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As Much As I Can Stand

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Leroy Jethro Gibbs exited the elevator amongst a crowd of people, all dressed, as he was, to the nines. He wore his black tux which had been hidden in the back of his closet since his marriage to wife number four. Some might say he looked quite distinguished with his salt and pepper hair that was more salt than pepper every year. But Gibbs didn’t notice if anyone cast an interested glance his way.

This was the first time he had been with these people, employees of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, in over four years. Not since he had retired. For real this time. The Ballroom at this particular hotel was one Gibbs could remember solving a case in. It was either five or six years ago, he couldn’t remember. Everything was glistening, and the chandeliers shone across the hard wood dance floor in front of the dais containing the podium. People milled about, chatting and drinking glasses of champagne until it would be time to take their seats. Gibbs saw several that he recognized, and many more that he didn’t. Director Leon Vance gave him a small nod from the table nearest the dais where he sat with his wife and other high up members of NCIS.

But so far, Gibbs had not spotted the one face he longed to see. The reason why after so many years of declining invitations to award ceremonies and other upscale events such as this one, he had finally decided to attend. Anthony DiNozzo was nowhere to be found.

Gibbs had to laugh at the similarities Tony and himself still shared. Not showing up to receive an award. He supposed Tony had only ever enjoyed showing up to receive them on Gibbs’ behalf.

But thinking of the past made his heart hurt. To remember all the horrible things he had said, and done. Maybe he shouldn’t have come.

“Gibbs!” He turned, and there was Abby. She looked the same; somehow she had managed to goth up a simple black dress. She never ceased to amaze him. “I am so glad you came!” She wrapped her arms around him in a tight Abby bear hug. Gibbs had kept in touch with Abby and Ducky. Even Ziva had dropped by a few times to chat. McGee had called a few times, but then stopped, realizing they really had nothing to talk about.

“Come sit with us, we’re all over here.” She grabbed his wrist and pulled over to her table. Ziva was sitting, talking to Ducky. She looked radiant in a deep green dress. Ducky was his usual classic self, with a bright red bow tie. McGee smiled as Abby approached; Gibbs knew they were dating again.

“Hello, Gibbs,” Ziva said with a smile.

“Ziva.” Gibbs nodded. Ducky offered his hand to shake.

“Hello, Jethro.”

“Duck.”

“So Gibbs, me and McGee have something to tell you later. Not now, but... you know later.” She was fidgeting nervously in her seat next to McGee. McGee gave Gibbs a nod.

“Hello, Jethro.”

“Tony!” Abby jumped back up, and raced around the table to tackle Tony with a hug. Over Abby’s shoulder, Tony gazed at Jethro. There was no longer hatred in his eyes. The overwhelming hurt that had filled them four years ago. Now there was acceptance. Perhaps even a spark, suggesting that Tony had moved on and was happy. He looked good.

.

You look lovelier tonight than I remember.
I'm so glad I got to see you once again.
I've enjoyed just sitting here and reminiscing,
But I've enjoyed as much of this as I can stand.

.

Tony took the seat opposite Gibbs, between Ziva and McGee. And Abby immediately rushed into conversation.

“We’re all so proud of you Tony!”

“I don’t have the award yet, Abs.”

“Yeah, but we’re still proud. Right, Gibbs?”

Gibbs stared at Tony, who was watching him watch him. He could feel the air crackle between them; so much left unsaid. “Very proud, Tony.”

Gibbs found the glare of those green eyes unnerving. He longed for the past, when they had lain in bed and Gibbs could drown in those green pools as Tony lay facing him. But Abby had moved on to another topic, and this one piqued Gibbs’ interest.

.

There's so much more between us than this table.
All those years, all those dreams, all those plans.
Guess you know without me saying I still love you,
But I've enjoyed as much of this as I can stand.

.

“So how are you and Mark doing?” The people around them were taking their seats, preparing for dinner to be served.

Gibbs wondered intently who Mark was.

“We’re good. We finished painting the apartment, and we finally figured out why the ceiling in the bedroom leaked.”

“I was wondering about that. Coitus interuptus, indeed.” McGee made a strangled sound in his throat.

“Abby.”

“Oh, come on, Timmy. What would you do if our bedroom ceiling leaked while we were –” McGee covered her mouth, and Tony let out a raucous laugh. God, Gibbs missed that laugh. But it was no longer meant for him. That wonderful Tony laugh now belonged to Mark, clearly the new man in Tony’s life. Gibbs was happy for him. He was. But it was still painful to hear of Tony’s happiness with this new man while Gibbs was stuck in the past he had royally screwed up.

.

So you say you're happy now you've found a new love.
Tell him I said he's a lucky, lucky man.
No, I don't think I'll have time to see his picture.
I've enjoyed as much of this as I can stand.

.

The rest of the evening passed in a blur to Gibbs. It seemed the only thing he could focus on was Tony’s face as he smiled, laughed, and smirked. Gibbs nodded and politely engaged in conversation, but his mind was still in their bedroom, four years ago, as they screamed at each other. Tony had felt betrayed. Gibbs had thought it was for the best. When Tony had walked out on him, Gibbs had died a little inside.

Tony made a lovely acceptance speech for his award. Gibbs could tell he’d been working on it for years. But as the evening drew to a close, Gibbs began to feel trapped. This world he had left behind had moved on without him. Abby and McGee were getting married. Tony was living with his lover and they were getting a dog. And Gibbs was alone. And what made it worse was that he had no one to blame but himself and his stupidity. He really was a bastard.

He accepted that. He bid his friends farewell, told Ducky they would do lunch soon, and excused himself. His chest ached. As he stepped out into the cold October air, he felt the sadness weigh down upon him.

Behind him, the door opened.

“Running again?” Tony’s breath seeped into the air and out of sight.

Gibbs turned. “I was never running.”

Tony laughed. “Right. I guess that was just what I told myself, you know, because I couldn’t think of any better reason why you would let the best thing that ever happened to you walk out of your life.”

“It was over, Tony.”

“No it wasn’t. Not for me.”

Tony gave a heavy sigh. Gibbs saw once again that look of hurt in Tony’s eyes.

“Tony –”

“No, look, okay. It’s over now. I moved on, you moved on. I’m happy.”

“Good.” A car pulled up to the curb before them.

“That’s my ride. Goodbye, Jethro.” Gibbs watched, the ache in his chest threatening to overcome him. Tony sat in the passenger seat, and then leaned over to kiss the lips of a gorgeous man. Mark.

And Gibbs knew. That beautiful smile. That amazing, breath-taking DiNozzo smile, belonged to this new man, and always would. And that was what hurt the most.

As the car drove off, Gibbs followed it with his eyes until it disappeared around the corner.

“Me either, Tony. Me either.” Gibbs pulled his coat tighter around himself, and took off down the street.

.

There's so much more between us than this table.
All those years, all those dreams, all those plans.
Guess you know without me saying I still love you,
But I've enjoyed as much of this as I can stand.