Warnings: None except for fluff and a wee too much alcohol,
Word count: 3,744
Note: Episode Tag for Safe Harbor (9X5). Spoiler alert for things prior to that episode. Special thanks to djmichealsfics for the beta.
Summary: After realizing they weren’t going to find the perfect woman for Gibbs, Tony goes to apologize but instead learns why his search would have been futile.
“Are you going to ask me if I’m lonely, too?” Gibbs asked without looking up from sanding.
Tony laughed nervously. “Ahh…I guess not?” He hesitated and then acted as if he never planned on asking it at all as he finished coming down the stairs.
Gibbs knew better. Both Borin and Ziva had already tried to get him to confess to something he didn’t need or want. He knew the whole search for a woman for him had been Tony’s idea, but he didn’t know why Tony had felt the need to do it. He assumed he was about to learn what was behind that little adventure.
Silence filled the air as Tony walked over to the work bench to fill a glass of bourbon for himself. Gibbs looked over and raised an eyebrow at him. Tony rarely drank bourbon but he swallowed the shot immediately and refilled. Normally he’d have pulled a beer out of Gibbs’ refrigerator before descending the steps. Bourbon meant Tony was struggling more than usual.
“Too perfect, huh?” Tony asked leaning against the bench. He left out a soft chuckle.
“Uh huh,” Gibbs grunted. He didn’t plan on telling Tony more than that. The lady had been nice but boring. Mann had been more of a challenge before she got all ‘let’s-commit-to-each-other-and-I’ll-start-by-turning-my-whole-life-upside-down-without-telling-you-and-then-getting-pissed-off-that-you-didn’t-want-it-too.’ It certainly hadn’t been what he would call ‘making love’ with her. They’d had sex – much like he had with his last three wives. He’d been fond of them, enjoyed their company, but that had been it. He hadn’t really made love since Shannon.
He hadn’t hooked up with any woman because he was lonely. He hooked up because he’d been horny and tired of his own hand and they had all been interesting in their own way. He could never have sex with someone he didn’t at least like or find intriguing in some way, but he didn’t need to love them. He hadn’t planned on any of them sticking around but when they insisted on marriage, he just couldn’t think of a reason to say no. They had been decent enough companions at the beginning and at least the promise of regular sex had seemed compelling each time. Gibbs didn’t deny he loved sex. He just didn’t always love the emotional baggage that came with the women he got involved with. By now though, he’d learned his lessons about marriage and Mann had borne the brunt of that decision when he refused to even entertain the notion. He wasn’t cut out to commit to another woman. He didn’t want a new person in his life. He loved the ones that were in it now, even if he wasn’t always good about expressing it. He had his ‘family’ and that was enough.
But Mann hadn’t been the answer and neither was finding another woman. It wasn’t what Gibbs wanted. What he actually wanted though was unlikely to ever happen so Gibbs repressed his desire and took what he could get.
“I know you hate apologies but I’m going to apologize anyways,” Tony said softly as he sat down across from Gibbs.
“Why?” Gibbs blew some sawdust off the wood he’d been working. He noticed Tony had changed into more casual clothes. He had on some old, faded jeans and an equally faded, almost threadbare Ohio State sweatshirt. Gibbs recognized the shirt. Tony often wore it when he was ill or down. Gibbs assumed it was a sort of security blanket and wondered why he felt the need to wear it tonight. He could only assume that Tony was feeling anxious and Gibbs sensed that his responses were going to be crucial in resolving whatever issues were spinning around in Tony’s overly imaginative brain.
Tony crossed his arms, closing himself off. “I shouldn’t have gotten involved in your personal business.”
He said it so softly, Gibbs barely heard him. Tony must have thought Gibbs would be pissed at him for being nosy. In the past, Gibbs probably would have but lately he’s realized he’d cut other people off when there was no need for him to. His team cared about him. They wanted the best for him as much as he wanted it for them. Yes, Tony had a habit of butting in where he wasn’t always needed, but Gibbs knew some of that came from a sense of wanting to belong, sometimes from a genuine concern about people and often because, at his core, Tony was an investigator and couldn’t let a mystery go. He realized that Tony thought he had crossed the line and was seeking absolution. If Gibbs knew nothing else, he knew that Tony needed his approval for some reason. Gibbs wished it was for the reason he wanted it to be for, but recognized it was more a latent response to a lack of approval from other important people in Tony’s life. He wasn’t going to let Tony down this time.
“You’re my Second. Can’t imagine who else should get into my business if not you.” Gibbs sat the sander down and picked up a chisel. There were still some flaws he needed to work out of the wood. He saw Tony’s face out of the corner of his eyes and almost smiled at seeing the frozen look at Gibbs declaration. “Of course, I’d have preferred you not involve the whole damn team,” Gibbs continued, “Maybe next time – you should come to me first to see what I want.”
“Right. Okay,” Tony agreed, only a slight hesitation coloring his answer. “So…what do you want, Boss?”
Gibbs looked up and smirked at Tony with a small shake of his head. He turned back to his project. Silence filled the room again with the exception of the sound of Gibbs’ whittling. He didn’t plan on answering that question. Not yet, anyways.
Eventually Tony would speak. The silence would bother him too much not to.
“You know, for someone who thinks perfect is boring, you sure spend a lot of time perfecting your projects.”
Gibbs was impressed. Tony lasted an entire minute longer before speaking than Gibbs had expected. He thought the achievement deserved an answer. “That’s because they’re mine. It didn’t come to me already finished and perfected, but ready for me to work with. I’ve taken the wood and shaped it exactly how it should be shaped. I’ve used my hands to perfect the raw materials into something wonderful, almost like I’m stripping away the layers to find the true purpose underneath; uncovering this unique and wonderful creation that no one else knew existed. It’s not what the rest of the world thinks is perfect but what I think is perfect that matters.
“Like this piece of oak I’m working on. It started as nothing but a block of wood and by carefully whittling away the things that aren’t needed by working with the grain, it will eventually become something wonderful. It had been tossed in the discount pile because of this discoloration here.” Gibbs pointed to a large dark circle in the center. “Some people would hate that because it disrupts the pattern. I love it. It’s still as strong as any other piece of oak but what others consider a flaw, I consider unique and that makes it perfect for me.”
“Wow…uh...that’s sort of poetic…and unusually wordy, if I might add,” Tony noted.
“I can talk when I want to. Just don’t have much to say most of the time. Talking’s overrated and often prevents real communication.”
Tony nodded almost imperceptibly. Gibbs wondered if he had even realized he had done it. No one was better than Tony at using speech to misdirect others from his true emotions. Gibbs trusted Tony’s body language to tell him the truth more than his oratory skills.
Gibbs watched as Tony shifted in his seat and hunched his shoulders in an obvious effort to protect his center. Gibbs knew Tony was trying to figure out how to ask something that was important to him but was afraid the answer might hurt. “So you don’t like perfect people because you didn’t perfect them?”
“No. What other people consider perfect doesn’t mean that it’s perfect for me.”
Tony smiled, but it wasn’t his honest smile. He had looked up from under his lashes and plastered the fake smile Gibbs had seen when he had to deal with his father. He longed for acceptance from the man but so rarely got it, he expected to be disappointed. “I guess I finally figured out why you hired me. Can’t think of a less perfect person than me.”
Tony laughed but Gibbs heard the insecurity underneath. “Tony, I hired you because you had the raw materials I wanted to work with to be a great investigator. You just needed some polishing.” Gibbs hoped that’s as far as Tony would push. He wasn’t sure he was ready to admit that Tony was more than his best investigator.
“Needed. Past tense?” Tony asked with a smirk. Gibbs noted the relaxation in his shoulders as he leaned back. Tony was feeling reassured.
“I believe I’ve mentioned before that you are the best young agent I’ve ever trained. Don’t go fishing for more than that.” Gibbs stood and walked over to the bench to pour himself a glass.
“Right. Sorry. No more fishing…except for well…you really don’t feel the need to find someone? It’s just – you spend all your free time here. You need to get out. Get more of a life. You’re not going to find someone to love in your basement.” Tony looked around the room.
Gibbs wanted to laugh at the irony of that statement but refrained.
“We could go out. I’d be your wing-man. Help you find that special someone. Who knows – maybe wife number five would be the lucky charm.”
“I don’t need another wife,” Gibbs said. He poured himself another glass and pulled the stool over and sat across from Tony. “Couldn’t afford it, either.”
“Okay – girlfriend then.”
Gibbs frowned as he studied Tony. He wondered why this was so important to the younger man.
“Not...girlfriend. Yeah girlfriend sounds too juvenile...maybe –ladyfriend? Gah – that just sounds like an old lady. Woman? Well – that just sounds wrong.” Tony was muttering to himself almost. Finally he looked back up at Gibbs. “You know there’s not really a good word but you know what I mean. You should find someone. You deserve to find someone.”
“You’re in my basement,” Gibbs let the hint lie there for a few seconds until he saw Tony’s eyes widened before continuing, “You’re not out there looking for someone. You’re hiding here as well.”
Tony sighed deeply. “Yeah…I know. Not sure what’s wrong. I have gone out but it seems like such a chore anymore. I just can’t seem to find anyone I really click with.” Tony downed another glass and Gibbs could see he was beginning to feel a little buzzed. Tony’s mood was odd even before the alcohol. Gibbs knew Tony didn’t really like getting too drunk around others as he sometimes swung from maudlin to giddy quickly and Tony didn’t like being out of control. He played at it, as much as he played at the overgrown frat boy persona, but Tony had no desire to drink like his father had and usually kept it to social outings on a rare weekend. Gibbs was beginning to get concerned that Tony had drunk so much already.
Tony looked surprised. “Well…I know we flirt and all…but that’s all it is. I think we both know that we’d be a disaster long term. We’d have a real potential of making things truly messy. I’m not an easy person to be with and neither is she. I think we’re good as is.”
“Good,” Gibbs replied under his breath. He wanted Tony happy, but if he was honest with himself, and Gibbs usually painfully was, he didn’t want Tony happy with someone else. Before had had a chance to head slap himself for the selfish thought, Tony started laughing.
“I’ve got it! You ever think about Dr. Kate’s sister? She’s sort of cute and red-headed to boot.” Tony grinned mischievously. A flush was beginning to color Tony’s face. Gibbs could see his entire body relaxing. Not only was the alcohol was beginning to hit, Gibbs thought he was feeling more at ease now that he knew Gibbs wasn’t angry with him. Tony reached out and took the bottle to refill once again and then stretched to refill Gibbs’ glass.
Gibbs laughed. “No, I don’t think I’d be too comfortable with a shrink.” He watched Tony down the glass and knew he was going to have a house guest for the night. There was no way Tony would be in shape to drive anywhere once all that alcohol got into his system. Tony couldn’t hold his liquor the way he’d been able to when he had first started at NCIS.
“Why not Borin? Another redhead; a spitfire to boot. Not as mean as Diane, if Fornell’s told the truth about her, but she could keep up with you.”
“Borin’s too much like me. I don’t see me getting romantic with myself and taking me out to dinner,” Gibbs said.
Tony started laughing hysterically. “I think that’s called masturdating!” He laughed even harder and fell off his chair onto the floor. “Ow…” he whimpered as he sat back up but then continued laughing. “Mastur…dating…get it?”
“I get it,” Gibbs said, trying not to laugh. Seeing Tony laugh freely was something that always made his day – not that he’d have ever admitted that. He hated that it had taken so much bourbon for Tony to get there tonight but Tony had an infectious smile and a genuine laugh that Gibbs enjoyed seeing. Tony hadn’t been too far off when he had teased Kate about his smile being the reason he’d been hired. It had certainly gotten Gibbs’ attention when he’d first seen it.
“Although…seeing you date someone exactly like yourself – that could be sort of interesting. You’d grunt at each other monosyllabically, slap each other on the back of the head, and shop at Sears together. Hey – at least if you accidentally swapped coffees, you’d never know!”
“At least she doesn’t drink that hazelnut swill you like to swallow.”
“I like swallowing,” Tony replied and blushed furiously. “I didn’t mean…” He grabbed the glass and downed the bourbon left in it.
Gibbs liked watching him swallow it. He felt a sudden surge of desire shoot through him as he watched Tony’s Adam’s Apple work. Tony may not have meant it, but Gibbs couldn’t help imagining it.
“I think you’ve had too much,” Gibbs said trying to cover the moment.
“You may be right. I’m feeling awfully warm. Is it hot in here? ‘Cause I’m hot. Are you hot? You look hot...oh wait…” Tony was babbling again, a clear sign he was nervous.
Tony ran his hand through his hair. It was a gesture Gibbs knew well. It meant Tony was agitated because he’d inadvertently let something slip out he hadn’t meant to. Interesting. Maybe there was something to that head shrinking stuff after all – Freudian slip and all that.
“Maybe you should hook up with Holly Snow,” Tony blurted out and suddenly sprung to his feet so fast he wobbled on his feet. He looked like he wanted to run away.
Gibbs stepped forward and grabbed Tony’s arm to steady him, glaring at him.
“Couldn’t afford her even if I wanted to. I really don’t need another woman, DiNozzo.”
“Maybe you need another man,” Tony quipped jokingly, but Gibbs heard a note of interested curiosity in Tony’s voice. Gibbs raised his eyebrows at the darkening flush on Tony’s face as he apparently registered what he had just said. Gibbs thought the alcohol was impairing Tony’s ability to shield his emotions. While Gibbs didn’t want Tony to need alcohol to be himself, in this moment, it might provide the perfect opportunity to dent the walls a little.
Gibbs stepped forward directly into Tony’s space, pleased that Tony didn’t back away. “Don’t need another man, either,” Gibbs replied softly, half-smiling at the flustered look on Tony’s face.
“Ooh…sorry – I didn’t mean…I mean…shit - did I say that out loud? I didn’t mean to imply you are…” Tony tried to turn away.
“The one right here is just perfect,” Gibbs said, reaching out and tucking Tony’s chin. He wasn’t sure what had given him the urge to say it, but there it was, waiting for Tony to run, hide or stay.
Tony’s eyes glazed a bit in confusion and he looked around the basement, as if thinking someone else was there.
Gibbs waited for Tony to catch up.
Finally Tony looked back and raised his eyebrows in surprise. “You mean…me? I mean…us. You mean you are…and with me? I think maybe I’m drunk and didn’t hear that right.”
“You,” Gibbs said softly and pointed at him.
Tony swayed a bit. “Really? I mean…I well...really me? I’m the one that’s not perfect enough for you? The one you want to whittle?” Tony stopped, looking confused. “Whoa - that doesn’t sound right. I mean – the one you – you know...”
“Poetic, DiNozzo.” Gibbs grinned. “But – accurate enough.”
“Oh…well I…you’re a guy. I’ve never…well okay – there was that one time in college. And then in Philly so I guess I can’t say I’ve never kissed a…and I can’t say I’ve never thought of you...when I was drunk or horny…and I’m talking too much, aren’t I?”
“Ya think?” Gibbs said in answer. He continued to look at Tony, giving the man space. He knew Tony had a need to talk out loud when trying to suss through an issue or a problem. It was his process. Exactly the opposite of Gibbs.
“So, I’m your wood?” Tony asked, looking unusually serious.
Gibbs actually chuckled.
Tony blushed and then laughed. “Wow – and again that really didn’t sound right. My mouth is getting me into all sorts of trouble tonight.” He shook his head and laughed harder. When he finished laughing, he looked Gibbs closely. “I don’t know if I…” Tony hesitated mid-sentence.
Gibbs wasn’t used to being scrutinized quite in the same way he usually scrutinized Tony but Gibbs let him take the time he needed. Again, he saw the shoulders set as they did when Tony made decisions.
“Kiss me,” Tony said, finally. He sounded as if he had decided to allow someone to give him a painful vaccination shot; like he knew he needed it but was sure it was going to be unpleasant.
Gibbs recognized that Tony was testing him as well as himself. He also recognized he had one shot. He had to make this kiss count if he wanted more. On the positive side, Gibbs knew he was a good kisser. There was, after all, a reason he’d been able to get married so many times. It was the one area his wives never complained about and he doubted he’d mess that up just because Tony was a man. Because Gibbs knew Tony. He knew Tony would be someone that loved being kissed thoroughly.
Gibbs reached up and stroked his thumb across Tony’s cheek softly. He was pleased to feel Tony lean into it. “Close your eyes,” Gibbs whispered.
Tony tilted his head and looked curiously at Gibbs.
“It will take your mind off me being a man or for that matter, being me, for a moment. We’re just kissing. Nothing more. If you don’t like it, we’ll never discuss this again. You know I would never hold it against you.”
“I know you wouldn’t,” Tony said. He closed his eyes in compliance and his lips half parted.
The trust implied in the statement and the action warmed Gibbs. He softly pressed his lips against Tony’s, almost ghosting over them. He stepped closer and slid one arm slowly around Tony’s waist and pulled him gently to him. The other arm reached around and he placed his hand on the nape of Tony’s neck, coaxing Tony downward to meet him. He used his thumb to slowly stroke along the nape and knew he’d hit a sensitive spot when Tony let out an unexpected moan, parting his lips wider. Tony’s lips were softer than Gibbs had imagined, but the contrast with the slight stubble that was forming that late in the evening felt remarkably sinful. Gibbs pressed a little more forcefully and slipped his tongue just inside Tony’s mouth, licking the inside of Tony’s lips softly before finding the ridge just behind Tony’s teeth with his tongue. He softly swiped along the entire ridge before sliding his tongue alongside Tony’s. Tony tasted of bourbon and mint and Gibbs loved it. Tony bucked forward at the sensation of their tongues just lightly gliding against each other and surrendered his mouth even more.
Gibbs was surprised and delighted to find Tony wasn’t fighting him for dominance during this kiss. He was surrendering. He felt Tony’s knees buckled as Gibbs pressed their mouths together a little harder and pulled their bodies tighter. Gibbs hand tightened against Tony’s back, feeling the muscle underneath the soft fabric of the sweatshirt. Gibbs felt the heat rising from Tony. He ground their hips together in a long, slow thrust. Tony felt good pressed against him but Gibbs wasn’t going to press for more tonight. He loved the teasing feel of Tony’s lips attempting to follow him as he ended the kiss. He wanted more than anything to keep going, but he’d waited this long for Tony, he wasn’t going to rush the man. Tony would need a bit of time to process this. If he pressed, Tony would have gone along, but he would have had numerous doubts afterwards. Gibbs wanted him to have no doubts about the two of them.
Kissing Tony had been better than he imagined. He hoped he’d done enough to convince him to be willing to do more of it. Regardless of what Holly Snow had thought of him, Gibbs could kiss someone he loved for a long time and he loved foreplay.
“Open your eyes,” Gibbs whispered.
Tony’s green eyes were glassy and darkened. “Wow,” Tony whispered.
“Yeah, it was…you okay?” Gibbs’ palm held Tony’s face as he studied his eyes.
Tony smiled deeply and genuinely at him and Gibbs relaxed. That was the smile he first fell for.
“Yeah, I think I’m perfect,” Tony answered.