Tony loved everything about autumn. The crisp clear days were a welcome relief from the stifling heat and humidity of summer. Chilly, frosty mornings gave way to pleasant, mild afternoons, with flannel shirts and jeans coming back into fashion in place of shorts and t-shirts. The autumn air was pungent with its distinct aroma. There was just something about the scent of decaying fallen leaves mixed with the smoke from emanating from the chimneys of neighborhood wood burning fireplaces and backyard fire pits that made Tony think of home and family. He found the crunch of leaves underfoot oddly comforting.
Indoors the scent of hewn and sanded hardwoods emanating from the basement was almost overpowered by the spices of the season. Vanilla, pumpkin, cinnamon, nutmeg, and apple filled the house as Tony's passion for baking got into full swing. Gibbs and DJ were always on hand to sample freshly-baked offerings; sugar content and calories be damned. Nothing, however, could totally erase the underlying distinct aroma of rich Jamaican blend coffee that permeated every nook and cranny of the house.
The days grew shorter, the nights longer.
On the weekends their normally quiet, suburban neighborhood became a symphony of droning leaf blowers and lawnmowers as the seemingly endless battle of man versus leaves raged on. Tony never expected to enjoy the amount of work involved in keeping a yard cleared of maple and oak leaves, but in truth he loved it.
While Gibbs manned the ladder and scooped handfuls of wet leaves out of the rain gutters, Tony attempted to rake the backyard. It proved to be an exercise in futility. Tony sighed in defeat as he stood in the midst of a sudden leaf blizzard.
After what felt like hours spent meticulously raking about two billion leaves, Cyclone DJ blew through the backyard at breakneck speed and took direct aim at the huge pile that had been the culmination of Tony’s valiant effort. DJ had apparently grown bored with "mowing" the backyard with his Fisher Price Bubble Mower. His whined protest that it was out of gas just meant it was out of bubble solution. Thankfully, a big refill bottle sat on a dusty shelf in the garage in the event of such a disaster.
Gibbs watched with great amusement from his perch on the ladder as Tony dropped his rake and gave chase. The whirling dervish zig-zagged around the yard but he was no match for Tony. Stuffing a handful of wet leaves from the gutter into a trash bag, Gibbs shook his head as a victorious Tony marched around the backyard with a squealing and laughing DJ hanging upside down over his shoulder. Somewhere along the line the two managed to strike an accord, and working together finished re-raking and bagging all of the leaves just as Gibbs was putting the ladder in the garage.
For his part, Gibbs was annoyed by the constant advertising of pumpkin spice flavored "every damn thing”. He certainly didn't see the need to dedicate entire aisles at the grocery to it. Tony wasn't a big fan either, pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie being the only exceptions. He didn't go much farther than perking up his beloved hazelnut coffee with a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg to give it a little seasonal kick.
Evenings at home meant a crackling fire, soft, comfy sweats, steaming mugs of hot chocolate for Tony and DJ - coffee for Gibbs - in lieu of cold beer, and plenty of cuddling on the couch in front of the TV.
Unlike Tony, who could binge watch damn near anything for hours, Gibbs was not one to waste time in front of the idiot box. He had no interest in the sheer stupidity of reality shows leaving the news, baseball or football games, and any of a thousand movies to choose from. Between Tony's extensive DVD collection and his insistence on having all of the DirectTV movie channels, not to mention DJ's ever-growing library of 'kid flicks', Gibbs knew he'd never live long enough to see them all.
Gone were the days of exploring like horny teenagers, with teasing hands searching for prizes beneath the cover of a fluffy blanket, which more often than not had led to making love in front of the hearth. Evening cuddles now included a chatty pre-schooler nestled between them as a ballgame or the Disney flick du jour played on the big screen.
The only downside to the changing season meant the end of sailing while the Caitlyn wintered in dry dock at the marina, hibernating until the warm days of spring and summer returned. With no open case and a few days of unseasonably warm weather in the forecast, a final weekend cruise of the season was definitely in order.
Tony stayed wrapped in the security of Gibbs' arms until the need to relieve himself became too great. He managed to extricate himself without rousing Gibbs then tip-toed by the faint glow of a nightlight to the small but fully appointed head. His plan to return to the warmth of their bed was scuttled by the sight of a flannel jammied DJ sprawled out in his place with his worn, ratty blanket tucked in the crook of his little arm.
"How'd he get in here so fast?" Tony thought, looking from DJ's vacated bed to his. The galley had been retrofitted the year before so that the Formica table top lowered down to the level of the seats. Adding a futon cushion, pillows, and blankets stored in the bench seats it became an extra bed.
Deciding it was best to let sleeping dogs lie, Tony shook his head as he pulled the thin thermal blanket up to cover the two softly snoring forms and scooped up his clothes from the day before off of the floor.
After sliding the pocket door closed, Tony switched on the coffee maker and got dressed while the carafe filled. With his coffee doctored to his liking, he slipped into a pair of Vans Classics and headed up the steps and through the cabin doors out onto the deck.
The sun had just broken over the horizon. The sky was a pastel palette of muted colors and there was a decided chill in the air. Zipping up his fleece-lined jacket to ward off the cold, Tony took in the breathtaking panoramic tableau before him. It was late-October and the turning leaves had reached their peak setting tree-lined residential streets, parks, and hillsides ablaze with magnificent color. The shoreline of the bay was no exception with rich shades of red, orange, yellow as far as the eye could see.
Standing at the railing with both hands wrapped around a large mug of coffee to warm his fingers, Tony enjoyed the peaceful early Sunday morning while his husband and son slumbered below deck. He would never tire of the serenity of the tucked away Tilghman Island cove that he and Gibbs had discovered on one of their earliest outings.
The Caitlin gently bobbed and rocked surrounded by faint wisps of condensation that rose and danced above the warmer water beneath the chilled air. Tony took a healthy swig of his coffee and reveled in the warmth that reached all the way to his toes. He closed his eyes and sighed in contentment, feeling more at peace than he had in months.
Below deck, Gibbs was startled awake from what had been a restful sleep by the impact of a small elbow hitting him squarely in the sternum. The owner of said elbow was settling in, sprawled out next to him taking up more than his fair share of the bed. For a little kid, DJ could take up a lot of real estate.
In the early morning light peeking in through the porthole, Gibbs shot a disapproving look at his sleeping companion then rolled onto his back with a yawn and stretched. He normally didn't mind being woken up at the crack of dawn on the weekends as long as it lead to early morning loving. Waking by gentle but strong roaming hands and warm, tender searching lips was much more enjoyable than being punched and kicked.
Gibbs carefully climbed over DJ mindful not to disturb him. Waking DJ before he was good and ready to get up in the morning made for a cranky toddler, which was never a pleasant way to start the day. Besides, allowing DJ to sleep meant he could enjoy his first cup of coffee with Tony on deck. He grabbed his go bag and slid the door open. The strong aroma of freshly brewed coffee was a welcome greeting. He made short work using the head, washing his face, and changing into jeans and a hooded USMC sweatshirt. After pulling on a pair of thick socks, he slipped into his sneakers and poured a cup of coffee. With customary stealth, Gibbs headed out into the early morning light to join his husband.
A smile grew on Tony's lips when he felt a strong arm encircle his waist from behind and hold him tight, followed by warm breath against the shell of his ear.
"Mornin'," Gibbs purred, his morning voice deep and gravelly.
He placed a series of kisses on Tony's neck just below his left ear and earned the expected shiver.
"Mmmmm...good morning," Tony chirped back, tilting his head to the side to allow his husband to nibble to his heart's content. "You sleep well?"
"Yeah, until your son decided to beat the hell out of me," Gibbs replied between kisses and nibbles.
"Sorry about that. The kid still out?"
"Yep. Snoring to beat the band, too."
Tony turned in Gibbs' arms to give him a proper good morning kiss.
"Yeah, well he gets that from you," Tony teased.
He had been blamed for enough of DJ's bad habits, so it was high time Gibbs took the credit, or in this case the blame, for once.
Gibbs flashed a crooked smirk and shrugged before raising his own coffee mug to his lips.
Tony relieved Gibbs of his mug then moved in to kiss the smirk from his lips. Small teasing kisses led to longer languid ones. Gibbs' strong dark roast Jamaican blend and Tony's sugary hazelnut flavors combined to create coffee-flavored kisses that were uniquely theirs. Eager hands began to explore as the kisses deepened and passion ignited. Tony hissed as Gibbs' cold fingers burrowed under his sweatshirt and made contact with his warm skin.
"Brrr...your hands are cold," Tony panted in protest with chattering teeth only to have it swallowed by Gibbs taking possession of his mouth.
After several minutes, Gibbs pulled Tony over to the padded bench seat along the starboard railing. Were it a balmy July morning instead of a chilly late-October one, the make out session that ensued would likely have escalated. Clothes would have been cast off without a care in the world, and the unabashed lovers would have given in to their mutual desire.
From their first outing, the boat had afforded them opportunities to explore their exhibitionist sides. With no one around for miles, clothing was optional and discouraged. More than once Tony had found himself bound to the railings with the extra coil of rope stowed away in case of emergency. Gibbs would drive him wild and have him begging for release before taking him with only local fauna to witness it.
Before DJ came into their lives, sunny summer afternoons were filled with fishing and swimming. Their favorite, tucked away cove afforded enough privacy away from other boats on the bay making swim trunks optional, in the water or while sunning on deck. Making love on deck under a blistering sun or beneath a pitch black sky lit with only the light from the moon and billions of distant stars was Tony's preferred way of communing with nature.
With DJ on board, such displays of sexual shenanigans were curtailed but not completely abandoned. Once DJ was securely tucked in for the night, Gibbs would lead Tony topside to showcase his softer, more romantic side. When so inspired, Gibbs had a penchant for wooing. After so many years together, Tony was still touched by the little things – arousing touches, his favorite jazz playing, a good, chilled bottle of wine, or even a couple of cold bottles of beer in a pinch to set the mood. Lovemaking on deck beneath the stars was always a slow and sweet affair. Sometimes just cuddling and talking was enough.
For better or for worse, their morning make out session was brought to an abrupt end.
"Daddies!" DJ wailed sleepily from below deck. Gibbs and Tony both sighed.
"So much for peace and quiet," Gibbs grumbled as he stood and pulled Tony to his feet. "You get him dressed and I'll start breakfast."
"Deal." Tony pecked Gibbs on the lips before calling out, "Right here, buddy!"
After a hearty breakfast, the crew of the Caitlyn prepared to set sail. DJ took his duties as Gibbs' First Mate seriously and tugged on the rope with all his might to help Tony raise the mainsail. Despite chubby little fingers, DJ managed to cleat the line like a pro. As the wind filled out the sail and jib, the Caitlin headed out into the deep open water toward the marina.
They had a big day ahead of them; DJ's first trip to the pumpkin patch!
"How hard can it be to pick out a damn pumpkin?" Gibbs pondered as he watched Tony and DJ sort through piles of pumpkins trying to find the perfect one. He had one picked out within five minutes of arriving at the Riley farm, but the synchronized head shakes and disapproving scowls he received told him he had lousy taste in pumpkins. Faring no better with his second and third selections, he gave up and left Tony and DJ to find one they could agree on.
"Hey, Gibbs," a man in dirty coveralls said as he offered Gibbs a large mug of spiced apple cider.
"That kid of yours is getting big. How old is he now?"
Gibbs accepted the mug and shook the man's hand.
"Hey, Tom. Four, turning five next month."
Tom Riley was a local legend. After a storied and highly decorated military career, he retired and bought a small farm he worked with his wife Helen, a retired school teacher. They sold organic produce and fresh baked bread and pies at the farmers’ market held every Saturday in the parking lot of the local strip mall.
Their farm, tucked away down a gravel county road in the middle of nowhere, was the go-to place for Halloween pumpkins and fresh-cut Christmas trees. Having no children of their own, Tom and Helen loved hosting school field trips that included a hay rack ride and a free pumpkin for every kid.
DJ's pre-school class had visited earlier in the week, but he missed out due to being out sick with a nasty cold. He had talked of little else in the week leading up to the field trip and was heartbroken that he couldn't go. DJ was nearly inconsolable, so Gibbs called Tom to arrange a visit to the farm to let him pick out a pumpkin.
"Five? My goodness, time sure flies. Seems like just yesterday you and Tony brought him by the market that first time."
Tony and Gibbs first met the Rileys soon after Tony moved in. They stopped by their stand while out for a Saturday morning run and have been regular, loyal customers ever since. It didn't take Helen or Tom long to figure out that the two federal agents were more than just friends out for a run.
Helen called them out by declaring in a hushed tone, "Don't for one second think you two are fooling us. We may be getting old, but we aren't that old - yet."
Tony blushed furiously, Gibbs sighed, and Tom chortled.
Tom cut off Tony's attempted protest.
"Now look here, life's too damn short to give a lick what anyone thinks. You boys look good together and you seem happy. Ain't nothing wrong with that."
Helen's gasped and clasped her hands to her chest when Tony and Gibbs showed up one early fall morning with a little bundled surprise.
Tom declared with a hearty laugh, "Well, I'll be damned! What have we got here?"
Before Gibbs could make proper introductions, Helen had DJ unbuckled and lifted out of his stroller. While the older couple fussed over the cooing baby, Tony and Gibbs took turns laying out the whole story of how a now nearly one-year old DJ came into their lives followed by a sanitized version of Tony's injury and long convalescence.
"We would have brought him by to meet you sooner, but ...," Tony trailed off with a shrug as he leaned on his crutches.
Taking long walks had been an integral part of Tony's rehab to regain strength in his legs. Having been freed from the series of casts on his leg, he no longer needed the crutches to get around, but Gibbs insisted on using them when they were out with DJ for any extended amount of time. His reasoning being, "I can't carry you and push a stroller, Tony."
"Hey, looks like they finally found one," Tom said with a chuckle.
"It’s about damn time," Gibbs grumbled for effect before taking a sip of cider.
"Daddy, lookie what we gots," DJ called out as he ran toward Gibbs with a medium-sized, perfectly shaped pumpkin in his hands.
Gibbs could have sworn it was one of the first ones he picked up. Behind him Tony was lugging one that Gibbs estimated weighed 30 pounds or better.
Tom let out a hearty, friendly laugh and ruffled DJ's hair.
"Looks like you found the best one of the bunch."
DJ beamed up at Tom and nodded.
"Whadya say?" Gibbs asked.
"Thank you, Mr. Riley," DJ replied as an out of breath Tony placed the giant orange gourd down on the ground.
"You are quite welcome, bud. Tony, how you doin'?" Tom asked.
Tony shook the meaty hand extended to him.
"I'm good, thanks," he panted. "Man, that thing weighs a ton."
Helen appeared with two more mugs of cider and handed the smaller of the two to DJ.
"Here you go, sweetheart. Got one for your daddy, too," she said with a smile.
"Thank you, Mrs. Riley," DJ and Tony replied in unison.
Since DJ missed out on the hayrack ride with his classmates, Tom made up for it by taking him for a cruise through the cornfield on his big green John Deere farm tractor. DJ waved from his perch on Tom's lap and squealed with delight when he put the machine in gear and turned into the field. Helen, Gibbs, and Tony waved back.
"Thanks for having us, Helen. Appreciate it," Gibbs stated with sincerity as the tractor rolled out of sight.
"Oh, anytime honey. We're always glad to see you two and that darling little boy of yours. He just gets cuter every time I see him."
"Yeah, and he knows it too," Tony replied with a laugh.
"Oh now Tony, it's no secret he gets all that charm from you," Helen teased, or more like flirted. Gibbs rolled his eyes.
Half an hour later, Tom pulled the tractor to a stop and handed a giggling DJ down to Gibbs. It had been a fun, relaxing afternoon after a couple of stressful weeks.
Gibbs had been able to stay home and nurse DJ back to health while Tony and the team spent marathon hours at the office working a case to bring a dirtbag to justice and reunite a kidnapped 10-year old girl with her widowed Navy Seal father. When necessary, Gibbs' home office could serve as a SCIF. It wasn't one hundred percent regulation, but McGee set it up so that Gibbs would at least have a secure live feed to MTAC.
Gibbs shut down McGee’s stuttered techno-babble presentation about encryption algorithms and DOD security protocols with a barked demand of, "Just tell me it's secure and then how the hell all of this shit works, McGee!"
After cider and a couple of Helen's famous shortbread cookies, it was time to call it a day.
"Thanks again. Uh, what do we owe you for that - thing," Gibbs asked, directing a nod at the huge pumpkin at Tony's feet.
"Ah hell, that one's on the house. Least I could do since the kid missed out on the big school party. Tell you what, you can make up to me by buying that big old pine out back for your Christmas tree this year," Tom offered.
Gibbs laughed and shook Tom's hand. "You gotta deal."
Leading DJ and his little pumpkin to the car, Gibbs called back over his shoulder, "Load it up, DiNozzo!"
After a day spent in the crisp fresh country air, the family was tired and ready to cuddle. Gibbs set to work making grilled ham and cheese sandwiches and tomato soup while Tony supervised DJ's bath and getting him in his jammies.
DJ bedtime was usually 8:00 on school nights, but by 7:00 he was already yawning as his eyes grew heavy. At 7:30 he allowed Gibbs to carry him up the stairs to be tucked in and read his bedtime story. It was a time-honored custom that Tony never dreamed of infringing upon. The bedtime story was strictly Gibbs and DJ time as it had been from the very beginning, though Tony was allowed to sit in and listen.
"Nighty night, daddies," DJ managed around a jaw-cracking yawn.
He was fast asleep before Tony and Gibbs reached the door and switched off the light.
Since it was still early, Tony's plan was to head back downstairs to finishing watching a movie. That is, until Gibbs started nibbling on his neck and whispering naughty nothings in his ear. It was Gibbs' signature move to spark Tony's libido, and as expected it worked like a charm.
Tony barely had time to shut and lock their bedroom door before he was spun around and pinned in place by Gibbs’ full body weight. He willingly fell under Gibbs’ spell. While Gibbs kissed him senseless, two sets of eager hands worked double time to remove all barriers keeping them from being skin to skin.
Offending clothing was flung all over the room and a lamp on the dresser was toppled in the melee as Tony and Gibbs stumbled across the room and tumbled onto the bed. Time had done nothing to diminish their mutual desire. If anything, they were more passionate and adventurous than ever. They considered it quite a fete for an “old married couple”.
Moans of pleasure had long ago replaced vocal pleading and begging and profanity-laced demands for release. Time was taken to carefully, reverently, and thoroughly explore as if it were their first time again. Lips, teeth, hands, and tongues were all employed. Nothing was left unworshiped. Their bodies twisted and writhed together in an erotic dance.
Keeping his hedonistic lover on edge was a kink of Gibbs' that had never diminished. Tony, always eager to give up control, played the role of wanton submissive well. Other than employing a few toys or using restraints to spice things up, they weren't into heavy bondage and definitely were not into inflicting physical pain on each other. It was just a matter of keeping the passion built until they reached the point of no return.
By the time Gibbs began slowly thrusting into Tony’s open, welcoming body, both men were already nearing the edge. Their slow, intimate, sensual dance was a familiar one, but it never failed to take Tony’s breath away. He was overwhelmed by the feelings of love and possession that came with being made love to by Gibbs.
The way Gibbs looked at him while they made love made Tony’s heart skip a beat. The love, affection, and tenderness on display were in direct opposition to the cranky, badass Leroy Jethro Gibbs the public knew so well. Tony felt honored that Gibbs’ focus and loving attention was all for him.
“Ah geez,” was all Tony could manage to mutter before his climax hit him.
His back arched and his eyes slammed shut as wave after wave of pleasure coursed through him. Gibbs was right there with him, supporting Tony’s body as he he made one last deep thrust and came undone.
It was several minutes before either man possessed the strength to even speak. Once they came down from their orgasmic highs, Gibbs grabbed his robe and went downstairs to shut off the lights and TV and lock all the doors. Tony managed to change the sheets on the bed and gather up their discarded clothing.
The following Saturday afternoon found Tony ensconced in the kitchen on a mission. He has been recruited by a consortium of other “moms” to make about a zillion cupcakes for a Halloween party that DJ’s preschool class was hosting later that night at the community rec center.
Fairly useless around the kitchen when it came to baking, Gibbs dutifully chipped in by making a pair of emergency trips to the grocery store and a holiday specialty store to stock up on baking provisions and to get whatever Halloween themed extras Tony had scrawled on his list. He also managed to procure a few large pastry boxes from the bakery department at the grocery store to help safely transport the cupcakes.
Abby took pity on her beleaguered friend and arrived to put the finishing touches on DJ's costume. She repurposed a prepackaged bat costume, adding bits from her wardrobe and extensive collection of goth accessories to create a more sinister vampire bat. DJ was adorable in the black hooded cape with the little ears sticking up on top, but Abby was set on a much edgier look.
DJ sat still and reveled in the attention his Auntie Abby lavished upon him. Somewhere along the way, DJ and Abby had formed a special bond of their own. Tony and Gibbs never questioned it, and knew that Abby would always be there for DJ no questions asked. Friend, protector, teacher, and confidant – she would fill any role necessary.
For his part, Ryan took it all in stride as he did with pretty much everything where Abby was concerned. He had wisely decided to go fishing with some friends to let Abby have her day. Ryan, with his southern sensibilities, found the whole trick or treating and dressing up thing beyond silly, but Halloween and Abby Scuito went together like Santa Claus and Christmas.
At Gibbs’ pained borderline disapproving scowl, Abby stated, "But Gibbs, there will probably be a bunch of other normal, but cute boring little bat guys there. Don't you want DJ to stand out?"
Gibbs sighed as he spread layers of newspaper out to cover the dining room table. DJ's and Tony's pumpkins were waiting patiently to be carved.
Tony shut the oven door on the last two pans of cupcakes and wiped his hands on a kitchen towel. One look at his son had him busting out laughing.
"Damn, Abby! He looks like the demonic lovechild of Alice Cooper and Elvira!"
Abby stood back to get a good look at DJ. A half-frown indicated that maybe she did go a tick overboard. Stark white makeup, dark gray eyeliner, black lipstick, with blood droplets trickling from the corners of his little mouth were just the beginning. A deep-red cravat tied at his throat over a small frilly white shirt, with an antique jewel-encrusted brooch to hold it in place, beneath the long black costume cape completed the look. Where she found black leather pants DJ’s size, Tony had no idea. A toothy smile was Abby’s reward, and all apprehension was washed away. She shrugged and grinned at DJ’s dads.
Despite being impressed with Abby's handiwork, Tony put the kibosh on the set of long, white, plastic fangs.
"Uh Abs, choking hazard?"
Pausing after cutting the top off of DJ's pumpkin, Gibbs gave his son's thankfully temporary new look a head-to-toe final assessment. The familiar flashing green eyes and beaming smile were all the tools DJ needed to tip the scales in his favor. Deciding that this was one of those times to pick his battles, Gibbs put down the carving knife clutched in his hand and took a long drink of his coffee. He was going to need something much stronger, and as soon as his job of pumpkin carver was done he fully intended to have it.