see how you bleeding out in that damn warehouse was in the best interest of the team!”
“That’s how I run my team. When you have your own team, you can run it the way you see fit!”
Gibbs knew he’d crossed the line, and the look of hurt that washed over Tony’s face confirmed it.
“You are a real bastard.” Tony pushed past him, storming towards the elevator.
Sighing again, Gibbs pushed a hand through his hair. Looking back at Tony, he knew he had to fix it.
Abby was right. Tony had been through hell the last few years. It was a surprise he hadn’t given up on life, with all the shit that had been thrown at him. But even with everything he’d gone through, the toughest thing on Tony had been being separated from his team for all those months as he’d worked aboard that ship. Not being able to connect physically and emotionally with anyone on his team had been hell for Tony. Gibbs knew this without Tony saying anything because he knew Tony. Dinozzo is a tangible guy; he connects through touch. That’s where the headslaps had come in, because before they were lovers, Gibbs had picked up on that need. Touch had a direct connection to words for Tony. Telling him to straighten up was one thing, following it up with a head slap would ensure that it happened. Saying tomorrow would be better after a bad day would get you a shrug, hugging him as you said it told Tony that even if things weren’t all sunny you’d still be there. Complimenting Tony by saying he was attractive might garner a smirk, kissing him to prove it would reward you with a huge heartfelt smile. Gibbs’ knew this, and so he knew that the time on the ships, away from his ‘family, had been more hell than even the guilt his lover still felt from Jen’s death.
Reaching over, Gibbs shook Tony awake. He was prepared for Tony to startle awake, he often did after nightmares, but it didn’t happen. Tony simply blinked weary eyes open, and looked straight at Jethro.
“I figured you’d work on the boat all night.” Tony replied, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes as he sat up.
“No, I finished up my report, then I came straight home.”
“How long have you been here?”
“About an hour.”
“An hour?” Tony looked at him in confusion. “Why didn’t you wake me? What time is it?”
Gibbs glanced at his watch. “It’s about 7:30. I didn’t wake you, because I needed some time to think.” Looking back at his lover, Gibbs was startled to find the green eyes watching him so intently. “Tony, we need to talk.”
Surprisingly, Tony actually laughed, “Yeah, we do.”
“About earlier.” Gibbs rubbed a hand over his face before looking at Tony again. “I’m sorry, Tony.”
Tony stared at Gibbs for a long time before responding, “Do you even know why you’re apologizing, Jethro?”
Gibbs looked at Tony in confusion.
“I didn’t think so.” Tony stood up and walked over to the dresser, searching for a pair of sleep pants.
“Tony-” Gibbs walked up behind his lover.
Tony turned to Gibbs, holding up a hand to forestall his words. “Jethro, did you ever ask yourself why I didn’t take the job in Spain?”
“I know why, Tony. You were worried about me, my memory, if I could do the job.”
Tony walked over to his lover, grabbing his hand. “I didn’t want the job. I didn’t want to leave my home. It hurt like hell to go home every night believing that you weren’t coming back, knowing that you didn’t remember what we shared. But still, I stayed. Not for the team but for me.” Tony pulled Gibbs over to the bed, pulling him down to take a seat next to him. Releasing Gibbs hand, Tony ran folded his hands in his lap. “All my life, I never felt comfortable. I didn’t know why, but I never felt like I fit. At home, at boarding school, when I went to college. Nothing felt right, you know? But I could never figure out what it was. And for years, as I moved from place to place, job to job, it was always there, in the background. This sense of not belonging, not fitting in. That’s why I always moved, because although I could mostly ignore the feeling, eventually it would be too much.”
Tony turned to Gibbs, looking him in the eye. “When you asked for me to be on your team, I was at that point again. I’d already been thinking about moving for a while. DC seemed as good a place as any, and I actually wanted to work with you. But I knew the feeling wouldn’t last. It never had. The initial novelty would wear off and I’d find myself in search of a new job, new apartment, new friends. But by the time Kate joined the team, much to my surprise the feeling wasn’t there. I felt, I don’t know, settled. Like I finally belonged. And I don’t just mean on the team. And when Kate died, I knew the feeling would go away. Hell, I started searching for places to move to, looking around for different jobs. I was even offered a few positions, but I couldn’t take them. Because deep down, I knew I couldn’t leave. I was forcing the issue, trying to outrun the clock, just knowing that eventually the feeling would come back.”
Tony cleared his throat, and continued. “But as the years went on, even with all the crap that happened to me, and to our team, the feeling never came. I never felt compelled to leave. And after we got together, I knew for certain that I never would. Because DC was my home, the team had become my family, and you held my heart. Everything I’d ever wanted, even if I didn’t know it consciously, had finally become mine. So when you lost your memory and left, I couldn’t leave. You’d taken the largest part of me, Jethro. My heart was tied to you even if you couldn’t remember what we had. And just as my heart was tied to you, it was tied to everything here. Abby, Tim, Ziva, Ducky, even Palmer all had a little piece of me. When Jen offered me the team, although I was worried about you, I didn’t refuse the job because of you; I didn't want it. You’d come back, but you weren’t really here. I didn’t have you back. That piece of my heart was still out there floating around, lost in a sea of memories, and I didn’t know if I’d ever get it back. So I held on to the rest of my heart fiercely. I made sure Abby got her daily doses of CafPow, I continued to train McGee, I listened to Ducky’s stories, I gave Palmer a hard time, and I corrected Ziva’s English; I did it all. But I did for me. And when I walked into that damn warehouse today, fully defying your direct order, I did that for me too! Because after the Frog, and Jeanne, and Jen’s death, Vance, and being on that damn ship, I finally had my heart back. Battered and bruised, but it was finally whole, and I was not gonna let you put it, me, us, at risk just because you were too damn pigheaded to let me back you up! My whole life, I’ve tried to fit everyone’s idea of who Anthony Dinozzo was supposed to be, but for one minute, I didn’t care. I did something entirely selfish, and I thought of myself first. And it felt good! But having it thrown in my face today, that hurt more than you can imagine Jethro. So, when you tell me you’re sorry, mean it. Don’t throw words around, because I am so tired of taking shit from you just because I love you!”
At this point Tony was shouting, angry tears running down his face, but he wasn’t sobbing. His voice was strong and determined; Gibbs knew that if he lied, or hedged the truth in any way, he would destroy their relationship. Tony might remain on the team, but this, the love they shared, would be over.
Taking a deep breath, ignoring the tears on his own face, Gibbs reached out to his lover. Brushing away the tears, Gibbs kissed him chastely. Looking into Tony’s eyes, Gibbs spoke quietly, but firmly, “I’m sorry Tony. I am. I’m sorry for being grateful that it was Kate on that rooftop, not you. I’m sorry for putting you through all that hell when you first joined my team, knowing full well that there was no reason for it. I’m sorry for never thanking you when you took the time out to go and accept those awards for me all that time. I’m sorry for never showing you how much I appreciated you sticking with me all these years. I’m sorry for acting like McGee could replace you, he never could. Not on the team or in my heart.”
Cupping Tony’s face, Gibbs continued, “I’m sorry for forgetting you. I’m sorry for forgetting what we shared. When I was in Mexico, I would get small flashes of our time together. Out of context, it frightened me. I thought that some how I’d misconstrued an innocent moment between friends. I didn’t want to put you in an awkward position by making inappropriate advances. That’s why I stayed away so long. And then when I came back, I was still trying to distance myself from you.
Then I remembered. Everything we shared. And I felt ashamed. Not of you, but of myself. Shannon and Kelly’s deaths were so fresh in my mind, and loving you felt like a betrayal. So instead of working through my issues in a healthy way, I lashed out. And I’m sorry for that too. There’s no excuse. I’m ashamed of how I acted about the whole Frog situation. I expected loyalty, but I hadn’t shown any. You didn’t know me, not anymore. Hell, I didn’t know myself. I was still working through so much shit in my own head. But, with your help, I figured a lot of it out. But I never thanked you for helping me. I know you were working through your own issues about Jeanne, and I never even asked how you felt; I’m sorry for being such a jerk. And I’m so sorry that I wasn’t there for you after Jen’s death. I know you didn’t exactly like her, but you respected her. And I know you still beat yourself up about her death. It wasn’t you fault Tony. But I know that doesn’t help much.”
Tony turned and kissed the palm of the hand on his cheek. Looking back at Gibbs, he smiled slightly. “It helps more than you know.”
“When Vance broke up the team, I thought I was gonna have a heart attack. Just the thought of you leaving, it made feel sick. And that last night we had together, before you left; it was the only thing that kept me sane while you were away. I finally knew how you felt. A little bit anyway. I could call you, but we couldn’t really talk like we wanted. I could see you in MTAC, but again it was restrained. I thought I was gonna go insane if I didn’t get you back here soon.”
Gibbs moved his other hand to cup Tony’s other cheek, making sure his lover was looking right at him before pressing on. “Tony, when I lost Shannon and Kelly, my heart died. I was living, but I felt like it was on borrowed time. Then I saw you in DC, and for the first time in a long time, I felt a spark of life. I knew I had to have you on my team. You ignited something in me, and while I’ll admit I didn’t know what it was, I wanted to find out. It took me a while to figure it out, and even longer to decide what to do about it. But eventually I did, and being with you has been the best thing in my life. You restarted my heart, and I didn’t think that was possible again. When I saw you come into that warehouse today, images of Shannon and Kelly flashed before my eyes. I couldn’t lose you Tony. So when I walked into Abby’s lab today, I lashed out. I let my anger speak, because I was afraid of what I might do if I let the fear take hold of me. I’m sorry for what I said, I know you could run you own team; Jen probably would’ve offered you your own team a lot earlier if she hadn’t known I’d blow a gasket. I love you Tony, and the thought of losing you scares the hell out of me. I don’t toss around compliments easily, and I am even more guarded with my apologies. When I say I’m sorry, I mean it. And when I say I love you, I mean it even more.”
Tony stared at Jethro for a long while, trying to gauge the truth in his words. Finally, he smiled. “I love you too Jethro.” Tony kissed his lover softly on the lips, before moving on to wipe away the tears that had gathered on Gibbs’ face. Rising, Tony pulled Gibbs up with him. “Come on. I think there’s enough hot water for two.”
Gibbs smiled as he joined Tony in the bathroom. He knew that things weren’t gonna magically change overnight, knew they still had some things to work out. Soft words, no matter the conviction, would only go so far.
After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.