Gibbs finally heard the soft footsteps coming down the stairs that he had been expecting for hours. It had been a hellacious day on so many levels. But he suspected that the person in the loafers that just came into view on the stairs was hurting most of all.
Tony made his way down the stairs with his hands stuffed deep in the pockets of his jeans. His t-shirt was a little rumpled and he just looked beaten down, and on the brink of something. Gibbs had seen that expression in the mirror more than a few times and he had compassion for the younger man.
Tony cleared his throat nervously, “Hey, Boss.”
“I, ah, hope you don’t mind me stopping by. I probably shoulda called first.”
“Door’s always open, DiNozzo. You know that.”
“Yeah.” He nodded and went to lean against the workbench just watching Gibbs shape and manipulate the wood for a long time without saying anything. The quiet country music coming from the radio and the rasping of wood were the only sounds in the basement, and they were immensely calming.
The lump that had been in his throat all day just wouldn’t go away and Tony cleared his throat again and asked quietly gesturing toward the block plane in Gibbs’ hand, “Does that help?”
“Sometimes.” He could see the things just below the surface that Tony didn’t want to talk about. And he knew how good at bottling things up Tony was, almost as good as he was. With a nod of his head he said, “C’mere.”
He handed Tony the plane and explained how it worked. Piece after piece they worked together, shaping and fitting, talking only about the wood, about the tools, about how Gibbs had learned woodworking, but they didn’t talk about the job, or the day. Tony found that it was relaxing, an almost Zen-like feeling. It gave him time to think and to process.
Gibbs was working at the bench with some pieces in the vice when he heard Tony say softly, “I screwed up, Boss.”
Thinking he meant on the boat, Gibbs turned around with a sarcastic reply on the tip of his tongue that he bit back when he saw Tony’s face. He hadn’t meant the boat.
Tony dropped his chin to his chest and Gibbs could see the tears that Tony had been fighting all day start to fall.
He crossed over to Tony and gave his shoulder a squeeze, “You should never have been put in that position, Tony. Not like that.”
“I really do love her, Boss. And I don’t know what to do.”
“I know. And I wish I had an answer for you, Tony.” He moved over to the workbench and pulled down an amber filled bottle and poured them each a healthy dose. He held out a mug to Tony and sipped his own.
Tony scrubbed his face with his hands and accepted the mug, letting the bourbon’s slow burn distract him.
“Did you ever fall for someone working an op?”
Gibbs took another sip and smirked, “Oh, yeah.”
Tony’s eyebrow shot up in surprise, he hadn’t expected that.
Gibbs put down his mug and picked his plane back up and said with another little smirk, “Paris.”
It took Tony a second to figure out what, or more specifically who, Gibbs was talking about, and the realization warmed him almost as much as the bourbon. He put his own mug down and picked up his sanding block again.
They worked side by side for a couple of hours, not talking, each man lost in his own thoughts. When Tony glanced at the clock and realized how much time had passed he was surprised. They decided to call it a night and Gibbs offered Tony the couch given the amount of bourbon they had consumed.
And as they headed up the basement stairs Tony said, “You’re right, Boss. It does help sometimes.”