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A Hundredth of a Second

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“Taking pictures is savoring life intensely, every hundredth of a second.”
― Marc Riboud


 

Tony sighed and rubbed his eyes tiredly. The view was spectacular, he concluded, staring out of the window at the glowing Hollywood sign. Sometimes, it really paid to have enough money to splurge on the little luxuries, like a comfortable bed in one of the best L.A. hotels. At least he wasn’t at the mercy of dubious hospitality of the L.A. office. His back wouldn’t recover after spending a night on the lumpy mattress he saw fleetingly in the dark little room, no larger than a closet, laughingly called the guest room. Especially considering he was flying early in the morning.

The thoughts were circling in Tony’s head wildly, his instincts were still on high alert, as something niggled in his mind. The perpetrator was arrested and the case closed with only somewhat reluctant cooperation of the L.A. office and minimal casualties of his patience. A strange restless was getting to him. The twinkling lights of L.A. night-life were beckoning him to abandon his lonely room and lose himself in the anonymity of the large city. His flight to DC was scheduled for the next morning, so he had enough time to find someone willing to share a few fun hours before he was forced to leave.

Back to DC. Back to his tedious coworkers. And Gibbs. Mustn’t forget Gibbs. Since his little vacation in Mexico, the older agent was earning his second-b-is-for-bastard daily, if not hourly. At least he headed his instincts when they warned him away of pursuing a relationship with the older man, although he was hot like burning. 

Gibbs’s anger and distrust, conspiring junior agents and Madam Director’s increasing pressure to take on – what Tony was positive – was an unsanctioned operation – it was getting too much to endure. Slowly, but surely, he was getting fed up with the crap heaped on him from everyone. What was much worse, he was steadily losing his passion to see justice done with each broken rule and each perpetrator released because of it and Gibbs’s bullheadedness of not accepting any responsibility for the failures. All in all, Tony recognized the worrying signs of his oncoming burn-out. Not that he had any way to prevent it with how the things stood in the office currently.

Just one evening for me. Is it so much to ask? Just one evening to relax and unwind. No ringing phone with some Gibbs-related catastrophe, no wailing Abby and certainly no snide junior agents. Nothing. Just me and the few hours of casual sex. Yes, that’s what I need right now.

The decision made, Tony got to work. A quick shower followed by a brief argument with a mirror and he was prepared to go out. If his fellow agents could see him now they wouldn’t recognize him. He exchanged the fitted suit for tight jeans and the tighter henley. The hair artfully mussed and a leather jacket completed his looks. Tony scooped the keys and his wallet and stuffed them in the pocket. He swept the hotel room one last time with his gaze before he resolutely opened his door and swaggered out. And promptly he bumped into another person. 

“Excuse me. I wasn’t paying atten…” Tony looked up and down the delectable figure of the man he bumped into before his eyes were arrested by the familiar blue orbs and he sucked in a breath in surprise. “Nick?” He asked hesitantly. A sharp something… Something like a deep regret throbbed inside him, constricting his lungs, leaving him light-headed in the wake of an unexpected encounter. The long-forgotten deeply buried feelings welled up inside him and Tony found himself entirely wrong-footed by a rather sudden stab of attraction. There was a time, more than a decade ago when a young upcoming photographer was his entire world.  

“Tony.” The other man uttered his name, quavering voice laced with feigned indifference, as he backpedalled, clutching his suitcase for dear life. Not that he was fooling anyone by his attitude. Certainly not a trained investigator with keen observation skills and years-long experience in reading people.

Tony winced at the tone he detected in Nick’s voice and deflated. He knew he was to blame for the uncertainty and the almost-fear in the photographer’s voice. All of his nonchalance and suaveness disappeared and he felt again like a twenty-something young adult on the verge of making the biggest mistake of his life. Clearing his throat loudly, Tony shattered the spell freezing them in the hallway staring at each other in mute astonishment. “Good evening, Nick. Long time no see. How are you?” Tony almost cringed at the trite words coming out of his mouth. 

The photographer managed to locate his tongue and said frostily. “I’m fine. More than fine. Thanks for asking. It was interesting to see you again, Mr. Dinozzo. Have a good evening.” He shouldered past Tony to his room, hoping to put a barrier between himself and the man that smashed his heart into little pieces. The time and the distance managed to heal some of the damage but… It was unfortunate that the old saying was right – you never forget your first love. 

Tony, seeing through Nick’s intentions, pushed the maelstrom of confusion and tangled feelings aside, gulped down a lump in his throat and wiped his suddenly clammy hands on his jeans, before throwing the caution in the wind with a split decision to forgo clubbing in favour of pursuing Nick’s company. “Are you free for dinner? We haven’t seen each other in years. I would like to catch up. If you are up to it?” 

“Not interested.” With trembling hands, Nick finally opened the door to his salvation hastily, almost falling inside in his attempt to retreat from the temptation. Tony was still devastatingly handsome. Perhaps a bit more hardened and tired than the earnest young athlete he fell in love so long ago. His heart twinged, as a spark of helpless attraction flared inside him. He thought he put it behind him. Apparently not.

“Please, Nick,” Tony begged, a forehead resting against closed doors. He refused to entertain the thought he could be rejected. Not when he noticed Nick’s appreciative once-over. Not when the air cracked with mutual attraction for a brief moment when their eyes met and recognition grew in them.

“I’m all kinds of fool. I’m going to regret it.” The photographer swore, kicking his suitcase aside and relented. His feelings were all over the place. But maybe a dinner with Tony would clear some things up. If not, he could always return to his room and forget his all too attractive ex-lover. Cautiously, Nick opened the door and peered out.  

Tony stepped aside to make room for Nick, not quite believing his good luck. He tried not to show it but he was pleased Nick decided to take him up on the offer. 

“Just dinner?” Nick raised an eyebrow in askance, waving negligently at Tony’s attire. “When you look like this?”

Tony looked down at his clubbing clothes and shrugged, not willing to go to change and let the opportunity to spend some time with his once-lover slip through his fingers. “Just dinner.”


 

The meal tasted like ashes in Tony’s mouth. His earlier confidence evaporated as the evening continued stiltedly with Nick’s standoffish decision to stay on safe and banal topics. No talking about the reasons why they choose to have dinner, and certainly no talking about their shared past. The evening wasn’t progressing in the direction he wished. Not that he was quite sure what he had hoped for. 

“Why did you ask me for dinner again?” Nick sat back, staring at his companion. The man he remembered was boldly going after what he wanted. He remembered the single-minded seduction campaign certain young athlete led to winning a date with him. And the rest was history. He missed that confidence and eloquence, and he was getting bored. While he had something pretty to look at, it wasn’t enough. As he got older his standards went higher and current Tony wasn’t meeting them. The photographer was prepared to call it quits and leave.

“Why did you say yes?” Tony retorted quickly, thanking silently for an opening. He was at the wit’s end how to approach more serious topics. 

“You were always a pretty bastard, Tony. That didn‘t change in the intervening years.” was a swift non-answer. “You caught me in a weak moment,” Nick revealed softly, staring out of the window at the busy street.

“I think you are more attractive now than you were then.” Tony sighed partly unhappy at the unsettling thought. He missed out on the years that turned Nick in the man he saw before him. “I regret how things ended then.”

“Do we really have to rehash it again? Didn’t we already say everything that had to be said years ago?” Nick said sharply, preparing to leave the other man at the table. He didn’t sign up for this. He had hoped for some closure but Tony was annoyingly close-mouthed. It was quite out-of-character from his once lover. Tony wasn’t like this when they were together. Nick sighed and stood up. He was done with wasting time.

“I… Things were complicated then.” Tony admitted, while he toyed with his wine glass absently, his gaze averted. That stopped Nick in his tracks and he plopped back on his seat.

“You were saying?” Nick encouraged the other man to speak. He wanted to know why Tony broke up with him out of blue, without any prior warning. He thought they were happy, planning their life together. And then bam… One day they were together, and on the next day, they were broken up. 

Tony laughed ruefully. That wasn’t his proudest moment. “It boiled down to peer pressure. I was scouted by professional teams and it was made pretty clear to me that I had to choose. I handled it badly.” Tony paused, taking a sip from his glass. “I was immature and too caught up in my own importance to consider what I was doing to you… to us… was wrong. That I wasn’t required to put my life on hold while I was playing professionally. We broke up and then I took the devastating injury to my knee that ended my professional career before it could take off. By then it was too late to make amends. You were already gone, taking photos on the other side of the world that would earn you your first Pulitzer.”

Nick was appalled by the revelation. His hands itched to take his camera, to rage against the prejudice, to do something about it. He did nothing of the sort and sat back, taking care to think about the implications of Tony’s confession. “And you thought it was a good idea to go out with me when your workplace is probably toxic cesspool of homophobic assholes waiting for a chance to take someone as successful as you few pegs down.”

Tony cocked his head, pleased for a moment with Nick’s concern about his well-being. “Worried about me? You don’t have to be. I’ve been building a certain type of reputation within ranks.”

“And?”

“Well… I’m quite a womanizer according to the prevalent opinion.”

Nick smirked. “And just how many of your conquests were men?”

“About the third,” Tony admitted unashamedly. He was old enough to know his mind. And while he didn’t care what anyone thought about his preferences, he also didn’t relish in making the things harder for himself in the office than they already were.

Thinking hard, weighing the various choices, Nick decided to throw caution to the wind. He took out a folded piece of paper and wrote something on it and put it into Tony’s hand and stood up. “Call me sometime.”

Carefully, Tony unfolded the paper to reveal a gorgeous photo of L.A. and the iconic Hollywood sign. Clearly, one of Nick’s works. It was one of his endearing quirks – to carry around a photo of a city he was currently residing. It was nice to know some things remained the same. Clutching the picture in his hands, Tony felt a warmth spreading inside him, chasing away the loneliness for the first time in months. If he remembered correctly, gifting photos was Nick’s prefered way of communication. The picture in his hand was a clear sign the photographer was receptive of renewing their acquaintance. On the back of the picture was a note from Nick and his phone number. 

You have exactly one chance to prove to me you’ve changed, Dinozzo. Just… Don’t screw up again. 

Smiling, Tony looked up to see the retreating back of his ex-and-hopefully-soon-to-be-again lover. He was feeling pretty good about his decision to reconnect with the photographer. The attraction was still there. It was a great starting point, but it wasn’t enough. They matured and changed a lot in the years they didn’t see each other. And maybe that was a good thing. They owed themselves to take a chance to find out how much and maybe to fall in love again.

Chapter Text

Another day. Another murder with a little side of smuggling to spice up the things. Still the same annoying colleagues. Not to mention Gibbs and his impression of a bear with a sore head. Tony scowled fiercely. The shit Ziva and Tim pulled was getting old. Or he was. The agent found he was getting more and more intolerant of their antics as time went. 

And… He was missing Nick rather fiercely. They were somewhat limited to the phone-calls and Skype since Nick was currently travelling around Europe. In Tony’s opinion, the distance helped them to open up faster. Their relationship was progressing nicely and Tony was looking forward to seeing his photographer in person soonish. Hopefully, nothing urgent would pop up and foil his plans to fly up to New York to steal a weekend with Nick, before either of them were needed back in their respective jobs.

Although, there was still this one persistent thought lodged in his mind. Since he met Nick in L.A., Tony was on the verge of making a rather difficult decision. He shook his head. It wasn’t the right time to contemplate such things. Particularly not on the crime scene. Gibbs would hand him his ass if he didn’t give one hundred percent of his attention to the case. 

Tony’s phone chirped to alert him of the incoming message. He carefully put the camera aside, smiling fondly at the thought of Nick doing the same thing somewhere in Europe. He swiped through the screen curious to see what Nick was sending him. 

“What’s distracting you on the job?” Gibbs grabbed the phone out of his senior agent’s hands to take a look. He managed to take a fleeting glance at the screen before Tony swept the phone out of his hands back into his possession. 

“Should I bother to quote you every law you’ve just flaunted?” Tony asked curiously, cocking his head aside. Gibbs stretched his hand to slap his head. Suddenly, Tony had enough. He caught Gibbs hand before it could connect with his head and hissed out. “I wouldn’t do it if I were you.”

“And why not?” 

“Because it’s very unprofessional to hit your co-workers. It creates an abusive work environment and it’s against NCIS policy. Which you are perfectly aware of. That I didn’t call you on your frankly appalling behaviour earlier – that’s on me. But it ends today.”

“Or what?” Gibbs tried to bluff, his eyes flashing angrily at the younger man’s defiance and ripped his arm out of Tony’s grasp.

“Or I will report you to the HR and you’ll find yourself unemployed shortly after.” Tony threatened, his voice freezing the older Agent in his place.  

“You won’t get through it,” Gibbs muttered. 

Tony just lifted his eyebrow in annoyance at not being taken seriously and dared the older man. “Just try me.”

“Ehm. Tony?” McGee hesitantly interrupted the charged moment between senior agents. And promptly regretted it, as he quailed under Gibbs’s intense stare. He managed to stammer out. “The scene sketches are finished. And Ducky is saying that he is prepared to transport the body into the mortuary.”

“Take care of it, Dinozzo. Ziva, come.” Gibbs turned on his heel and stalked out, leaving Tony with a sense of unfinished business between them. Not good. The older man was a ticking bomb, liable to explode at the most inopportune moment. He would have preferred if that didn’t happen in the foreseeable future. But… When he was that lucky.

Ziva childishly elbowed him, when she was passing by, with an insincere. “Sorry.”

Tony stopped her with a frosty rebuke. “I’m going to write you up for that, Ms. David. Now, run along. We wouldn’t want to make Gibbs waiting, right?”

“You can’t write…”

“Go. Or I will add the charges for insubordination to that. You won’t like it if I do that.”

“But…”

“Not another word, David. Go.” Tony ordered uncompromisingly; his patience finally worn down. The insolence of the Mossad officer was getting on his last nerve. Considering the suspicions he had about her involvement with the entire Kate and Ari mess. 

Wisely, Ziva decided not to tempt fate further and hurried after already annoyed Gibbs.

“You didn’t have to be so unpleasant to Ziva. She didn’t mean it.” McGee mumbled under his breath, taking care not to stare at Tony too long. The older agent was behaving strangely today. Something was going on with him and McGee didn’t want to know what it was. Especially, since it obviously set Tony against Gibbs and Ziva.

“Are you in need of a refresher on proper behaviour towards your superiors, McGee?” Tony asked. “Just say a word, and I will take it up with my acquaintance in FLETC.”

“No need, Tony.” McGee quickly deflected and started to pack their things into the NCIS vehicle without another word. 

Tony stored the evidence in the back of the van with a sigh. He didn’t mean to go off in such a spectacular way. First Gibbs, then Ziva and finally McGee. It just showed him where he currently stood with them. It wasn’t something he wanted to continue. While he wasn’t quite certain he was prepared to throw all the time and work he put into building relationships with his colleagues just yet, he was slowly getting there. Tony shook his head and smiled wryly. He was getting maudlin in his old age. The sooner this case was closed, the better for everyone involved. 


 

Tony massaged his temples. It was a long week. The case was mostly clear cut and closed, with McGee of all people finding the crucial piece of evidence for them to make an arrest. With Ziva and McGee working quietly for a moment, even the paperwork was turned in on time. Although, he could have done without Gibbs’ blow up in his preferred conference room (read the elevator). He hated being trapped there with the unpredictable senior agent. 

At least, he had enough sense not to start anything with the older man, although he was seriously tempted for a short time after Gibbs poached him to NCIS. He was attracted to the ex-Marine, but after he got burned by Wendy’s rejection, he shied away from anything even remotely resembling a serious relationship, going for more-or-less meaningless one-night-stands. It worked quite well for him. Until L.A…. Until Nick.

And speaking of his photographer… Tony glanced at the board and grimaced. He was stuck in the airport for hours waiting for Nick’s plane. His flight was delayed. The agent didn’t like wasting his time; a consequence of working with Gibbs; but if the reward was as sweet as he hoped, he would gladly suffer through it. 

“Hello, Tony.” The photographer smiled brilliantly, taking delight in startling the agent out of his heavy thoughts. 

“Hey, Nick.” Tony smiled tiredly, giving a little peck on Nick’s lips in welcome, taking pleasure in making a light blush appear on the other man’s cheeks in return. That thing between them was growing at an unprecedented rate, considering the last time they spent in each other’s presence was in L.A. Talk about long-distance relationships.

With a keen eye, Nick quickly took in Tony’s subtle tells and frowned subtly. There went his plans for tonight to take things to the next level. “Long week?” 

“You have no idea.” Tony leaned against the other man, trying to draw strength from him. It was unfair how beautiful and rested Nick looked like, even after spending most of his day on the plane. “Sorry. I don’t think I’m going to be much fun this weekend.” 

“Come on. Let’s get to our hotel, love.” Nick nudged him playfully, re-drawing the plans for the weekend with Tony’s current state in mind. Boldly, he intertwined their fingers and led the exhausted man through the busy crowd. 

Tony sighed and squeezed Nick’s hand in thanks. It was nice to have someone you could rely on. Someone, who was there for you when you’ve lost any patience with your colleagues’ bullshit and seriously contemplated committing a crime just to shut them up for a moment. Someone, who didn’t heap unrealistic expectations on our shoulders, just to see you stumble under their weight.   

“Junior. Is that you? ” An unwelcome voice disrupted their quiet walk.

Tony stiffened and turned around, pulling Nick slightly behind him. He almost groaned when his fears were confirmed. Just what he needed. His father and no way to avoid him in sight. “Father.” Tony inclined his head formally, carefully staying out of the older man’s range. Experience taught him not to take any chances with Senior’s temper. “Evening.”

“What are you doing in New York? I thought you worked in D.C. And who is that? Your colleague?” Senior narrowed his eyes suspiciously and looked Nick up and down contemptuously. “No. I don’t think so. Who are you then? One of Tony’s old friends, perhaps?”

“Nicholas Warren, Mr. Dinozzo.” The photographer introduced himself shortly, sensing the underlying tension between both men. He squeezed Tony’s hand in support and continued boldly. “Your son’s partner.”

It might have been a bit too soon to label the thing between them, but Nick refused to let that old man have the last word. He just hoped it didn’t destroy their fragile newly re-build connection. While Tony seemed to be eager to deepen their relationship during their chats and calls, it was different when coming face to face with the other person involved. 

“Junior?” The man waved his hand negligently and dismissed the photographer as unimportant. “What does he mean – a partner?”

Tony rolled his eyes at the feigned pretence plastered on his father’s face. “It means exactly what Nick said. We are lovers.”

Older man’s face darkened and he took a step back. “I thought you’d stopped that nonsense years ago.” 

“I don’t think I need your permission to live my life as I want it.” Tony objected calmly. “I didn’t need your validation for years, father. Not since you washed your hands off me after you stuck me into the military academy.” Turning to Nick, he pointedly dismissed his father’s presence and gently asked. “Shall we go? I’ve made a reservation for dinner.”

“Really? Let’s go, then.” Nick nodded eagerly. Tony always knew the best places to go, no matter where they were. “Mr. Dinozzo, if you could excuse us we’ll be continuing in our way. It was NOT a pleasure to meet you.” He added frostily, tugging Tony away from that odious man masquerading as a concerned father before he was able to utter another word.

“Sorry about him,” Tony whispered as soon as they were out of his father’s hearing. When he thought he put the past hurts behind him, Senior had to appear and remind him of everything that went wrong in his life. 

Nick sighed heavily. Things were finally starting to make sense to him when he took into consideration the fraught relationship between father and son. It painted an ugly picture of Tony’s childhood. No wonder he latched on the first sign of acceptance he was shown. And that was probably the main reason younger Tony made the choices he made. 

“Come here.” Nick pulled his… Boyfriend was too juvenile and partner – too strong. Not lover, too soon for that. It was hard to describe what they were to each other now, no matter what he told the older Dinozzo… His Tony, he decided at last, into his embrace and soothed him. Putting something in his hand, Nick said warmly. “This is for you. Initially, I hoped to give it to you during dinner, but… I think it’s important you see it now.”

Tony felt a piece of glossy paper in his hand. Another photo. He realized and instantly curious he read Nick’s message.

Just because a city can be full of unpleasant memories, it doesn’t mean you can’t find something worthy of your admiration.

Tony smiled at the inscription and turned it around to see the photo. The dawn breaking over New York skyline. It took his breath away when he understood the meaning. Looking up at the softly smiling Nick, he couldn’t resist and stole the kiss out of his lips. “I’ll try.”

Chapter Text

Tony woke up gradually into a cold morning. The room was dark, but the sky began to turn pink with the first rays of the rising sun. He blinked at the alarm clock and groaned. It was still too early. He pulled the duvet under his chin to preserve heat and closed his eyes to try to take a nap before he was forced to climb out of the bed for real. Nick squirmed under the duvet and murmured something indecipherable into Tony’s ear.

“Nick? Are you awake?” Tony asked quietly, giving up on sleeping, and just laid in the bed entangled with his lover, enjoying their closeness.

“Nooo.” Nick drawled petulantly and hid under the covers to block out a prospect of having to get up.

“Tell me again… Why the fuck did you choose to move into this ass cold country?” Tony grumbled under his breath and snuggled to Nick’s side, trying to get warm. The heating had to break down sometime during the night and it was too cold to bother to get up and do something about it.

“Because my grandfather lived here and he bequeathed me this house?” Nick replied sleepily and burrowed deeper under the covers, luxuriating in the feeling of his bedmate’s warmth.

“That’s it. I’m going to get a fire going before we freeze to death.” Tony decided after a moment and shuffled out of bed reluctantly. He hissed when his bare feet touched the freezing floor and quickly put on slippers. 

“Nooo.” Nick mewled disappointed that his heater was leaving the bed and rolled over, glaring at Tony’s retreating back. “Come baaack. Tony.”

Tony ignored him and padded out of the bedroom. He had some work to do if he didn’t want them to freeze. He wasn’t interested in disturbing Nick when he was still trying to sleep, considering how hard he’d ridden his ass last night. Poor guy. One of the consequences of their still more-or-less long-distance relationship. As soon as they’ve got some privacy, they fell on each other and almost didn’t make it to bed. 

Maybe he could make breakfast for them. Tony thought as he lit the wood in the fireplace. Tony was sure Nick would appreciate it. They had a long weekend planned in hopes it would go better than New York a few weeks ago. Perks of accumulated leave, he decided to take, for he wanted to steal as much time with his lover as possible. 

On the home front, meaning D.C. for now, the things between Gibbs and him became glacial. The older man was taking things badly since he started acting seriously like a Senior Agent was supposed to. Most of the time they were just going through the motions. Fortunately, it hadn’t affected their work. Yet.

As for his two more-or-less permanent headaches, aka McGee and Ziva, they were toeing the line for now. However, Tony could foresee the status quo wouldn’t last for much longer. There were just too many personalities clashing, too many secrets and lies to be brought to light for the things to remain the same indefinitely.

The fire was crackling merrily, warming the air, when Nick finally stumbled out of bed, trying to stifle a yawn. Still more than half-asleep, he followed his nose to the kitchen where Tony was putting last touches to their breakfast. Pancakes and coffee. His favourite. After Tony, of course.

Smiling at the thoughtfulness of his lover, Nick encircled his arms around Tony’s waist, snuggled to him and kissed him on the neck. “Good morning.” He mumbled into tempting skin. He considered seducing Tony back into bed but the pancakes…

“Good morning,” Tony replied brightly and pulled Nick into a kiss. The other man was still warm and sleepy in his arms. It was heaven. Or hell. He couldn’t decide. With a sigh, Tony reluctantly tore himself from his lover, pushing him towards the table and promised. “Later.” 

Nick grumbled adorably and reached for a cup of coffee. He really wasn’t a morning person. Although… Tony is liable to make me reconsider. The photographer mused as he took a sip from his cup, eying the other man hungrily. Last night wasn’t enough to satisfy him. They spent too much time apart.  

I love this man. Tony realized suddenly and froze in place with a mug full of coffee precariously teetering in his hands. He couldn’t believe how quickly he opened himself and developed feelings for Nick. It was only a few months ago when he was reunited with him. Or maybe he just freed what was always there.

Tony frowned. The weeks spent on different continents were taking their toll on him. On them. He wasn’t going to repeat mistakes of the past and give up Nick. This morning illustrated how it could be between them. Every day. And every night. And he wanted. He wanted it with every fibre of his being. And if read the other man correctly he wanted it too. 

“For you.” Nick smiled and produced a photo from somewhere. 

“Thank you,” Tony whispered and took the proffered gift. A lit fireplace and … what was that in the background? Those shadows in there. It’s us? When did Nick manage to make this? Tony flipped the photo over, eager to find out what was written there.  

Even in the coldest winter, your presence warms me. He smiled and pecked Nick’s lips as a reward for those heartfelt words.


 

Tony sat serenely on the couch outside the Director’s office. The first thing he did that morning was to brush up his resignation letter. He printed it and sent a copy to HR. With one set of papers, he waited for Director Sheppard to show up for work, so he could officially notify her of his decision to quit. 

The events of last weekend only confirmed his decision Tony was long hesitating to make. It wasn’t fair of him to expect Nick to worry about him while he was out chasing the criminals, when he took into account he was tired of sometimes futile work and frustrating colleagues.

And he was allowed to be selfish. It might be too early in their relationship, but Tony knew he wasn’t going to give Nick up. He made that mistake once before and deeply regretted it. He wasn’t about to repeat it, and give up on his love just for the job, he was lately very unsatisfied with. And while Tony wasn’t prepared to confess his feelings to his lover anytime soon, he refused to take chances with his life, especially since he couldn’t rely on his co-workers to have his back with their current attitude towards him. That was a sure way to end up dead. And he had a lot to live for.

Still… There were a few obstacles in getting away as cleanly as possible. Tony could already foresee Abby’s temper-tantrums and Gibbs’s outbursts of anger. MacGee would either man up and stand up to Gibbs or he would be busted back to cybercrimes. But that was not his problem anymore. He tried to teach the younger agent the ropes but he refused to listen. His loss. And Ziva… That was one difficult decision. Tony was on the verge of calling Morrow to deal with the abrasive female Mossad agent and wash his hands of the entire thing. 

“Agent Dinozzo. Good morning. Are you waiting for me?” Director Sheppard interrupted his musings and unlocked her office.

Tony inclined his head in greeting. “Good morning, Madam Director. I would like to go over some things if you are amenable.”

The director looked fleetingly at the watch and sighed. “Come in. I have about 15 minutes before my first appointment.”

“Thank you, Madam. I won’t be keeping you for long.”

“Well, Agent Dinozzo. What’s so urgent?” Director Sheppard asked while she was putting down her briefcase.

Tony handed her the file and took a seat in the chair in front of her desk. “I would like to inform you, Madam, I’m quitting. Effective immediately. I’ll work out my two weeks notice, of course, to give you time to find an adequate replacement for my position on the MCRT.”

“It’s not a bit sudden, agent Dinozzo?” The Director’s hands trembled, as she opened the file and read through everything carefully before making eye-contact with the agent. “Well, everything seems to be in order. We’ll be sad to lose you. May I ask you why you‘ve decided to leave the employment of the agency?”

Tony stared thoughtfully at Director Sheppard. At the first sight, she seemed to be genuinely interested in his answer. Although… He could see the anger peeking from the cracks of her composure. It had probably something to do with that operation she wanted him to undertake. Something warned him to tread carefully. “I’ve learnt a lot during the years I’ve spent with NCIS and I’ve really enjoyed working with the agency, but it’s time to move on, Madam Director.”

“Very well, Agent Dinozzo.” The director saw she wasn’t going to change his mind. She stood up abruptly at hearing the insistent knocking on the door and shook Tony’s hand. “Good luck in your future endeavours.”

“Thank you, Madam.” Tony inclined his head and left the office. One obstacle down. 

“Dinozzo. What were you doing there?” Gibbs asked in surprise when they met outside the Director’s office.

“Good morning, boss.” Tony greeted and had to suppress the urge to sigh. Just his luck that Gibbs was Director’s first appointment. He had hoped he would get more time to prepare himself for the fall-out. Spying the expression on Director Sheppard’s face through the half-opened door, he decided to make a strategic retreat.

“Good. morning.” Gibbs snapped. “Well? Dinozzo?”

“Nothing that concerns you directly, Gibbs,” Tony murmured and sidestepped the older man. “You shouldn’t let the Director wait.” He said over his shoulder and fled towards his desk in the bullpen.

Tony was finalising his last report when he heard an enraged shout coming from the office above the bullpen and winced. That didn’t go well. Tony sighed and looked up to see Gibbs forcefully opening the door with a bang and furiously stalking down towards him.

“What have you done, Tony?” Ziva tried to goad him. “To be sent to Jenny’s office first thing in the morning. And Gibbs. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him so angry.”

The senior agent just raised his eyebrow meaningfully. “Nothing you should be concerned with, Ziva.” The mouthy Mossad agent blanched and turned back to her work at once. Several weeks ago he followed up on his threat and reported her for insubordination. He’d gotten hell from Gibbs for it, but it was worth it to see Ziva shut up for once. 

“Dinozzo!” Gibbs shouted, drawing the attention of the entire bullpen to the unfolding drama and stomped towards him. “You aren’t leaving. You’ll leave only after I let you. Not sooner. Do you understand?”

Soon-to-be-ex agent just rolled his eyes, annoyed at the older man who was incapable of behaving professionally when things didn’t go according to his vision of reality. “Thank you, Gibbs.” Tony derailed the rant calmly. “You saved me a time for making an announcement.” He stood up with his head high and directed his next statement towards the entire bullpen. “Yes, I’ve resigned this morning. Yes, I’m leaving in two weeks. It was a pleasure working with most of you during the last few years. And no, Langer, you may not have my stapler.” He finished, smirking at the younger agent, and grabbed his empty cup. The caffeine was desperately needed for dealing with the entire situation. 

“Dinozzo! Don’t you dare to leave. We are not finished.” Gibbs growled dangerously at Tony’s retreating back.

Younger man thoroughly ignored the roar and continued walking away, whistling happily and making plans to surprise Nick with his decision to leave his job in D.C. and join him on his tour of old European cities.

Chapter Text

Tony’s last days with NCIS were marked by icy attitudes of his closest coworkers, teary Abby and dismissive Director Sheppard. Other D.C. agents just wished him luck and threw him a farewell party. He appreciated the thought even if the rest didn’t pan out as he wanted. 

Gibbs… Well, if the looks could kill he would be long dead and buried. The older agent took his taciturn nature to the highest level and didn’t speak to him if he didn’t have to. Fortunately, the team was on stand-down, working on cold cases. And Gibbs spent as much time as possible in MTAC to avoid him. 

As for McGee, he seemed to revert back to timid green agent Tony scooped out of cybercrimes. The idea of working with Gibbs exclusively, and without his mitigating influence on the ornery senior agent, didn’t agree with the younger man. Gibbs had to notice the obvious reluctance in him because he was often found glaring at McGee. 

Ziva decided that exercising prudence in the face of rapidly changing circumstances was in her best interest if she didn’t want to reap some unpleasant consequences of her actions, like getting deported back to Izrael, for example. Tony was guessing returning back to her homeland didn’t figure in Ziva’s plans, considering what she was willing to sacrifice to be allowed to stay in the States. 

Only joy Tony experienced in those last days at NCIS was during his more and more frequent calls with Nick. The photographer was currently on assignment somewhere in Egypt. But he still found time to speak with Tony, spotty connection notwithstanding. Or if the calls were not possible, he was sending him various snapshots from life in various old cities. Madrid. Paris. And his favourite – Rome. Although, Cairo was most prominently featured in them during the last few days. 

The wonders of the Old World pale in comparison to you, Tony. That was the message, hidden in those pictures. It warmed his heart and made him only more determined to see Nick as soon as possible. Tony was flying to Italy to join him this evening.

The ex-agent wasn’t hurting for the job offers. It seemed like every alphabet agency tried to tempt him to join as soon as it got out he was leaving NCIS. He rejected them off-hand as he wasn’t too interested in continuing his career in any of the federal agencies. He was leaning towards freelancing and troubleshooting. Because of the reasons.

After the bullshit he had to suffer from Gibbs and the junior agents on the MCRT team, a long vacation was what the ex-agent deserved. His plane was leaving later that evening, so he was on a tight schedule. Tony grabbed his suitcase, taking one last look at his flat before he locked the door. He turned around and almost got a stroke. “Gibbs. What are you doing here?” 

“Are you going somewhere?” The question burst out of the agent before he could think it through.

“Why are you answering my question with a question? Can’t you use your words for once?” Tony’s hand clenched on his suitcase and he was mentally preparing himself for the confrontation that was brewing.

“Just tell me,” Gibbs growled impatiently, pacing around the younger man. 

Tony just rolled his eyes. “Not that is any of your business, Gibbs, but I’m flying to Europe.” Looking at his watch, Tony noted dryly. “I have to catch the plane, so just tell me what you want from me?”

“I wanted to ask you for dinner. And maybe a cup of coffee afterwards.” The older man admitted. Now, that the younger man wasn’t in NCIS employment, he wouldn’t break his rules about dating a coworker.

“No. Nope. Not interested, Gibbs.” Tony saw where it was going and replied sharply, as stepped aside from the agent and made for the elevator. “I’m not going to leave my lover for your emotionally unavailable ass. I’m not that stupid. Have a good life, and please, make sure to lose my number, ok?”

“A lover, Tony?” Gibbs shouted at the retreating man, his plans to finally get the younger man in his bed were going into smoke.

“What?” Tony was annoyed at the stubbornness of his ex-boss. Fortunately, the elevator was here, so he could easily make his escape. “You know what? Don’t answer it. Bye, Gibbs.” 

And the elevator doors closed, decisively ending one chapter of Tony’s life.


 

“I knew it,” Tony announced triumphally, when a seemingly unrelated piece of information slotted neatly inside a larger puzzle, he was trying to solve for a certain unnamed Agency. It was an interesting challenge and he agreed to undertake it as a trial run. And while it chafed his clearance wasn’t as high as it used to be when he worked for NCIS, it was enough to get him started. Nick was worth the inconvenience of it all. Both of them had to make some concessions to be able to build a life together. Sometimes, the adulting was hard.

Nick looked up from his work and stared in puzzlement at the sudden exclamation from his lover. Tony was adorable when he was trying to work something out. Not that he was ever going to tell him that. Maybe. He glanced at the watch and sighed. It was time for a break. The photographer stood up and stretched out his stiff muscles. “I’m going to order a coffee. Do you want one?”

Tony almost swallowed his tongue, completely losing a train of thought he was pursuing, when he realized Nick was purposely trying to distract him from work. “Nick.” He whined.

“Yes?” The photographer raised his eyebrow and asked innocently. “Did I do something?”

Tony growled, pushed his laptop close and put it aside before he stalked towards his tease of a lover. He grabbed Nick’s hips and captured his lips in a kiss. The things escalated fairly quickly, as they tended to when the lovers got caught up in the moment.

Nick moaned and welcomed Tony’s tongue inside his mouth. Any thoughts of further teasing his lover flew out of his mind. He wanted more. Now. He tried to manoeuvre them subtly towards the bed but Tony was having none of that. “Not now.” He murmured against Nick’s lips before he leapt on the chance to distract the photographer. “Didn’t you want to get the coffee?” Tony asked, trying to draw breath into his oxygen-starved lungs, will down his erection and restart higher brain functions. He was very tempted to accept Nick’s invitation and drag him to bed. The photographer was adorable in his flushed and mussed state.

“Wha…?” Dazed Nick shook his head in an attempt to clear it from the arousal clouding it. “Yes. Yes. I think so. Maybe?”

Tony smirked. He did his work well enough if it left the other man incapable to form a coherent thought. “Come on.” He prodded the photographer out of their room, taking care to grab his wallet on the way out. 

“I think it wasn’t one of my better ideas,” Nick grumbled under his breath, clinging to Tony’s hand. The sweltering heat and the afternoon sun hit them full force almost as soon as they left their hotel. He was deeply regretting his unfortunate caffeine addiction and his attempts to distract Tony. 

“Was that a rhetorical question or should I answer?” Tony teased a little. His lover was a sight to see – nose scrunched adorably and a pout on his lips. The ex-agent was very tempted to kiss the other man, but he didn’t fancy ending up arrested for public indecency. 

Nick glared at him from underneath his cap. “Only if you want to spend a night on the couch…”

“As if you would limit yourself in such a manner,” Tony muttered under his breath and duked Nick’s sharp elbow aiming for his side. “Come on,” He pulled the other man into a small cafe. 

The photographer looked around in bewilderment. If Tony didn’t lead him inside, he would completely overlook this place. “How did you find this place? I’m regularly travelling all over the world, Rome is my favourite stop, and I’ve never stumbled on this place. You are here hardly a couple of days and were able to run across this beautiful place.”

“I have my ways,” Tony smirked, winked at the pretty Italian waitress and ordered. “My regular and the house special for my friend.”

“Ok. Don’t tell me.” Nick sulked, making grabbing motions at the coffee monstrosity, Tony ordered for him. Taking a sip, he looked up in surprise. “Delicious.”

“Come on.” Tony ushered them to a table hidden from the direct view of the other patrons.

Nick plopped down on the comfortable chair, taking care not to spill a drop of his drink, and smiled brightly at his partner. “Thank you, Tony. I needed this.”

“I…” The confession of his feelings was right on the tip of his tongue. Tony bit his lip and chickened out at the last moment. He covered it by taking Nick’s free hand and kissing the pulse on his wrist. He managed to fluster the photographer into forgetting his little lapse.


 

Tony’s gaze stopped on one of Nick’s discarded photos. He didn’t know why exactly his attention strayed directly to Nick’s work, but he was feeling unsettled since they left the cafe. His instincts were on alert, and while he didn’t notice anything out of place, his gut was churning. It was like they were being followed, although he couldn’t imagine why. It was difficult to turn off his instincts when they were clearly warning him of danger. 

The alarm bells went on in his mind. Quickly, he snatched the picture out of the pile, staring at it incredulously. In the next moment, he was busy dialling a number of the nearest NCIS office. If he was remembering correctly, he was looking at the face of one of the ten most wanted by his ex-Agency. And his photographer managed to catch him on a candid shot. That put his presence in Rome around the time they had arrived. Taking another look, he amended. They had to meet him their first evening out touring the city. His bad feeling was getting worse.  

“Tony? Did something happen?” Nick asked when he walked out of the bathroom minutes later, trying to dry his hair and noticed his lover was as pale as a ghost and clutching a photo in his hand. 

A soft rustling caused both of them to turn their heads in the direction of the entrance to their hotel room. Tony swallowed, hoping against all hope, he was wrong, and ushered the photographer back into the bathroom, giving him clear instructions. “Close the door behind me and lock it. Use everything you can to barricade yourself. I don’t have time to explain. But please. Please, do it.”

Nick nodded, noticing the seriousness in Tony’s face. The ex-agent had to have a really good reason to react like that. With his extensive training and experience, the ex-agent wasn’t prone to panic. “Ok, Tony.” The photographer agreed and without another word, he returned back to the bathroom and did, as was told.

Diving for his laptop, Tony closed it and hid the photo in the gap between the keyboard and the screen. He put the laptop under the couch and arranged a couple pillows to cover it. The noises coming from outside were getting ominous. Tony suddenly wished for his badge and his service weapon. He hated being powerless in this situation but he couldn’t risk Nick in a confrontation with the unknown assailants, considering he was armed only with one meagre knife. 

The noises outside the room intensified. And then Tony heard a shout and someone was shooting. Tony dived behind the couch, trying to put as many obstacles as he could between dangerously ricocheting bullets and himself, praying it would be enough. He didn’t have any desire to end up in the hospital or worse. He couldn’t do it to Nick.

The violence outside ceased abruptly. Cautiously, Tony peered out from behind the couch, waiting for the other shoe to drop. He hated the uncertainty of it all. Who had won? Good guys or the baddies. That was the price for semi-civilian life he had chosen, when he decided to seriously pursue his first love.

“Polizia. Open the door, Mr. Dinozzo.” Tony sighed in relief and went to the door.

The circus that followed was something, Tony would like to forget as soon as possible. The Italian police thoroughly interrogated Nick and him. Then in the middle of the interview, the agents from NCIS crashed the party and started to ask the same questions all over again. It felt like a couple of years had passed, when in reality it couldn’t be more than an hour.

“I was afraid, Nick,” Tony confessed, when they were finally alone, the words pouring out of his mouth without his permission. “I was afraid I would lose you before I had a chance to say I love you.” 

Nick grabbed Tony’s hands and squeezed them gently. “I love you, too.” Flushing, he continued. “We didn’t recite the vows. We didn’t promise anything to each other, but still… I can’t help it. You are my everything and I will love you to my last breath.”

Chapter Text

The unpleasantness from their little adventure in Rome was mostly put behind them when they landed in Miami. Nick didn’t like they were forced to cut their European tour short, but he figured it was better to return to the States until the Italian mess, as he was starting to call it, was dealt with.

Tony stole a glance at his lover. To make sure the photographer didn’t stumble into another lethal mess was going to be a full-time job. Not that he minded. At least he wasn’t going to be bored anytime soon. Threading their fingers together, he pulled Nick towards the beach. The photographer loved the sand and the ocean but hated the sun with the passion unmatched by anything, as it always left him burnt red and aching.

“Where are you taking me?” Nick asked curiously. Tony was behaving strangely for the last week. Unexpected, and maybe a bit unwelcomed, a little crossover of their jobs was probably taking a toll on him. Tony clearly was still adjusting to civilian life after more than a decade in law enforcement. 

“Be patient and you’ll see.” Tony teased a little as he led them through the crowds, towards a little shop. He greeted the owner familiarly and launched into a quick conversation in Spanish, stealing a couple of glances at him. Nick was aware Tony spoke Italian fluently because his mother’s father insisted. But Spanish… That was a surprise.

“Everything is prepared for you, Tony.” The proprietor said in heavily accented English, smiling at them before he launched into another long stream of Spanish, waving excitedly at the answers he got from Tony.

Nick cocked his head, curiosity eating at him. He caught a couple of words here and there, but he was far from fluent, so most of the conversation went over his head. It was unfair how his lover was so personable and had connections in the most curious places. Tony finally shook hands with the other man and picked up something.

“OK. Now I’m getting curious what all of this was about.” The photographer commented. “How did you come to know… José, was it?” Tony flushed and squirmed. Nick raised an eyebrow in surprise and needled. “Tell me, please.”

“Ok. Fine. There are few things I’m not at liberty to reveal but I think I can tell some rough outline. I saved José’s life when I was mob hunting in the dear old Philly. I’ve literally stumbled upon him bleeding on the pavement and got him in the hospital. It came out later he was one of CI for the police and he was found out. Nobody was doing anything to help him and I hated it. So, I facilitated his move, mostly because he risked being hunted inside the city borders. And Florida was as far away as I could manage. Gave him some starting capital for his business, which he paid me back since and José is grateful.”

“Fascinating story,” Nick remarked, surprised anew with the generosity of his partner, and let himself be led out of the shop to the pier and a yacht moored there. “A boat, Tony? That’s your surprise?”

The ex-agent smirked like a Cheshire cat, loving the fact he managed to get one over his lover. The photographer was by nature a curious and nosy thing, so it was rather difficult to keep his dealings private when he was trying to surprise him. “Not quite. What would you say to spend a week on the private island?”

“Really?” Nick asked, not quite believing the lengths Tony went to secure their privacy. Although taking into account the recent events, he couldn’t blame him for taking the precautions. The Italian mess was a hair-raising experience, and that was saying something. 

“Yes.” Tony nodded and pointed to the yacht. “I had thought of everything, while I was planning this little vacation. I rented the island from José, as well as the yacht that would be taking us there. A little paradise all for us. José was accommodating and sent his nephews to get our luggage here. And finally, I’ve managed to surprise you. That’s always on my agenda.”

“You devious little fiend,” Nick swore and pulled the other man into a kiss. “Yes, of course, love. It’s hardly a hardship to spend a week with you on the private island.”

Tony smiled, slightly out of breath from the kiss. “Well… I like your reaction to my gift. Perhaps, I shall do it more often if the reward is so great. Although, I already might have something in works on the island.”

“Tony!” Nick glared at his partner playfully and pouted. “You are spoiling me. And I’m going to die of curiosity what your other surprise is.”

“I hope not,” Tony murmured and impishly kissed the tip of Nick’s nose. “Come on, the yacht won’t steer itself.”


 

The island was quite small but the huts were comfortably away from each other to ensure privacy for several visitors. It was a hidden gem and Nick wasn’t keen on sharing it with any of his acquaintances. Not when Tony invested so much of his time and energy to arrange their trip into this paradise. Wandering around with his ever-present camera in hand, hidden from the sun under the thick layer of sunscreen and hat, Nick was musing about the second gift that was promised to him.

Although, Tony was a gift that kept on giving. He couldn’t believe it wasn’t even a year since they happened to meet in L.A. That reminded him. Their anniversary was coming up and he had his work cut for him if he wanted to top this little trip. For months, Nick felt he had chosen the best path when he allowed Tony back into his life and heart despite his initial reluctance.

Who knew it was so easy to fall back in love. Maybe it was because the photographer never forgot his first love. Sometimes, when he was maudlin, he mused they met too early – too young to build a lasting relationship. Or maybe he just never stopped loving that young and carefree athlete with a smile that could lit up his entire world, one that went on and became even more ridiculously attractive as he aged.  

The wounds of their shared past caused by the misunderstandings, prejudices and their long separation, were healed by their mutual love and Nick was glad for it. They wouldn’t have gotten so invested in each other if they didn’t manage to resolve their issues in past months. And it only took several vicious arguments and reconciliations, ruminations and hours of emotional bloodletting that wasn’t comfortable for any of them. 

It also helped a lot, Tony decided to leave his career in the federal agency and accompany him on his travels around the world. That was a true gift – that he was spending time with a person he loved, not just loitering in the hotel rooms alone, or rarely with a forgettable one-night-stand, longing desperately for a real connection.

The couple walked lazily for hours, exploring the island. The steady, calloused hand curled around Nick’s fingers was very nice, and it caused warm feelings bubbling inside him. He took perhaps hundreds photos of smiling Tony and the island and the sea, and… Everything. He got too excited sometimes and then it was Tony’s job to take care he didn’t end up stumbling over his own feet on the uneven terrain and break his leg. The ex-agent already caught him at least three different times, when his excitement overruled his common sense. 

The sun setting on the patio was an unforgettable experience. The blue sea slowly coloured to pink and then red and violet, as the sun vanished behind the horizon. Nick was leaning against the railing, itching to get his camera to capture the moment, but he promised Tony he would spend this night without it. Actually, the former agent was adamant about it. As he already locked his laptop in the safe and was currently in the kitchen making last touches to the dinner, he didn’t have a leg to stand on in this matter and left the camera in their bedroom.

It didn’t take long for the first stars to lit up the night sky. The tacit agreement with Tony prodded the photographer to set the table. The feeling of anticipation was rising and Nick didn’t exactly know why, but he felt Tony had something spectacular in mind for him this evening. Nobody took his partner on the private island just on the whim. There was some purpose for all of it, but Nick wasn’t seeing it. There was something important that he was missing. And it was irritating as hell.

The curiosity finally got the better of him and Nick opened his mouth to ask what all of this was supposed to mean, but the ex-agent just smiled unfairly attractively and put a finger on his lips. “Dinner first.”

“Fine,” Nick replied, a pout on his lips and dug in. He almost moaned. The food was heavenly. Sometime after they parted their ways, all those years ago, some kind soul took it upon themselves to teach Tony to cook, because it was divine. His lover’s hidden depths didn’t cease to amaze him.

The comfortable silence, the set of burning candles and the company came together to make a brilliant evening even better. Something niggled at the edges of Nick’s mind insistently. Some kind of idea, he wasn’t quite grasping.  

“So, about that second surprise.” Tony started uncertainly when the dishes were back in the kitchen drain and they sipped the wine, enjoying the warm evening. “It’s more of a question.”

“And that would be?” Nick was finally starting to put the clues together and fumbled for mobile in his pocket. The vacation on a private island, the dinner, Tony’s strange nervousness. The excitement rose inside him, but he forced himself not to show it. They got to this point sooner than he thought but Nick was all for it. 

Tony gulped nervously, stretched out and took Nick’s left hand between his palms. “Will you marry me?” He blurted out inelegantly; his speech forgotten when he lost himself in Nick’s shining eyes.

The next instant Tony’s phone beeped with an incoming message. Nick nodded towards the phone laying on the table and said evenly. “See the answer for yourself.”

With a trembling hand, Tony unlocked his phone, hoping for the best. A picture of an engagement ring on a man’s finger and a message written in the sand in the background caused him to whoop and kiss the photographer wildly. It was an…

Yes.

Chapter Text

“Go back to sleep,” Nick murmured, eyes tightly closed against the glaring sun. It was too early to try to rouse himself out of their bed. And he was so comfortable in the position he was currently – sprawled across Tony’s naked chest. His ass ached pleasantly as a reminder of last night’s vigorous lovemaking. Their first married sex. It was even better than he imagined.

Kissing lazily his husband’s bare shoulder, Tony shot back. “Can’t. I have something beautiful to stare at. It’s a lot of work, you know?”

Nick opened one of his blue eyes and glared at unfairly too awake Tony. “Too early. Sleep.” He ordered petulantly, and closed his eyes again, cuddling into his husband’s side.

“No,” Tony smirked and playfully kissed the tip of his husband’s nose. His husband. He didn’t expect that title to ever describe the incredible man lying beside him. He was thankful, Nick gave him a second chance in that hotel in L.A. more than a year ago when he was lost and teetering on the edge of a spectacular burn-out.

Since then, a lot of things have changed. A year ago, he was miserably alone and stuck in an increasingly frustrating job. And now, after some much-needed soul-searching and several difficult decisions, as well as investing himself in building a healthy relationship, he was happily married to the love of his life. He had his work as a troubleshooter/liaison to the various law enforcement agencies in the country and was free to accompany Nick on his travels all around the world. Not bad for the ex-federal agent.

The last he heard any news from NCIS, Gibbs was forcibly retired after giving his third and last senior agent an ulcer. McGee fled the Agency only months after his resignation and decided it was better for his health to pursue a career as a writer. And Ziva… Well, after he made some discreet inquiries at the Homeland, he didn’t hear anything about her ever again. Some things were above his security clearance and contrary to Gibbs he was aware of his limitations and knew when to stop prying. 

Tony’s musings were derailed abruptly when suddenly awake Nick returned the ex-agent’s smirk, eyes glittering mischievously, and squirmed against his husband provocatively. “If you insist.”

“You little tease,” Tony moaned and rolled them over. Their naked bodies pressed together and a spark of want ran through both men. They weren’t finished with their honeymoon. Not by far. The hungry mouths met in the furious dance and the rest of the world was drowned out by their passion. 

A photo of their hut was laid on the table, forgotten by both men. A warm breeze blew through the opened window and the picture floated down on the ground.  

When I fell in love with you, I was young and carefree. When you broke my heart, I’ve aged millennia, so lost was I in my grief. When we’ve met after all these years and healed our relationship, I fell in love with you all over again.

The End