Tony sighed and lifted his head from where he’d had it resting on his steering wheel. He looked once more at the lights of the bar he was parked outside of before pulling out his phone. He quickly scrolled through the contacts and hit send as soon as he found the person he most needed to hear from right now. He listened to it ring, not taking his eyes off the building in front of him.
“Spencer. Hey,” Tony breathed a sigh of relief when the other man picked up. Considering what they both did for a living, being available wasn’t always a guarantee but they tried.
“What’s up? You okay?” Spencer asked after a beat of silence passed.
“I’m parked outside a sports bar in Arlington,” Tony forced himself to say.
“Okay.” Spencer paused and then Tony could hear some faint shuffling as if Spencer had moved to a different room. He realized the background noise before had been clinking silverware on dishes and that he’d probably interrupted dinner.
Spencer continued. “Why are you parked outside a bar, Tony?”
“Because I want to go in there and have some whiskey,” Tony admitted.
“I don’t think you really want to do that. Did something happen? Do you want to talk?”
Tony sighed and let his head fall back against the headrest while he closed his eyes. “I don’t want to interrupt your evening. I’m fine.”
“You can be honest with me, Tony. That’s why we started this thing, right? Keep each other accountable?” Spencer encouraged.
“I’m just interrupting your life with my pity party. Really, Spence. Thanks, but don’t worry about it.”
“I’m calling bullshit, Tony. Turn on your car and drive down here right now,” Spencer countered. “You’re forgetting who you’re talking to. I know what you’re feeling right now, and I know how this ends if you don’t get out of your own head. Come on over and we can talk, or not talk, whatever you want.”
Tony was quiet for a few moments. He’d started a journey of sobriety a couple years back after another awkward encounter with his father. He’d walked away vowing not to become dependent, either for self-medicating like his mother, or as part of some social class façade like his father. As much as Tony didn’t want to burden anyone else with the mess that his life was right now, his desire to stay clear of the dark spiral looming before him won out.
“I’ll be there in about 45,” Tony finally said quietly.
“Thank you, Tony. We’ll be expecting you. I’ll call back if you’re not here in an hour,” Spencer replied.
“Bye, Spence,” Tony said before hanging up.
He turned his key in the ignition and felt some pressure ease off his chest as he turned out of the parking lot. At least he hadn’t messed this up too. He turned onto the highway and headed south toward Eagle Point.
Tony spent most of the drive turning over the events of the past few days in his head. It wasn’t helping to resolve anything, but he couldn’t stop thinking about it regardless. It did, however, make the drive go by quickly.
Dr. Spencer Reid, FBI agent in the Behavioral Analysis Unit, and Tony had met a couple years ago at a Beltway Clean Cops meeting. Tony had honestly been intrigued by the guy that didn’t seem to fit the law enforcement stereotype, and he’d introduced himself to Spencer on their way out. They’d ended up striking up a sort of acquaintance over the course of a few meetings, and eventually started a friendship outside of the group. They grabbed lunch or coffee on occasion when Spencer was in the district for work.
Tony had answered the phone one night when Spencer was out of town on a tough case. They’d talked and Spencer had admitted he really wanted to use. After that, they made a sort of informal accountability pact between them. Spencer seemed to need encouragement from Tony less and less when he’d started a relationship with his unit chief, Aaron Hotchner. They’d bought a house together a year prior, and that’s where Tony was headed now.
Tony pulled into the driveway of a quaint suburban house on a quiet street. He sat for a moment after he turned off the engine collecting himself. Just talking with Spencer on the phone had helped, but he couldn’t deny that being around friends, real friends, for a while would feel even better. The only problem was that these friends were profilers by trade, and Tony knew he wouldn’t be able to hide anything from them in his current emotional state.
Sighing to himself, Tony got out of his car and headed to the front door. He knew this was what he needed right now, even if it wasn’t exactly what he wanted. Before he could ring the doorbell, the door was opening.
“I was watching for you. Aaron is putting Jack to bed, so I didn’t want the doorbell to disrupt them,” Spencer said softly as he stepped back to let Tony inside.
“I’m sorry for interrupting your night. I can head out if it’s too much trouble,” Tony apologized.
Spencer shook his head. “No. Honestly, don’t worry about it. I wouldn’t have invited you if it was a problem.”
Spencer started to lead him further into the house, before turning back. “Did you have dinner?”
“No,” Tony said a little sheepishly.
Spencer turned to walk toward the kitchen then. “Want me to heat you up a plate? We have lots of leftovers.”
“That would be nice, actually. I’m realizing I'm really hungry all of a sudden,” Tony admitted.
Spencer gave Tony a kind smile as he opened the fridge. “I figured if you were this turned around over something, you wouldn’t be prioritizing basic necessities.”
Tony made a noise of agreement and sat himself on a stool at the kitchen island while Spencer made him a plate and stuck it in the microwave. He turned and leaned back against the counter with arms crossed.
“Was it work related?” Spencer started.
Tony gave a bitter laugh. “When is it not in our line of work?”
Spencer just shrugged. “Look, I won’t force you to talk about it but, for the record, I think you should.”
Tony nodded. Thankfully the beeping of the microwave saved him from coming up with something else to say just then. The food was simple and good. Meat and potatoes. The home-cooked meal was comforting and immediately made Tony feel better.
Spencer let him eat in silence for a few minutes while he moved around the kitchen, putting away a few stray dishes. Tony braced himself for the full inquisition when Spencer finally got himself a glass of water and sat on the stool next to him.
“Relax, I said I wouldn’t make you talk.”
“And yet, now I feel like I have to,” Tony said, giving Spencer a playful sideways look. “What is this strange power you hold over me?”
Spencer just smirked back at him, but then his expression turned serious. “It has to be something big if it’s pushed you this far, Tony. You’re normally the kind of guy that rolls with the punches and adapts pretty easily.”
Tony let out a long breath as he thought about what he wanted to tell his friend. He pushed away his empty plate before he spoke.
“We had a case come up a couple days ago. Domestic terrorist group we believed might be operating in a specific neighborhood. I went out posing as someone looking to buy a house there and recorded voice prints of all the residents to match to a recorded message we had.”
Tony paused and rubbed his hands over his face. Maybe he was overthinking this. Maybe it wasn’t a big deal and he should just move on.
“Is that why your voice is a little hoarse? Are you okay?” Spencer interrupted his thoughts.
“What? Oh, yeah. I was out there for a few hours. It’s fine, just still a little irritated.”
Spencer raised his eyebrows and looked at Tony expectantly.
Tony rolled his eyes before replying. “Yes, I had a Ducky take a look at it. It’s really fine.”
“Okay,” Spencer acquiesced, “I just want to make sure you’re taking care of yourself.”
Tony nodded. When he didn’t immediately start talking again, Spencer prodded him.
“So what happened with the case?”
“I was out there wired up for recording, and McGee and Ziva were listening in a car a couple blocks away.” Tony huffed and pushed up from the stool. Spencer turned to watch him when he started pacing.
“They turned the volume down all the way,” Tony continued roughly. “Said they didn’t want to hear me anymore. They were my backup. We knew one of the messages from the terrorist cell originated there, and they decided it wasn’t worth their time. But then we were rushing to figure it all out before anyone else got hurt. When the case was over, I detailed their breach of protocol in my report.”
Tony stopped then, slightly out of breath from the way he had forced the story out so quickly.
“How did Gibbs take the report?” Spencer questioned softly.
Tony let out a bitter laugh and ran his hands through his hair leaving it standing on end.
“He laughed at me. They all did. It was some big joke to them. Don’t worry about safety or protocol, it’s Tony. He’ll laugh it off. That’s all I'm good for though, right? A laugh and a fuck? That’s all Gibbs has ever used me for anyway.”
When he had finished his rant, it was like Tony’s strings were cut. He hung his head and let out a shaky breath. He was so tired.
Tony continued quietly. “I don’t know what I’m doing anymore, Spence. I don’t know if I can trust them. I don’t know if I can go back to work tomorrow like nothing happened. All I want to do right now is drown in a bottle and then pretend it’s all fine, but when does it stop? When do I stop moving the line I'm willing to cross for them?”
Tony had been staring at the floor, so he was surprised when he felt Spencer put an arm around his shoulders. He leaned into the sideways embrace and shuddered as the emotions that had been building the past few days threatened to undo him. The contact was nice though. It was friendly and comforting and just what Tony needed right then so he wouldn’t fall completely apart.
Tony heard footsteps on the stairs then, and straightened and stepped away, clearing his throat and shoring himself up again. Aaron came into the kitchen and patted Tony on the shoulder in greeting as walked past.
“Hey, man. Sorry to disrupt your evening.”
Aaron waved him off as he walked to stand next to Spencer and placed and arm around him. Their easy affection was something Tony was both intrigued by and jealous of. Spencer had always seemed quite averse to contact with people, but he was exactly the opposite with Aaron. Tony had only met Jack once before, but Spencer had been free with the physical affection with him as well. The contrast to his own life made the hurt Tony had been feeling all the more acute.
“Don’t worry about it,” Aaron replied. “You’re always welcome anytime.”
“You guys want to watch a movie?” Spencer asked.
Tony smiled a little. For someone that didn’t always conform to the social graces of others, Spencer was quite thoughtful. Tony wasn’t surprised in the least that he would suggest something to make Tony more comfortable. His love of movies and movie trivia had come out early in their acquaintance, and Tony loved that Spencer could trade quotes and trivia with him. Tony gathered that Spencer’s actual taste was more with sci-fi, but his memory allowed for a range of knowledge across genres.
“That sounds good,” Tony agreed.
“Actually,” Aaron said, “I wanted to get caught up on emails. I’ll just be in my office.”
Aaron headed out of the kitchen and down the short hall to the room they had set up as an office and library. Spencer led Tony to the living room.
“I just got Avatar, do you want to watch that?”
“I can’t promise I have the energy to watch the whole thing, but I haven’t seen it since it was in theaters, so that sounds great,” Tony replied.
Spencer went about getting the movie set up while Tony made himself comfortable on their large couch. When the movie started, Tony quickly relaxed and let it distract him from his current worries. In fact, he became so relaxed that he hadn’t realized he’d dozed off until the lack of TV noise woke him.
“Oh, sorry,” he said while scrubbing a hand over his face. “You don’t have to turn it off on my account.”
“I’m pretty tired myself,” Spencer confessed.
Tony cleared his throat and sat up. “Sorry, I should get out of your way. You guys probably want to get to bed or something.”
“Don’t worry about it, Tony. Really. In fact, you should stay over. You don’t want to have to drive all the way back to the city at this hour.”
Tony smiled in thanks, but persisted. “I really don’t want to impose.”
Just then Aaron appeared in the doorway.
“We have a comfortable guest room with your name on it, Tony,” he offered.
Tony couldn’t deny that going back to his empty apartment would feel pretty lonely after spending such a nice evening with friends.
“If it’s really okay, I’d appreciate not having to make the drive tonight,” he finally agreed.
“Will you be okay to make it to work tomorrow from here?” Aaron asked.
Tony frowned. “Sure.”
Spencer cleared his throat and Aaron raised his eyebrows.
Aaron was the first to break the moment of tension. “Everything okay at work?”
Tony huffed and sat back against the couch, leaning his head back so he was looking up at the ceiling.
“Oh, you know,” he said with an air of bitterness. “Just the usual office drama. Team leaves me in the field without backup and boss laughs in my face when I point it out. No big deal.”
Aaron walked over to sit next to Spencer on the loveseat across from the couch.
Aaron’s voice was firm but calm. “That sounds like a big deal, Tony.”
Tony waved a hand aimlessly in the air before letting it drop at his side. “It’s really just par for the course. They’re right, I probably wouldn’t want to deal with me either.”
“Tony, what they did was wrong no matter who was on the other end of that radio. No one deserves to be left in an unsafe situation like that,” Spencer countered.
Tony didn’t really know what to say to that, so he just sat there.
“Tony, something you said earlier made me wonder... I know it’s none of my business, but are you and Gibbs together?” Spencer asked somewhat hesitantly.
Tony snorted. “Together isn’t really the word I would use for it. Fuck buddies might be a nice way of putting it. Really it’s more like I'm his convenient booty call when he’s in the mood.”
“You never mentioned you were involved before,” Spencer observed.
“Yeah, well, I never wanted to admit I was in love with someone that didn’t love me back. I didn’t want you to know what I did for any scrap of attention from him I could get. I didn’t want it to be a reason to lose your respect, I guess.”
“Tony,” Spencer started, but trailed off.
It was rare he was at a loss for words. That and the pity in Spencer’s voice made Tony feel like his concerns were valid. He was more of a mess than Spencer and Aaron had known, and now it was all coming out.
Aaron finally broke the silence. “You have nothing to be ashamed of, Tony.”
Tony didn’t know what to say, so he just remained still.
“He’s right, you know. You’ve done nothing wrong here,” Spencer agreed, “in any of it.”
He sighed and sat up, but just looked his hands clasped in his lap. Tony didn’t really know what he was supposed to do next, right now or tomorrow or next week. He was just so tired of fighting for scraps in every part of his life.
“Why don’t you take tomorrow off of work?” Aaron proposed. “You don’t have an active case. Call in sick if you need to. Give yourself a long weekend.”
That had Tony looking at them with a small smile. “Aren’t you supposed to me telling me the opposite SSA Hotchner? You’re the boss, after all.”
Aaron shrugged and smiled kindly. “I’m not your boss. Taking care of yourself is important too.”
“Yeah, I'll think about it,” Tony agreed.
“Good,” Aaron praised. “Okay, I’m going to head to bed. Tony, please make yourself at home.”
Spencer stood when Aaron did and looked at Tony. “Do you have a go-bag in your car?”
Tony nodded. “Yeah, I can grab it.”
Spencer waited at the front door for him while he grabbed his bag from his car and made sure it was locked up. He then led Tony upstairs to the guest room.
“Try to get some sleep, okay?”
Tony nodded. “I’ll try. I don’t know if I will, but I'll try.”
“Goodnight, Tony,” Spencer said before he walked to the end of the short hall to enter the master bedroom.
“Night,” Tony said in response.
The bed in the guest room looked comfortable. After changing into some sweats he found in his bag and using the restroom, Tony settled into it. He was surprised that almost immediately his eyes felt heavy. For the first time in a while he thought he might actually get some good rest.
- - - - -
Tony woke feeling surprisingly refreshed. Other than the fact that his life and career were on the verge of disaster, he felt pretty good. He snorted to himself at the thought. Yeah, he was still barely holding it together, but the sleep did help.
The smell of coffee coaxed Tony downstairs. He found Spencer in the kitchen reading a book while eating cereal.
“Morning. Want some breakfast?” Spencer greeted him.
“Yeah, sure,” Tony said as he grabbed the box of cereal and poured some into one of the bowls that had been set out.
As he settled in to eat, Spencer got up and poured Tony a mug of coffee from the pot. Before he could deliver it, Aaron came in the back door and walked into the kitchen clearly having just finished a run.
“Morning, Tony,” he greeted. “Morning, Spence.”
Tony looked down at his cereal as Aaron leaned in to brush a quick kiss over Spencer’s cheek before pouring himself coffee.
“So, what are you going to do with your day off?” Spencer asked as he slid Tony’s coffee to him.
Tony poked his spoon into his cereal a few times before answering. “I’m not really sure. I should probably clean my apartment or something.”
“Maybe do something fun to take your mind off things. Go to a movie, go hiking, do whatever you feel like,” Spencer suggested.
Tony just shrugged. He supposed he did deserve to give himself a bit of a break.
“A change of pace might help to clear your head a bit and process some decisions,” Aaron agreed.
Aaron finished his coffee and set his mug in the sink. “Okay, I’m going to go drag Jack out of bed. Tony, I have to say that knowing what I do of the situation, I may feel compelled to report it. I don’t know that I can overlook a breach of protocol in another federal agency now that I have knowledge of it.”
Tony looked up from his cereal with wide eyes. He wasn’t sure what he wanted, but making big waves wasn’t his intention.
“I don’t think you need to do that,” Tony said. “I’ll get over it, eventually.”
Aaron’s expression turned sympathetic, and Tony resented the pity just a little.
“Will you?” Aaron asked. “Will you really be able to go into the field with either of them again? With anyone?”
When Tony didn’t answer, Spencer added a question of his own. “Will you be able to go back to Gibbs after how he dismissed this?”
“Fuck you both for not pulling any punches,” Tony groused before sitting back and letting out a long sigh. “You’re not wrong though.”
“Look, I know I’m probably overstepping a bit, but we both care about you and I have the connections to make sure this doesn’t get swept under a rug. It won’t come from you, so you don’t have to feel any guilt over it,” Aaron explained.
Tony hesitated. He knew his head was sort of messed up about the whole thing between his dysfunctional relationships with pretty much everyone on the team and his own issues and insecurities. Maybe letting someone else handle this was the break he was looking for.
“Yeah,” Tony finally said, “do what you feel you need to.”
“Thanks, Tony,” Aaron replied, nodding his head in confirmation.
“Hey,” Spencer broke in, “why don’t you come back here for supper? I think we’ll be able to get off work in time and we can get pizza or something. Jack loves pizza night.”
Tony took a deep breath and smiled. “Yeah, that sounds nice. Thanks.”
“You’re smart. You’ll figure this mess out,” Spencer said as he came around the island and gave Tony’s shoulder a squeeze.
“Thanks, Spence. I really appreciate you guys.”
Maybe things weren’t as bleak as they had seemed last night. Tony had friends on his side, and that counted for a lot.