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Two Beds & a Coffee Machine

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Two Beds & a Coffee Machine
By Bane Huntress

 

Gibbs took the envelope that his friend passed him. “Thanks Fred, I’ll buy you a drink the next time I see you.”

“Make it with sugar and cream next time.” Fred said holding up the Styrofoam cup of black coffee Gibbs had brought him. “I don’t know how you can drink this swill.”

“Practice.” Gibbs answered back with a smile, “And it lasts longer and keeps you on your toes.”

Fred just grunter at that as he looked down the road through the windshield of his squad car. “Strap up. This one’s got some speed behind it.”

At that instant headlights blinded them both for a moment as a black sports car went speeding by on the dark road.

Gibbs didn’t have time to throw himself out of the car before Fred was speeding after the car with lights and sirens deafening them.

“He’s got some speed on him in that thing!” Fred said with a note of excitement. “Ah damn he’s slowing down!” Finished with disappointment.

Gibbs was glad of that fact; he didn’t want to spend the rest of the night sitting around in the cold night air as Fred booked the perp. He squinted out the window as the car came to a stop and Fred pulled in behind, “Therese kids in the back!” he exclaimed with sick realization.

“Takes all sorts.” Fred said matter of fact as he opened his door. “Feel like playing backup?”

Gibbs just got out the car as an answer.

He let Fred do his job as he peered into the back seat at the other side of the car, Inside he could see three children crammed on the back seat. The youngest was still in a child’s car seat, the other two were older. What he could see of the front seat, it was filled with bags and some toys.

Suddenly one of the children turned to stair up at him, her green eyes bore into him and he could tell, even in the darkness, she looked scared as she clung to the other child.

Gibbs gave her a reassuring smile as he started to listen to Fred and the driver, his eyes skimming over the rest of the interior of the car, and its contents started to set his alarm bells ringing.

“You were doing well over the limit here.” Fred was admonishing, “And with children in the back?”

“I’m sorry Officer… Look I’m just trying to get to the nearest hotel or motel… like you said, it’s very late.” Gibbs could hear that it was a youngish man Fred was talking to.

“Would you mind stepping out of the car please sir?”

“No!” came the girl from inside the car, and Gibbs could hear one of the others start sobbing quietly, before the smallest child started up too.

The driver’s door opened. “It’s ok Eli; he just wants to talk to me. I won’t go far.”

“Oh, hey! Hands where I can see um!” Fred said and Gibbs tensed as he saw the man take a step back and his arm go to his gun.

“Easy.” Gibbs heard the drive utter, “It’s just my crutch, or you’ll be picking me up off the floor.” The young man sounded rueful, but why the hell would he need a stick? “See?”

“Ah, sorry lad, can’t be too careful.” Fred said as Gibbs saw him look over the car and give him a nod to say it was okay.

“Yeah, I know, I should have said something… sorry… uff…”

Gibbs watched as a mop of light brown hair seemed to be struggling out of the car, the man seemed to be having some trouble before he found himself staring into a pair of deep green eyes that were assessing him intently, then they locked on his own, and for a moment he found his breath caught in his throat as an instant of lust shot through him and he resisted taking a step closer. What the…

Then the man looked away and the moment was over as Gibbs felt like his world was being tipped sideways a little. As he blinked the man had moved a little so he could talk to Frank, but keep his peripheral vision on Gibbs himself. The man was trying to be subtle in his wariness.

Not like Gibbs could blame him, the man didn’t know who they were, he had kids to protect and from the way he had got out the car, he was also injured. So his guard would be up in his vulnerability, but the man wasn’t showing his weakness as he flashed a smile that was almost blinding with the light from the squad car.

“So can I ask why you’re out so late on a school night and looking for accommodation?” Fred ask as he looked over the mans drivers licence.

The man shifted a little nervously, and that’s when Gibbs could see the black eye and split lip the man was sporting. And they looked fresh, the eye was still colouring.

“They are my sister kids, I was just taking them on a little road trip… We lost track of time, and its way past their bedtime.” He smiled. But Gibbs could see the strain in it now, though he was sure it had Fred fooled, he could also tell the man was lying.

“But your three hours away from your home.” Fred said as he held up the licence.

The man smiled again. “Yeah, We left late this afternoon… and well… I just can’t help spoiling them.”

“And their mother isn’t saying anything about taking such young children out so late?” Fred sounded like he wasn’t believing everything this guy said either. But Gibbs was watching closely enough to see the shadow of pain cross the younger mans face.

“My sister died two year ago toda… yesterday.” The man uttered as his happy mask slipped a little. “Look, I used to be a cop, I know how these things work, can you just give me a ticket so I can be on my way?”

Fred looked sceptical, “Used to be?” he asked casting Gibbs a look.

Gibbs just shrugged in return.

“A difference of opinion that got me shot up.” The man sounded a little bitter. “Then my sister…” Gibbs watched as the man seemed to mentally shake himself and a smile once again appeared on his face. “Too much crap all at once.” He shrugged. “I’m currently on disability till I can look for something else.”

Gibbs almost snorted, so this guys psych eval took his gun away, that and he got shot up so much he couldn’t get out of a car without support. Gibbs didn’t move from his position to actually see the man using his crutch, he could see from the set of his shoulders that he had something wrong with his left leg.

Fred was nodding as he handed the guy his driving licence back. “You do know there isn’t any motels or hotels down this road till you hit the next town which is about another hours away?”

The man pulled a face in dismay. “Really?... damn, is there anywhere else closer?”

“I can only think of the Red Motel about an hour back the way you came, but it’s not the place you want to take kids.” Fred answered. “If you know what I mean?”

Gibbs knew the place as a disreputable dive, “I have somewhere you can stay the night.” He spoke for the first time, and for a second he couldn’t believe he was actually contemplating what he was saying. “If you want to follow us back to my car, you can follow me; it’s about forty minutes away.”

The guy gave him a sceptical look; his green eyes seemed to be assessing him all over again.

“This Is Special Agent Gibbs from NCIS.” Fred told the guy. “If you can trust anyone, you can trust him.”

The man didn’t take his eyes off Gibbs before he came to some silent decision. “Okay.” He said turning back to Fred. “About…”

Fred patted the younger man on the shoulder. “Don’t worry about the ticket, now, come on, the nights almost over.” Then Fred was going back to his car.

Gibbs gave the young man a nod before going back to the squad car.

--

It didn’t take them long to get back to Gibbs’s car.

“You taking that boy and his kids back to your place, right?” Fred asked with a chuckle. “You always have a soft spot for kids that will get you in trouble one day.”

Gibbs snorted. “I think that day just came…” and his guts were making it clear he was sure about that fact. “Thanks for the info, I’ll see you later.” He said as he got out the police car, then he remembered something and leaned back in. “What’s this guys name?”

“I thought you would never ask.” Fred chuckled. “It’s Anthony DiNozzo, you go easy on him, looks like he’s had a time of it, did you see those bruises? Don’t let him tell you he walked into a door!”

Gibbs nodded. “Don’t worry,” he assured his friend. “I’ll get to the bottom of it.”

“You do… Good luck.” Fred offered as Gibbs closed the door and got in his own car, seeing the young man in his sports car begin to follow him.

He knew where Fred’s worries were grounded. The injuries didn’t much look like he had been in a fight, as been the punch bag and it made Gibbs’s gut churn unhappily.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Tony suppressed another yawn as he tried to keep up with the old fed in his boring federal issue Sedan. He just hoped they would get to wherever they were going soon, he was exhausted, in pain, the kids were all on edge in the back with little Miki setting up a storm because he was tired and probably needed changing out of his night dippers.

“Eli, can you check Miki please, honey?” he asked over his shoulder.

“He just peed himself.” She answered softly.

Tony looked in his rear-view mirror, Eli was still wide eyes and pale, all he wanted to do was give her a hug, reassure her that everything was going to be alright, but all he could do was reach between the seats to pat her knee.

She gave him a tight smile in the mirror. He smiled back, his heart braking at her bravery. Especially as once again, she had seen something her young eyes shouldn’t.

“We should be there soon.” He assured her as he put his eyes on the car in front. Realising that they were now travailing through a more residential area. He quickly reached into his top pocket and pulled out his cell phone and passed it back to Eli. “Take this, anything happens and…”

“Run and call 911 and ask for the police, leave the phone on and hide it so they can find us.” Eli finished automatically.

Tony couldn’t help but smile sadly. “And?”

“And, or, find an adult, preferably a woman with children, or a really really old guy and ask for help.”

“And scream really loudly so dogs can hear us two miles away!” Danny said proudly. “and err…”

“Scream fire.” Eli sighed as she finished for him. “We there yet?”

Tony gave her a smile in the mirror, “Hopefully.” He answered. He was getting the strange idea that they were going to this feds house and he couldn’t help but wonder how his wife would feel about that. But right now, he just needed anywhere other than the back of his stupid car to put them down for the night.

It was another two minutes before the car was pulling into a driveway. So, slowly, Tony followed, squeezing his car in next to the old Fed’s.

He looked up at the house, it wasn’t big but it stood alone surrounded by bushes and trees that looked like they hadn’t been tended in decades. But it looked pleasant enough. He noted too that there were no lights on; not even the hall light.

He saw Agent Gibbs get out of his car and start to come around, so Tony opening his own door, pulled his crutch out then with his right hand he hooked it under his left knee to pull it up and then move it out slowly to rest on the floor before turning and getting his other leg out. Not for the first time he cursed not selling his flashy car and getting something he could get in and out of without causing him pain. But he gritted his teeth and he pushed and pulled himself out of the low seat, till he breathed out and opened his eyes to find the old fed looking at him. It made Tony’s hackles rise before he realized the guy was looking at him curiously but with no pity.

“You need any help getting your stuff in?” the fed asked. Tony remembered his name was Gibbs but Tony’s head still tried to tell him this just wasn’t right, but his instincts disagreed. There was something in the old guys eyes that just made him trust.

“Sure… err. Let me get the kids out… there should be a diaper bag in the back.” He said opening the back door to get Miki out first. “Come on Kids… let’s get in where it’s a bit warmer. Eli, help Danny please.”

“Sure.” She whispered softly as she opened the other door and got out, dragging her younger brother with her.

Tony got Miki out of his car seat as quick as he could before his hip gave out and he ended up on the floor. The little tyke was still crying, Tony couldn’t really blame him, he was cold, tired and most defiantly wet, if the squelching he felt against his right hip was anything to go by.

Tony stepped back, quite used to holding a toddler and managing with his crutch as Gibbs reached into the car past him and retrieved the large bag from the back footwall.

“Ok, come on in,” Gibbs said turning to the house, not giving Tony another look. Which actually made Tony smile as he locked the car, anyone else would have also offered to take Miki too. Thinking the cripple couldn’t managed and his smile turned bitter for a moment. But he followed Gibbs up the steps as quickly as he could, feeling the other two kids at the back of his legs. They walked up to the porch and Gibbs just opened the unlocked door and went straight in.

Tony struggled up the few steps, then looked around as he entered the house, noting the mismatched furnisher and sparse lay out. So Gibbs was a bachelor, would explain no lights on to welcome him home, Tony thought, the only thing that looked like it said anything about the man he was about to spend the night with, was the bookshelf’s that were over flowing.

“Lets get the kids in bed, then that little one changed.” Gibbs said matter of fact as he dropped the diaper bag by the sofa, then led the way upstairs.

Tony sighed as he looked up all the stairs to the second floor. The three outside had been manageable, but he knew his leg would give out before he reached the top. Miki wasn’t a lightweight anymore.

“I’ll take him.” Eli said at his side as she reached up to pull Miki down, with a bit of manoeuvring and pulling because Miki didn’t want to let go. When she finally had the crying toddler, she went upstairs with Danny following as her as he began yawning again.

With a beep breath, Tony took hold of the banister and began to pull himself up after the kids. There was no way he wasn’t going to see where his kids would be sleeping… thoughts of a room with cadges in and chains made him try and move a little faster.

When he got to the top, the kids were nowhere in sight, but Gibbs was stood waiting for him in the hall outside a door with light pouring from inside. Tony gave him a nod as he entered the room. It looked more lived-in than just a spare room, with reading glasses on the side table atop of a few books.

 “The bathroom is across the hall, towels in the closet in there, use whatever you need.” Gibbs said picking up the glass’s and books. “I’ll be downstairs making some coffee when you’ve finished.”

“Okay.” Tony said thankfully as he went and sat on the sinfully comfortable bed, which would prove a bitch to get off of. “Ok guys.” He said knowing Gibbs had indeed gone down stairs. “Lets get you undressed to your undis and shirts. Anyone need the bathroom before bed?” he asked, already helping Danny with his clothes.

Both kids shook their heads. “I’m tired.” Danny whined as he rubbed his eyes.

“Me too.” Eli whispered as she tried taking her jeans off. Tony pulled her to him then helped her take them off as he then folded them.

“I know sweetheart.” He said as he pulling the clean sheets down so he could help them get in. “You guys leave enough room for me and Miki ok, I shouldn’t be too long with agent Gibbs.” He pulled the sheets up and tucked them into the big bed. Danny was already asleep as soon as his head hit the pillow. Eli just looked up at him, her big eyes still haunted. He leaned down and kissed her forehead as he ran a hand through her hair. “It’s gonna be ok, we are safe here.” He promised, and shocked himself because he actually meant it. “Now go to sleep for me?”

She nodded her head as she turned to her brother and hugged him close.

Tony picked up Miki, who was still mewling quietly, and heaved himself up to his feet again, then having to take a moment to let the tired ache in his side ease. At least getting down stairs with a child-limpet was easier than getting up.

As he turned into what was the living room, there was a towel already laid out on the coffee table by the sofa and the diaper bag was open waiting for him. He looked round to see Gibbs in the kitchen past the dinning room table in the kind of open plan living space.

With a shrug he went over to the coffee table and eased himself down onto the sofa, gritting his teeth as he did so, before he started sorting out his youngest nephew. Miki was drenched and his diaper rash was red and angry looking, no wonder he was mewling harder than normal. So with a deftness born of repetition he had Miki changed, salved and back in dry clothes within eight minutes. He just couldn’t wait till the little tyke learned to use the potty; at least he already  had experience there.

“Here.” Gibbs said making him jump, he looked up to find the fed holding out a mug of coffee. “Thought you might be a milk and sugar drinker.”

Tony took the coffee with a nod of thanks, a little shocked the guy had actually got it right. “I prefer tea.” He grinned as he took a tentative sip and groaned appreciatively. “That’s good.”

The other man just grinned taking a sip of his own before he turned his startling blue eyes on Miki who still lay on the table almost asleep. “You mind?” he asked.

Tony grimaced. “He doesn’t really like stringers.” In fact he usually screamed the place down.

But Gibbs just shot him a smile then put his coffee down and picked Miki up.

The little guy stared at Gibbs with a frown before he buried himself against the old fed’s chest and closed his eyes.

Tony was flabbergasted.

“I seem to have a way with kids.” Gibbs said in explanation as he moved and slowly sat on the sofa cradling Miki to him.

Tony just carried on cleaning up after himself before he pulled two bottles of prepared formula out of the bag, Miki was old enough not to need it, but he liked it, so Tony never saw the harm… It was also an excuse he could use to get out of… situations. “Can I use your fridge?” he asked.

Gibbs nodded his head towards the kitchen. “Sure, and the bin’s in the cupboard by the door.”

Tony got to his feet with a bit of a struggle, glad his leg hadn’t just given out on him instead and put him on the floor like it was threatening to do, he stumbled a bit as he went into the kitchen.

He still couldn’t believe the sparseness of the place, the kitchen was no exception, the bare essentials and nothing more. It was like Gibbs had just moved in, but it had an aged lived-in look, maybe like he had been burgled and they had taken literally everything.

He put the bottles in the almost empty fridge then threw the diaper away in the trash.

Gibbs and this house intrigued him, and if he wasn’t so bone weary and in pain, it would give him a buzz to figure it out.

Instead he went back into the other room, retrieved his coffee and eased himself down to sit on the arm of the only chair in the room, he didn’t think he had it in him to get up again if he sat down.

“Thanks for letting us crash.” Tony said, he didn’t really feel like he needed to talk, which was strange, but he couldn’t help himself. “Is this a safe house or something?” he almost cringed; the guy had said it was his. But Gibbs just chuckled.

“Three divorces and all of them took everything they could get except the house.” Gibbs answered, giving Tony a lopsided grin.

“That would explain why you’re good with kids then.” Tony smiled, assuming this guys must have more rugrat’s than hot meals. But a dark shadow crossed the older man’s face and Tony knew he had crossed some hidden line.

“No.” Gibbs answered softly. “I was always to busy for that.”

Tony took another sip of his coffee then tried to fight down a yawn.

“Ok, it’s late, lets get this little one to bed and I guess you’ve also had a long day.” Gibbs said getting up carefully, and Tony didn’t miss the way the other man looked pointedly at the bruising on his face, but he ignore it.

Tony suppressed another yawn as he stood. “To long.” He uttered as he followed his host up stairs again, trying not to gasp as he did so, and into the bedroom, relieved that Gibbs took his time, seeming to know Tony didn’t want him just stomping off with his nephew.

Eli stirred a little as Gibbs placed Miki down in the middle of the bed.

Tony made to go to the other side of the bed when Gibbs caught hold of his arm. Tony stilled as his heart missed a beat in a moment of panic. But as he looked into piercing blue eyes, he felt another shiver ran down his spine that had nothing to do with fear.

“I don’t normally lock the doors, but I’ll find the keys and leave them in the kitchen on top of the fridge, don’t want the kids running off.” Gibbs whispered.

Tony felt the heat of the other mans breath against his face and felt a stirring of something he hadn’t felt in a long time. He always had a thing for older guys, and even in his stressed and tired mind, Gibbs was one good looking man. But he was too exhausted to process his emotions now, not after… everything.

“Thanks.” He whispered back, his eyes drifting from blue eyes to lips. The lips thinned into a knowing smile before Gibbs was pulling away.

“Good night, Tony.” Gibbs said as he moved from the room, closing the door behind him.

Tony cursed under his breath as he got undressed and climbed into the overcrowded, but sinfully comfortable, bed, and he was asleep before he could think about Gibbs a moment more.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

The next day Tony had been awoken by Danny slapping his cheek demanding food. And in a blearied half awoke state he had gotten them all dressed, then ushered them all downstairs, Miki on his good hip as always.

He had found some bread and a half full jar of strawberry jam, so made them all toast and jam for breakfast.

He also found a note left under the keys to the front and back door, it read,

‘Called away for a few days, stay as long as you need want, LJ’

Tony had frowned at the moniker before he realised he didn’t actually know Gibbs’s given name’s.

It hadn’t taken him long to find out though.

The man had just given him a free pass to impose on his hospitality for at least another day, so Tony was going to take it… He just needed a moment to breathe as he tried to figure out what he was actually going to do.

So as the kids played in the back yard with a few toys he had packed. He couldn’t help but laugh, Leroy Jethro Gibbs. The man he had known for such a short time just didn’t seem to fit those names.

He also frowned at the blanket and pillow on the sofa. A house this big would have two or three good bedrooms, so why was this guy sleeping on the sofa?

After a quick trip to the closest store he could find, then lunch, he sat the kids down to watch the ancient TV in the living room as Tony finally started exploring the house proper. His natural curiosity and his need to make sure that he and the kids would truly be safe were proving too much of a temptation as he began stomping all over his hosts privacy.

He started upstairs, the first room at the top of the stairs was a mystery, it was obviously the master bedroom, with a huge double bed in the centre, and a quick look showed that one of the doors in the room led to a small on-suite shower room. The other doors he guessed must be a closet, but there were numerous boxes and other old things packed in front of them. For a moment he thought about going through the boxes, but the dust on top of everything was very old and disturbing it would be too obvious. He did however peek into a few draws. Inside some he found women’s clothing and underwear, but he could find nothing about the woman who used to live here, or why this room seemed like a forgotten shrine to her. But then three ex-wives? He didn’t even know which one most of this stuff belonged too.

He could guess nothing good had happened to her, whoever she was. She had either gotten up and left with just the cloths on her back, or she was dead. Giving the room another look he guessed it was the latter.

Finally he went back into the hall and to the only other door in the hall apart from the guest room and bathroom.

When he looked inside his heart sank.

It was obvious this had been a little girl’s room, and by the look of some of the stuffed animals and posters of old children’s movies on the wall, she had been dead and gone a long time.

He stood there as he took in the grief that the girl must have left behind, felling the grief for his own sister threatened to choke him.

Quickly he stepped back into the hall and closed the door softly, he would tell the kids not to play in these rooms of the dead.

After all, they wouldn’t be here long enough to mess in the poor man’s grief.

But it explained the state of the guest room and the bedding on the sofa downstairs… They had actually kicked Gibbs out of his own bed.

He wanted to feel guilty, but just couldn’t bring himself to be.

For some reason, even with two tombs in the house and a man he knew nothing about.

For the first time in over three years… he actually felt a bit safe.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs couldn’t believe he only had enough time to grab a shower and a change of clothes before he had to fly back out to LA before the day was even over.

Two day’s cracking a case and he was being shipped out again, but he guessed he didn’t mind too much, at least it stopped him being bored.

He pulled into his driveway and was surprised to see another car in it, then it all came flooding back.

He had told the guy and his kids he could stay for a few days, but he didn’t think Tony would actually take him up on the offer.

He quickly got out of his car and made his way to the front door and growled when he found it locked. Quickly he pulled out his keys and opened it, stomping inside.

He wasn’t sure what to expect, but what he got, took him back a little.

The room was dark, but he could see Tony laid on the sofa with the youngest kids in his arms, both were fast asleep. The TV still playing some movie or other, with the volume turned down low.

For a moment he just stood and stared at the scene. Not entirely sure how he felt about the whole thing, but he did know his anger had ebbed away.

“Oh… Welcome home.” Tony’s voice whispered from the sofa.

Gibbs didn’t miss a beat as he hung his coat up, ignoring the way his chest pulled a little. “Hi.” He replied.

“You want some coffee?” he heard Tony getting up behind him. “Or something too eat?”

He turned to see Tony laying the child down on the sofa, still fast asleep, then get stiffly to his feet, just like the first night, he looked like he was in pain. But Gibbs didn’t ask, he wasn’t sure he wouldn’t like the answered. Especial as the bruises on Tony’s face where still a vivid purple.

“Coffee.” He replied before running upstairs.

He had to pause again when he opened the door to his bedroom as he saw the other two kids asleep in his bed. He suppressed a growl of annoyance as he creped in and quietly started pulling his old duffle bag off the wardrobe. Trying not to wake the kids he started threw clothes into the bag. It took him a moment to realise there were eyes on him.

He turned to see the young girl staring at him.

“Shhh.” He told her softly. “I’m just getting some things. Go back to sleep honey.” He gave her a smile.

She snuggled down a little more, but she kept watching him, so he carried on getting his stuff ready.

“Goodnight Mr Gibbs.” The little girl said as he made his way to the door.

He once again ignored the emotions he didn’t want to face as he gave her another smile. “Goodnight, now go back to sleep.” He told her before leaving the room and closing the door quietly behind him.

He quickly scrubbed himself down in the shower then got ready again to head out to the airport.

What he did not expect when he ran down the stairs was Tony at the bottom holding out a steaming cup of coffee.

“I take it from the bag you’re heading out again?” Tony asked as Gibbs took the cup. He was actually surprised it was black, and it smelled good, nothing like he had in his cupboard. Infact, he wasn’t sure he had anything in his cupboards.

“Yeah.” He offered as he took a sip and nodded in appreciation, it was good coffee. “For a few days.”

“Are you going right now?” Tony asked, sounding a little disappointed while looked slightly surprised.

“Yup.” He took another sip of coffee as Tony turned away, with a frown; Gibbs followed the younger man as he went into the kitchen, limping badly as he kept one hand on the wall, his crutch nowhere in sight.

“I made you a cheese sandwich… do you want me to fry it?” Tony asked over his shoulder. “That’s if you have time? I can wrap it up for you to take if not?”

Gibbs could already smell something frying and his stomach growled loudly, and hell, it was his house; he should be able to eat in it. Though he knew he hadn’t got bread, never mind cheese. “Fried is good.” He answered as he saw a sandwich already in a pan, spilling melted cheese onto a frying pan he had never used. He took another sip of coffee as Tony placed a second sandwich in the pan.

“So… Err.” Tony started awkwardly as he busied himself with the food. “Your job seems demanding?”

“Yeah.” Gibbs answered as his stomach growled quietly.

“Are you always called away?” Tony pressed as he flipped the first sandwich.

Gibbs looked up to watch the younger man intently. And he remembered Tony had been a cop, which might explain this slight interrogation. “No.” he answered, then smiled as a frown appeared on the younger mans brow. “It’s just an out of state case, so I’ll be away for a few days.”

“Oh.” Tony answered softly.

“You might want to put a lock on the basement door.” He answered just as softly, surprising himself as Tony looked up at him, his clear green eyes wide. “There should be a padlock in one of the drawers down there. It’s not a place for the kids to go unsupervised.” He carried on.

Tony was nodding slowly, before his lips pulled into a crooked smile. “A boat?” he asked.

Gibbs returned the grin as he found himself leaning back against the counter, relaxing. “Something to do.” He answered. Which was his usual reply. He had a gut feeling this man had turned his house over looking for answers. Which bothered him a little, but not as much as it really should.

He would ask Abby to look this guy up while she had some spare time, just to return the favour.

Tony chuckled, “How are you planning to get it out?”

Gibbs just shrugged. “When I finish one, I’ll figure it out.”

Tony shook his head still amused as he turned back to the food, and took the first sandwich out of the pan and put it on a plate. “Here, if you have to hurry off.” He said handing it over.

Gibbs took it, and went and sat down at the dinning table with his coffee. He was halfway through the cheese melt when Tony came and joined him, his sandwich already cut into four peaces.

The silence was companionable as they ate. But Gibbs couldn’t help notice, as Tony nibbled on his third bit of sandwich, that he was fidgeting a little and not looking at him.

It annoyed him a little. “What?” he finally asked as he began to finish off his coffee before it got cold.

Tony glanced up at him for a moment, then away. “Err… well.” He began, before looked up again, locking eyes. “How long can we stay?” he asked directly.

Gibbs slowly took another sip of his coffee as he thought about it. It surprised him how much he actually didn’t mind this stranger and his kids in his home. He still hadn’t had time to check him out, or why he was on the run with his niece and nephews. He couldn’t deny how good looking Tony was, but there was something about the younger man that he trusted… and wanted.

He knew Ducky would say he was letting his protective side get the better of him, that his innate need to take care of the down and out, especially when it came to kids, was clouding his better judgment. That he should just tell this stranger to be gone before he got home. But the man made good coffee and cooked.

His gut churned when he thought about what might happen to the strange family if he turned his back on them now.

So he was just about to answer when Tony must have taken his silence as a negative.

“It’s okay.” Tony was saying as he looked away again, a tight smile on his lips. “I’m sure I can find somewhere for us before you get back.” He chuckled a little with no humour in it. “Sorry we overstayed our welcome.” He said as he made to get up.

Gibbs reached out and took the other mans wrist.

Tony looked down at him in surprise, then collapsed back into his chair with a wince of pain.

“You can stay as long as you like.” Gibbs said firmly. And was shocked that he damn well meant it.

Tony was looking about as stunned as he felt. “Are you…”

Gibbs squeezed his hand before releasing Tony’s arm. “I wouldn’t have offered if I wasn’t sure.” He stated. “You need somewhere to stay. And as an officer of the law, I can’t allow you to drag those kids around seedy motels. I’m home late and rarely at weekends. So, while you need a place to hide out… you can stay here.”

The smile Tony gave him was almost blinding and Gibbs wasn’t as immune as he wanted to be as his chest tightened a little with attraction.

“But…” He said and watched the smile on Tony’s face fade a little. “I want a full report on what’s going on and why for when I get back. I need to know if I can help you or just offer you sanctuary.”

The smile returned, and Gibbs heart skipped a little again.

“On it, Boss.” Tony teased, his green eyes all but sparkling.

Gibbs nodded once as he shoved the last of his sandwich in his mouth then stood. Tony following him as he went and got his bag and coat in the hall.

“Have a safe journey.” Tony said as Gibbs started to walk through the door.

Gibbs couldn’t help but pause halfway out the door as he looked over his shoulder. “See you in a few days.” He replied, before he hurried away quickly. Not wanting to face how much he had missed such small things, or that he actually had someone to come home too.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Tony watched as Gibbs’s car pulled away and out of sight.

He still couldn’t believe that this guy was just going to leave his home and everything he owned in Tony’s hands.

He closed the door and locked it.

At least for now.

He had somewhere to hide.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + + [Chapter 2]

 

Tony was exhausted. Somehow Danny and Miki had come down with colds and Tony had been running around all day, cleaning up snot and sick while both boys were either crying, terribly grumpy or, thankfully, asleep.

It was late when he finally got them both back to sleep and tucked up in bed. When he had gone to find Eli, he had found her tucked up and asleep in the dusty little girls room. He had gone to wake her, but she looked so peaceful he just couldn’t. She had been his little helper all day, without one complaint, and she deserved a little peace from her brothers, even if it was in a room full of dust and someone else’s ghosts.

So now he sat, folding clothes in another dusty old room. The door wide open so he could hear if the boys woke up and needed him.

He knew he shouldn’t be in this old forgotten bedroom. There was a reason it was abandoned and filled with memories of a woman Tony had no idea about. But from the old photos he had seen downstairs. He had a good enough guess that both woman and child were long dead.

He put another t-shirt on the folded pile as he picked up some underwear. He knew he would have to try and put the room to rights before Gibbs got home, he didn’t seem like the kind of man who would want his grief disturbed at any cost.

With a sigh, Tony absently picked up a sock and sighed when he couldn’t immediately see its counterpart in the basket. So he just flopped back on the bed and closed his eyes, he could take a quick nap, then finish off his chores before going and sleeping with the boys.

Yeah… just a little nap…

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs was tired as he unlocked the door. It had been a hard and laborious case, but the bad guys were in custody and his team where all sent home to sleep, or what ever they did when he wasn’t barking orders at them. And now he was walking into his own home where all the lights were still on.

He looked into the living room expecting to see Tony, but the room was silent and the kitchen lights were off, so quietly he made his way upstairs.

He hadn’t given much thought to his house guest till he was on his way home on the plane. Now he was back on a normal schedule he had no idea how he would cope with the young man and his kids in the house.

He had forgotten to ask Abby to look the young man up, so he would have to talk to her in the morning and see if they could help the young man out, at least with somewhere to stay, if not with his personal problems that had him on the run.

He could see the door to the spare room was wide open and he was just about to see if Tony was in there, when something to his left stopped him dead in his tracks as his blood ran cold.

He slowly moved his head to the light coming from the master bedroom. Tony was laid back on Shannon’s bed, his feet still on the floor and he was fast asleep. And Gibbs felt his anger rise so fast he was moving before he knew what he was doing.

He fisted one hand into the young idiot’s shirt, the other hand going to the man’s arm as he threw the bastard to the left, shoving him clear off the bed.

The other man woke when he hit the floor with a strangled yelp as he landed hard and Gibbs couldn’t help the snarl of satisfaction as he advanced on the fallen figure, ready to throw him out of his house. How dare he sully Shannon’s bed, her room!

But what happened next had the anger leaving him so fast he took a step back.

Tony instantly started making a keening sound of distress as he began to feebly push himself away from Gibbs across the floor, one arm up as if to ward him off, before he was curling up on himself, his arms over his head protectively.

“Tony…” Gibbs said as he finally took a step forward, his anger gone, replaced by concern, wondering if he had injured the young man in some way, with the way he was screaming through his teeth and under his breath.

He was just about to reach out a hand to Tony’s shoulder when something hit him in the back of the legs and shoved at his hip with enough force to make him lose his balance for a moment.

“Uncle… Uncle!”

Gibbs watched as the young girl, Eli, threw herself at Tony, her little arms going around his head as she hugged him.

“Stop crying, stop crying, please… I’m here and dad isn’t, its okay.” She was sobbing herself as she tried to comfort her uncle. “Is it your leg?” she was asking as she reached out one hand to Tony’s hip.

That’s when Gibbs noticed the change in Tony’s cries, from emotional terror to physical pain and as he watched, Eli was trying to push Tony’s thigh down. Gibbs could see how much Tony’s leg was cramping and instantly he went to his own knees to force Tony’s leg straight as he braced his knee against Tony’s own then pulled on his ankle.

Tony’s growl of distress intensified for a moment before Gibbs felt the other mans muscles give, then Tony went alarmingly limp as he began panting hard, like he couldn’t get his breath.

Gibbs had seen people winded, and he had seen people in the throws of a panic attack and he was sure that was what Tony was in now as he seemed to struggle to breath. His eyes tight shut.

“Remember to breath!” Eli was pleading desperately. “In through the mouth, out through the nose.” She said, mimicking what she was saying.

Gibbs could do nothing but watch as slowly, Tony began to calm down,

“You okay now?” Eli was asking as she kept running her small hands over Tony’s hair.

“Yeah, honey.” Gibbs heard Tony utter. Then he was looking down into one green eye that was looking past Eli, straight at him. “I just had a bad dream and fell off the bed…” then Tony was smiling at his niece, “Now, help me up so we can get you to bed.”

“But?” Eli was protesting as she moved to let him up.

Instinctively Gibbs moved in to help the other man onto his feet by reaching out his hand. For a split second as reality exerted its self, he thought Tony would reject his help, and he didn’t blame the guy if he did. But Tony’s warm hand fell into his own, then he had to quickly brace himself as Tony began pulling himself up. It was a messy affair that ended with Gibbs pulling Tony against his chest as the younger man tried to breath through whatever pain he was in.

“Eli…” Tony finally said as Gibbs felt him take his own weight on both his legs.

“Got it.” The girl said as Gibbs realised she was holding up a crutch. “I can put myself to bed… you gonna be okay?”

Tony paused as he took the crutch and used it to help himself balance. “I’ll be fine,” he assured her, moving himself away from Gibbs as he ruffled her hair with his free hand. “Try not to wake your brothers up when you get in bed.”

“But…?”

Gibbs didn’t miss the annoyed frown on the girls face.

“Go… we’ll talk about it in the morning.”

The girl visibly deflated, but she nodded anyway. “Fine. Night.” She said as she turned away.

“Hey hey!” Tony said as he moved towards the bed again a little awkwardly, Gibbs keeping a step behind him, watchful incase he stumbled, but Tony just sat down then held his arms out to her. Instantly Eli was against Tony’s chest accepting a hug. “Sleep tight.” He whispered into her ear, then kissed it.

She slapped at him as she pulled away. “I’ll make sure the bed bugs don’t bite!” she laughed as she all but skipped out of the room.

Gibbs heard her going into the guest bedroom, but then he frowned. he was sure she had already been in bed, so why was Tony telling her not to disturb the boys… he had another stirring of anger before he sighed and shook his head. He hadn’t told them not to use these two rooms, but he thought Tony might have had some inkling of their disuse. Then his eyes caught on the small pile of folded children’s cloths in the basket at the side of the bed, and the unfolded ones still on it, and it didn’t take a lot to figure out Tony must have fallen asleep doing laundry while keeping a quite eye on his kids.

“Sorry.”

Gibbs glanced up to look into green eyes that were glancing up at him.

“I didn’t mean to intrude on your…” Tony said as he looked around a little. “… your territory… The boys have been sick, so I’ve kinda been busy with them, so I haven’t had time to look for somewhere else to stay… and I think Eli... err… well she’s been such a great help, and she’s a young lady and she’s a little to old to be sleeping with her uncle and brothers now, or so she’s been telling me… they grow up…”

Gibbs sighed as he ignored the rest of the younger mans nervous ramblings as he moved and went and sat down on the bed, leaving about a foot or space between them. Tony had stuttered to a stop and now sat looking at him, his eyes wide and watchful, but thankful there was no fear. He just looked pale, making the yellowing bruises still on his face stick out starkly.

“So did you fix that bolt to the basement door?” He asked. He let a little of his smirk slip as an expression of confusion crossed Tony’s face. No doubt the man was trying to move his train of thought away from the bollocking he was expecting. But it got Gibbs what he wanted as a slight smile appeared on the mans lips.

“Eventually…” Tony finally answered before a twinkle of mischief entered those guarded but watchful eyes. “But I’ll tell you now; I’m not used to D.I.Y. So if it falls off and your house collapses, it’s not my fault…” Then Tony was frowning. “Still… A boat?” he asked incredulously.

Gibbs just shrugged. “It helps me unwind.” He answered honestly, a smile of his own on his lips.

Tony looked thoughtful, then seemed to accept the answer. “Do you think you’ll finish this one?”

“Third time’s a charm.” He answered, “I might even get this one on water.” and he could see the younger mans mind working on all possible solutions of how that would be possible, but he didn’t say anything else as his eyes lowered to the clothes between them.

“I guess I can finish this stuff in the morning.” Tony said as he went to pick the clothes up, but Gibbs put his own hand out first and picked up a t-shirt with some childish dinosaur on the front.

“There isn’t much.” he said as he started folding the tee. It wasn’t long before they had finished the last of the laundry, there hadn’t really been much, but the amicable silence had been nice. So as he placed the last pair of pants into the basket he surprised himself with what he said next. “I have a day off tomorrow, if I don’t catch a case we can get most of this stuff into the attic.” He said as he looked around at the boxes that took up most of the room. “And maybe a good cleaning, then it should be okay to use again.”

“I don’t want to put you to any trouble!” Tony said a little hesitantly.

Gibbs looked the other man right in the eyes. “But first.” He said calmly. “You tell me what you’re running from.”

Gibbs didn’t miss the flash of inner pain that crossed Tony’s face before the younger man tried to hide it with a smile. But he wasn’t successful; Gibbs also saw the lines of physical pain around Tony’s eyes and mouth. “So?” he pressed. After all, he was letting this man stay in his home; least he could do was tell him why he was going to such trouble.

Tony took a deep breath, but he was still starring at his own knees. “You’re going to make me do this aren’t you…”

“Yup.” Gibbs answered, even though it wasn’t a question, but to give the other man some room, he moved so he had his back to the headboard, one knee raised on the dusty comforter so he could face Tony and relax at the same time. He knew that Tony was also watching him out of the corner of his eye.

“I… Where do you want me to start?” Tony asked his eyes once again on the floor between his feet.

Gibbs found himself shrugging, “Maybe with who gave you those…” he said pointing at his own face when Tony glanced at him. “And why you’re niece and nephews are asleep in my bed.” he finished a little more harshly than he intended. But there was that look of pain on Tony’s face before he was looking away again.

Gibbs was just about to think of something else to get this guy talking when Tony gestured to his own face. “I had a disagreement with my sister boyfriend.” He answered with a bitter twist of his mouth that Gibbs could see even from Tony’s profile.

“What kind of ‘disagreement’?” He asked, remembering that night on the road and Tony saying his sister was dead. He watched at Tony tensed as he turned his whole head away till Gibbs was looking at the back of his head and it took some time before Tony finally spoke.

“Apparently, his dinner wasn’t hot enough and his seventh beer not cold enough…” Tony answered softly, pointing to his face again, then he was lifting his tee shirt, just enough so Gibbs could see a large bruise on the side of Tony’s abdomen. “And this because he made me have a panic attack, which meant he wouldn’t be able to do… other things… more…compromising…”

Gibbs suddenly found himself looking into burning eyes, deifying him to say something either sympathetic or derogatory, maybe even homophobic, expecting Gibbs to throw him out of the house. “So he beat the crap out of you?” he asked. “He do it often?”

Tony blinked at him, thankfully deflating a little, then broke eye contact as he snorted. “Often enough.” He said vaguely. And Gibbs guessed it meant that Tony always had a bruise in varying degrees of healing on his person somewhere.

“He usually attack you when you’re having an attack?” Gibbs asked calmly.

Tony shrugged one shoulder. “Only if he’s drunk… which is most of the time… or he just leaves. Eli… Eli is usually there…” Gibbs watched the younger man bury his face in his hands that were shaking. “She only eight and she has to put up with so much… I… I should… I should be stronger. I should be stronger…”

Gibbs reached out, putting a hand on Tony’s shoulder, feeling how hard the younger man was shaking as he also started gasping for air, his hands turned into fists that he was pressing into his eyes. “Hey… Hey!” Gibbs demanded, as he put a hand over Tony’s trying to push them away before he caused harm to his sight. “Take a deep breath, breathe slowly or you’re gonna pass out.” Eventually, Tony sagged a little, letting the tension he was holding in his shoulders go as he began breathing steadily.

“Sorry… I…”

“PTSD?” Gibbs asked. He had seen some of it before, but everyone was different.

Tony shrugged. “So my doctor tried to tell me… It’s just panic attacks, I… I get anxiety sometimes… with stuff.” He circled a hand in a dismissive gesture.

Gibbs let out a silent sigh. His gut was telling him Tony’s doctors were right and Tony might not want to believe it himself, and right now, Gibbs wasn’t going to push the issue. “So what happened to make you run?” He asked softly.

Tony’s head sagged lower. “After he… finished with me… Eli was there and he was breaking stuff again, but then he was telling her how stupid she was, that she would be… It was just some really horrible shitty lies… She was crying when he started ripping up her homework…” Gibbs felt a tremor run through Tony again. “He’d never hit the kids before…” once again he was hiding behind his hands. “She was just trying to get to me when he grabbed her and smacked her… she hit the ground and I couldn’t… get to… her…”

“Breathe!” Gibbs demanded, trying to stop the younger man going into another panic attack. He squeezed his hand tight against Tony’s shoulder. “You said he’d finished with you?... Were you down?” He asked.

Tony nodded. “Couldn’t get… air to get… up…”

“Then what happened? He carry on hitting her?” Gibbs asked, trying to keep the narrative going.

Tony was shaking his head. “No… He went and got more beer… with whisky chasers.”

“Was that the night you left?” Gibbs asked as Tony began nodding again.

“I’m used to being hit…” Tony whispered. “Our dad left his legacy on us both… I mean my sister and me… though I got it worse… but… but the kids… I promised Mari that he ever hit them and I would take them and leave.”

“So, your keeping your promise to her?... your sister?”

“Trying to.” Tony gave a dry laugh. “But what am I gonna do?... I can’t run with three kids… Eli and Danny will need to go back to school. I only have enough saving for another month or two… What am I thinking!” he exclaimed, throwing his hands out in front of himself, before letting them landed palm up on his lap as once again all the tension left his body. “I’ll have to go back…” Gibbs didn’t like the look of hopelessness on the other mans face.

All Gibbs’s protective instincts were screaming at him. Something in him needed to eradicate the shadow from this mans eyes. To make sure he knew nothing but peace. He also knew he had no right. They were still strangers. He had no idea how Tony might react if he tried to take control. His Ex’s had hated it, even Shannon had never let him get away with it. But there was a plan forming in his mind.

“How much are you willing to do?” Gibbs asked into the silence that had formed from Tony’s despair.

The younger man looked at him with a frown.

“If I was able to get you new identities.” He said, watching green eyes widen. “They wouldn’t be able to stand up to scrutiny… but it would be enough to get the kids into the local school.”

Tony was sitting up straighter as he talked, a spark of hope forming, before it quickly disappeared. “I live off what little I get from my disability and pension…” He said softly, like it was an embarrassment. “My checks go to the house… I can’t…”

Gibbs leaned forwards. “Will you let me look into it?” He asked, not braking eye contact. “I’m only promising I will try.” He offered, knowing Tony wouldn’t believe him if he said he could make it happen. After all, he wasn’t so sure how much Abby could actually do. “New ID’s, Your checks redirected… Is there anything else?”

Tony blinked at him. “Why…” He asked softly. “Why would you do this for me… us.”

Gibbs smiled. That was as easy one. “Because people might think I’m a bastard, but I can’t turn down someone who needs something I can help with.”

Tony’s featured harden a little. “I never asked…”

“No.” Gibbs offered. “But will you take it?”

Gibbs watched Tony’s lips open and close for a moment, before he was looking away. For a moment, Gibbs thought he would decline, but Tony gave a slight nod.

“Please…” Gibbs heard Tony whisper softly and it made Gibbs’s chest tighten with the pain and despair in it. He guessed Tony had never asked anyone for help, ever, because it was weakness he couldn’t afford, or was to proud to take.

Gibbs held out his hand again to the other man, palm up. “Deal then?”

He watched as Tony glanced at his hand, then up at him. “What’s the rest of the deal?” he asked softly. Gibbs heard the slight weariness in it, but he chose to ignore it.

Gibbs shrugged a shoulder. “Look after your kids, look after the house.” Then he found himself grinning. “And make sure theirs food in the fridge when I get home and the coffee’s always on?”

Tony actually snorted out a laugh and Gibbs found he liked that look on his face.

“Well… maybe not, as I don’t keep sociable hours on a good day.” He said, then he guessed a bit of honesty might help. “Look… been a long time since this house has seen so much activity… I guess I could get used to it.”

“Even if…” Tony waved a hand over his shoulder, to the floor were Gibbs had thrown him.

Gibbs took in a breath before he broke one of his own rules. “Sorry.” He said on the out breath. “You took me by surprise… it’s been… many years since I’ve let anyone in here…”

“Ex’s?” Tony frowned.

Gibbs shook his head. “Lived elsewhere or abroad.” He said vaguely. “I promise you, you can leave whenever you like… But maybe this old man likes someone to come home to.” He grinned, trying to make it come off as a joke, even though he was being almost too honest. What he did not expect was the blush on Tony’s cheeks as he looked away almost coquettishly?

“You’re not that old…” Tony was grinning a little which made Gibbs gut squirm with pleasure.

He fought down his sudden jolt lust, wanting to lean into Tony’s space, to tower over him a little as he kept eye contact, waiting for the other to submit before he took what he wanted. It was a well warn tactic and had worked well for him. But he knew that wouldn’t work with this man, not at the moment. Sure, Tony would probably let him have his way… but at what cost?... Tony was running away from an abusive… what ever the hell it was he had with his dead sister boyfriend… And Gibbs could wait. He was good at that. He would take his time. He was sure he would know when Tony was ready, if ever.

“So?” He said again holding out his hand. “Deal?”

He watched Tony sign, then they were looking at each other again as Gibbs felt a warm hand fall into his own.

“Deal.” Tony nodded, looking more serious than the occasion called for.

“Good… Now… I’m starv…”

“Uncle ‘cough’ my neck hurts. ‘cough’.”

Gibbs instantly got up and went to the young boy in the doorway and bobbed down. “You need a drink?” he asked the kid, he was sure his name was Danny. He reached out and put a hand on his forehead that was burning hot.

“There is some child tylanol on top of the bathroom cabinet.” He heard Tony say behind him. “And if Miki’s is awake can you give him some too?”

“Sure.” He said as he stood up, taking the young boys hand. “Come on, let’s get medicine and then back to bed?” He smiled when Danny just rubbed his eyes and nodded.

----

Gibbs sighed as he finally went down stairs.

Danny had fallen back to sleep quick enough, and Miki hadn’t been awake and he was happy to not wake him up as he tucked Danny in.

Eli had been awake though, as her tired eyes watched everything he did. He just gave her a smile and a soft goodnight as he left.

He turned the corner into the living room and the smell of Italian that hit him was almost divine as he drifted into the kitchen. “That smells good.”

“Lasagne.” Tony said as he pulled a plate out of the old microwave. “It’s nothing to fancy, err… no herbs. Do you want anything to drink?”

“Coffee?” Gibbs asked as he eyed the food: it looked as good as it smelled; he watched as Tony put it down: then he was trying to catch the tea-towel that Tony had thrust at him.

“Go eat, I’ll bring the coffee.” Tony said as he turned away.

Gibbs didn’t hesitate as he went to the dining room table and began eating with gusto, it was the best lasagne he had ever eaten, and he was almost thankful that he didn’t have any herbs to dull the flavour.

“That good?” Tony was asking as a mug was put down at his elbow.

“That good.” He agreed. “You make this yourself?” he asked, taking another mouthful and savouring it.

“Yeah,” Tony replied as he took a sip from his own cup. “Not the lasagne sheets though, I didn’t have time to make that myself.”

“You could?” Gibbs couldn’t help but grunt.

Tony was smiling at him. “Yeah, keeps the kids amused.” He answered.

Gibbs carried on eating, until he spied the strange colour of Tony’s drink.

“Tea.” Tony said with a chuckle. “And yes, I have milk in it, and sugar...” he said taking a sip. “We spent a summer in England when we were younger, got the taste of it. But I usually have to have it imported.” Tony sighed deeply.

Gibbs didn’t have to put much thought into knowing Tony was referring to his sister,

Gibbs snorted in amusement though. “I thought you said you were a Cop once.” He said in amusement. “I know someone who you might get along with.” He said, thinking of Ducky. Then the thought of the older man inspired him. “In fact, I’ll give him a call. He can come around and have a look at the kids.”

Tony raised an eyebrow at him as he just sipped at his tea.

“He’s the ME at the office. He can look at you too, if you want.”

Tony frowned. “Don’t think there is anything he can do for me.” He said cautiously and Gibbs could see the distrust in his eyes, and caution. “And the kid will be fine. No need to put someone out of their way.”

Gibbs just shrugged, not saying anything else. He would call Ducky anyway.

They finished eating in communicable silence before Gibbs got to his feet.

“I’ll get that.” Tony said, reaching out for his plate. “You can go watch TV, or something.”

Gibbs thought about protesting, after all, the guy could hardly walk. But he still wanted a shower. “Fine.” He said letting Tony have his way. “Gonna grab a shower first.” Then he was running up stairs.

He snuck into his spare room, grabbing a change of clothes without waking any of the kids this time. He was quick in the shower and dressed as soon as he was dry enough.

Then he made his way into the main bedroom.

At first he just looked around then blew out a breath before he started moving boxes and old furnisher, stacking them against the wall so he could actually get around to the other side of the bed, then he dug out old sheets from a box he had found, they didn’t smell fresh, but they were clean, and they would do better than the dusty ones that were already on the bed.

As he was changing the sheets he couldn’t help but wonder what he was doing. He was sure Shannon wouldn’t mind, especially when he was helping someone who needed a proper mattress to sleep on and a bed that was high enough for Tony to get out of easily. Also, the man needed this bed more than Gibbs’s own memories ever would.

When he was finished, he went downstairs to find the younger man snoozing on the sofa, he didn’t look comfortable at all.

With a sigh, Gibbs went to wake him. He had wanted to learn what was actually physically wrong with this man, and how he came to really be how he was now. But he guessed it could wait till later. “Hey, Tony. Come on, wake up.” He said. He had gone to reach out and touch him, but held his hand back at the last moment, not wanting a repeat of earlier.

Tony’s eyes finally blinked open slowly. “Ah… sorry… long day.” He tried to smile, but it was halted by a jaw cracking yawn, then he was wincing and rubbing his left leg. “I guess you want to go to bed too.” And he started to try and get up, so Gibbs did step forwards then and held his hands out to the other man, who took them with a tired smile. “Thanks.” Tony said when he was steady on his feet, but Gibbs didn’t pull his arm away that Tony was still using to steady himself as he sorted out his crutch on his other arm

“Come on.” He said. “I’ll help you up, before you fall down.” To which he got a tired chuckle.

“I’m almost tempted to just sleep on the rug by the fire.” Tony said back as he started to shuffle forwards.

Gibbs followed, but it wasn’t like he had much of a choice as Tony was using him as another crutch as they slowly made their way to the stairs.

Gibbs didn’t like the way Tony was panting a little with beads of sweat on his brow when they got to the top. “This way.” He said, when Tony was going to walk over to the guest room, instead, Gibbs used his bulk to push Tony towards the main bedroom.

The other man gave him a frown.

“You need it more.” Gibbs said shortly. Not wanting to think to much about it, even less wanting to discuss it. Then thankful when Tony didn’t say anything as he went into the dusty room.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Tony sat on the bed with a huff. He was too tired to think about what this sudden cleaning was about, or that fact Gibbs was letting him sleep in a bed that hadn’t been used in years… by anyone… There was nothing wrong with the sofa… or he could bunk with the kids again… there really wasn’t any need for this… but he really wasn’t going to look a gift horse in the mouth. His whole body ached and he just wanted to lie down. Also, the headache from the panic attack was pounding behind his eyes.

“Goodnight.” Gibbs was saying as Tony looked up to see him about to leave the room.

“Wait!” He called, frowning. “Where are you going to sleep?” then cursed to himself, knowing the answer, god he was so tired.

The older man turned to look at him, a frown on his own face. “The sofa.” He said like Tony was stupid, then he was turning away again.

“Wait!” Tony called again, as with a grimace that turned into a wince he got to his feet again. “You sleep here. I can’t put you out anymore than I already have…” Seriously, he still had some pride, even if his leg and hip were screaming at him to just lie down and rest. He actually couldn’t help looking down at the bed, blissfully free of kids. “I’ll sleep down…” but suddenly there was a hand on his elbow and he whipped his head around to look into piercing blue eyes that were staring into his own. Tony’s breath caught in his throat, but the ‘moment’ they were sharing was stolen away as Tony’s hip muscles gave out and was promptly sending him to the floor. But before he got there, Gibbs had gabbed him and forced him back so he sat, hard, with a groan of agony, onto the bed.

“You will sleep here.” Gibbs was telling him, then the older man was going to his knees in front of him and pulling his sneakers off, like he had done it a thousand times before. “I don’t fancy telling your kids why you’re at the bottom of my stairs with a broken neck.”

Tony really couldn’t argue with that. Not if he couldn’t even stand without collapsing. “You don’t have to do that.” He whispered as Gibbs was pulling his socks off too.

“No.” Gibbs was saying as he got to his feet. “I don’t.” he was them pulling the covers down as far as he could. “Can you scoot over?” He asked and giving a confused nod, Tony managed to slide over using his good leg, then Gibbs was pushing him over with a hand on his shoulder.

Tony though about protesting for a moment before he realised Gibbs had a hand under his knees and was swinging them up onto the bed. It hurt, but it was far better then him trying to get his legs up right now.

“Think you can unbuckle yourself?” Gibbs was asking him. Tony didn’t miss the note of amusement in his voice. But without a word he did as he was told. Then the other man had hold of his jeans at his waist. “Can you lift your hips?” Again, Tony did, even if it made him growl as he mostly just rolled onto his left side. But Gibbs wasted no time in pulling his jeans off with surprising efficiency.

Tony couldn’t help but grit his teeth as he wondered if taking some Tylenol might help with the pain his body was putting him through, he couldn’t help lamenting having forgotten his codeine, it would put him to sleep, but wouldn’t make him too loopy and he would still be aware enough to wake up if the kids needed him.

Then he was aware of being covered.

“All I have is Tylenol and Ibuprofen for now.”

Tony watched as Gibbs walked out into the corridor, and he felt a moment of anxiety. He didn’t want the other guy to leave. Something about Gibbs made him feel irrationally safe. But even he knew it was probably just because he was in pain, scared, scared for the kids, scared he would have to go back… scared Daniel might find him first.

“You are fine with taking both right?” Gibbs was asking as he came back into the room and Tony noted he closed the door slightly behind him. Leaving the hall light on though, probably for the kids.

“Yeah.” Tony answered as relief made him sag into the sinful comfort, the mattress was astoundingly soft he just hoped he wouldn’t regret sleeping on it in the morning. Then Gibbs was holding out his hand and Tony took the four little pills and without thinking to much about it, threw them into his mouth, swallowing them down with the glass of water Gibbs was also holding. “Thanks.” He said as Gibbs took the glass, putting it down on the bedside table, then Gibbs was walking around the bed.

“If you need to go,” Gibbs was saying as Tony watched him sit on the bed, probably taking his own shoes off. “Just use the on-suite, the lights just inside the door.”

Tony looked over to the door that was just past the end of his side of the bed, there was enough support for him to get there without needing his crutch. Then he felt the bed move, as he looked over to see Gibbs laying down on the bed, his back to him.

Tony watched the other man reach up and pull a cord that hung above the middle of the bed and the light went out. “Night.” Gibbs said as he settled down.

Tony lay on his back for a spell, just staring at the back of the other mans head, but it wasn’t long before his leg decided it didn’t like the pressure, forcing Tony to roll onto his side, facing Gibbs’s back. But as time passed, Tony felt his eyelids drooping, and before long. He was asleep.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs woke with a start, hearing someone moving around in his home and it took him a moment to remember about his guests. Then he realised who was pressed up so tightly against his back. It felt like the other man was trying to hide beneath him.

Gibbs closed his eyes and tried not to sigh, realising he was quite happy for the younger man to hide behind him all he liked, for as long as he liked, baggage and all.

Then he heard the bedroom door being slowly pushed open behind him, the hinges squeaking slightly from misuse.

“Uncle?” Came Eli’s soft inquiry.

Carefully Gibbs moved forward, feeling Tony move a little to follow him, giving a soft huff of protest. But Gibbs managed to get up without the other man waking up.

He turned to see Eli, her wide eyes going from him to the bed where she could see Tony.

Gibbs just put a finger to his lips as he grabbed his trousers from the floor and made his way over to the door, crowding the girl into the hall as he pulled the door too, then climbed into his trousers from the day before, thankful that he hadn’t undressed anymore last night. “Is there a problem.” He whispered to her.

She shook her head, then there was a rumbling from her tummy as she looked up at him embarrassed and a little scared.

Gibbs wanted to grind his teeth as he wanted to hurt the person who had put that fear in her. “Time for breakfast?” he asked as he smiled at her. “Are your brothers awake?”

She nodded. “I got them up already.” She whispered. Here eyes darting to the partially closed door again.

“Should we let your uncle sleep a bit more?” he asked her, realising he could hear the old TV quietly playing Saturday morning cartoons downstairs. “Come on, can you help me make breakfast? I don’t know what you guys like.”

“Err… Sure.” She answered a little unsure, but she took the hand he offered as he turned and went downstairs.

--

He had made buttered toast, while Eli poured the cereal as Danny got a carton of OJ and milk out the fridge and placed it all on the coffee table in the living room. At first Gibbs wondered why they didn’t use the dining table, when he realised he didn’t have anything for the youngest child to sit on. But he seemed happy enough standing at the coffee table to messily eat his food.

Luckily, the boys seemed to have bounced out of whatever cold they had picked up, and only one snotty nosed sneeze had to be cleaned up.

He couldn’t quite believe how quiet and well behaved they were all being, even the three year old. But he couldn’t shake off the feeling of fear they had towards him. Something that kid their age shouldn’t have. And it was cranking his protective streak up exponentially.

Finally, Gibbs left the kids watching some movie on his old TV as he jogged upstairs. A quick look into the main bedroom confirmed Tony was still sound asleep, only this time he seemed to have curled in on himself. And with that Gibbs took his phone from his pocket and dialled.

/”Jethro?”/ Came Ducky’s familiar voice. /”What do I owe the pleasure? I thought you weren’t on call this weekend?”/

“I’m not.” Gibbs answered. “Look, can you come on over this morning?” he asked.

/”Oh, well, I don’t see why not… Is this about the stray you said you might have picked up?”/ Ducky asked and Gibbs could tell he was smiling.

“Yeah.” Gibbs said, managing not to sigh. “He’s got an old injury that bothering him.”

/”Do you know what it is?”/ Ducky asked as Gibbs heard him moving around.

“No.” he said, “But it’s his left leg, thigh looked pretty messed up, old scars, he’s got trouble walking on it. Only seen him take Tylenol and ibuprofen last night for it.”

/”Well, I’ll be there soon. Should I pick anything up?”/

“No.” Gibbs answered, and was about to hang up when he remembered something. “Wait… Can you bring over some English tea?” he asked.

/”Oh? What kind?”/ Ducky asked, and Gibbs could see him razing an eyebrow.

“I don’t know!” he growled. “Tea.” Then he did hang up.

“Gibbs?” Came Tony’s groggy voice from the bedroom.

Gibbs opened the door and stepped inside. “Morning.” He said with a smile as he watched the younger man struggling just to sit up, he was favouring his left side as he put a hand on where Gibbs had seen the extensive scarring on his leg the night before. “Want something to eat?” he asked.

Tony ran a hand over his face, then he seemed to flinch, then wince like he was in pain. “The kids…?” he said looking towards the door.

“Fed, juiced and watching some movie.” Gibbs said as he came to stand at the side of the bed. “Only snotty noses this morning, so I didn’t give them anything, and they seem fine.”

Tony sagged back onto his elbows. “Thank…” he sighed, then he was looking up at him through his eyelashes. “You shouldn’t have to look after my kids too.” Tony was saying softly. “But thanks…”

“If I minded.” Gibbs replied gruffly. “I wouldn’t have let you stay.” He stated. “Now. I have a friend coming over to look you over. He’s the ME from the agency, I told you about him last night, used to be a doctor.” He said quickly as he saw the doubt enter the younger mans expression. “I’m guessing you might need something stronger than stuff in my cabinet.”

Tony was still frowning as he looked away.

“What is it?” Gibbs asked quietly.

Tony glanced back at him. “I, err… don’t do well on anything stronger than what you have in your cabinet.” He answered.

Gibbs raised an eyebrow.

Tony gave him a half smile as he moved his hand in a circle where it rested on the bed. “I kinda go a bit loopy.” He managed to shrug a bit. “Not in a bad way.” He hurried to reassure. “I talk crap like a harmless stoner really… I can’t look after the kids when I’m high.” He sighed. “And I’ve been through enough doctors to know there isn’t anything your friend can do.”

Gibbs nodded. “Physiotherapists?”

Another shrug, “Medical paid for the doctors and three weeks of physio…”

“Was it working?” Gibbs asked.

“I guess… was in too much pain to really care at the time… then… It got complicated.”

“When you lost your sister.” Gibbs said as he moved and sat down on the end of the bed as he saw Tony nod once.

“There isn’t really much doctors can do anymore.” Tony said as he relaxed back on the headboard. “So your friends going to be wasting his time.”

“I’ll let him determine that.” Gibbs smiled as he reached out and patted the other mans ankle under the sheets. “So, are you getting up, or would you like breakfast in bed?” Gibbs said as he stood.

“I’ll have eggs Benedict with a pot of tea and some freshly squeezed OJ.” Tony was grinning up at him.

Gibbs couldn’t help returning the grin. “Fried eggs in toast with a mug of coffee will be waiting on the table when you come down.” He said as he walked out the door.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Ducky couldn’t help but peek into the black muscle car that was in Jethro’s drive. It would seem Jethro’s stray had some expensive tastes. But there was nothing in the car to give anything about the person driving it. So he hurried up to the front door and before he just opened the door, as he usually would, he knocked loudly, then let himself in.

What he did not expect was the flurry of activity from the front room as he watched three small children scurrying into the dinning area.

“Jethro!” he called as he followed the children.

“In here Ducky!” He heard Jethro call. Then another masculine voice making quiet reassuring noises.

Once Ducky got around the corner, he saw the three children huddled around a younger man who was sat at the dinning room table, his arms around the children, but he was looking at Ducky with a frown.

“Ducky this is Tony,” Jethro was saying as he was getting to his feet. “Tony, Ducky, the Doctor I told you about.”

“Hi.” The other man said and Ducky watched him physically relax.

“And this young lady is Eli.” Jethro said indicating the tallest child, “and her brothers, Danny and little Miki.”

“Hello there.” Ducky said giving them all his best reassuring smile. Though he didn’t like the fear in their young eyes. “It’s nice to meet you all, and I think I’m here to have a look at your dad.” It was the wrong thing to say as the oldest boy began to cry.

“Shh, ssh.” The young man was saying as he turned his full attention to the children. “He means me, shhh, it’s okay. Dad’s not here. He’s not here.”

“Tony is their uncle.” Jethro explained, then he saw the slight shake of his friends head. There was a story here Ducky was intrigued to know. But knew he would have to wait.

“Oh, I’m sorry.” Ducky said instead as he took a step closer. “I didn’t mean to scare you.”

“Hey, weren’t you kids watching something?” Jethro said as he leaned down to the children. “If you don’t hurry your gonna miss the ending.”

The oldest girl glanced at Jethro, then she was nodding as she squared her shoulders. “Come on.” She said nudging her brothers, through the youngest seemed reluctant to let go of the young man.

“Go on.” Tony was saying, as he leaned over and gave them all a hug. “You can see me from the sofa, and I’m not going anywhere, go watch your cartoon.”

Eventually the children made their way into the front room, giving Dusky a wide birth. Something he didn’t like. Children so young should not be that scared of adults.

“So, I’m guessing you are the young gentleman I’m here to see.” Ducky said, holding his hand out to the younger man, who reached out and shook it. “And I believe you are the reason I brought this?” He said, pulling out the small box he had in his pocket.

“Earl Grey!” The younger mad said delightedly as he took the box. “Err… could you?”

Ducky watched a little surprised as Jethro took the offered tea and moved to the kitchen. “I’ll have one too.” Ducky called as he grinned to himself.

“Fine.” Jethro called back.

Then Ducky turned his attention back to the younger man as he took the chair Jethro vacated earlier. “So, I believe it’s your leg you are having trouble with?” he asked, then noticed the crutch that had been propped against the chair at the other side of the young man.

“I already told Gibbs that there isn’t much you can do.” Tony said as Ducky watched him rub a hand over his left leg.

“Why don’t we let me be the judge of that?” Ducky smiled. “So. Show and tell. Why don’t we start with tell?”

Ducky watched as the young mans weary, assessing eyes finally softened a little.

“I’m not going to be able to say ‘no’ to you am I?”

Then Ducky saw the sun come out as the man smiled at him.

“Not today.” Jethro suddenly said as Ducky watched a mug be thunked onto the table besides him, then another shoved in front of Tony with a carton of milk that was followed by a bag of sugar.

“Oh thank you.” Ducky said as he began to doctor his tea, also noting how Tony also put sugar and milk in his own.

“I like it the English way.” Tony said, giving him another smile as he took a tentative sip, then let out a groan of pleasure.

“It imported.” Ducky smiled. It wasn’t often he witnessed someone like tea, never mind someone like Tony.

“Spent some time in the UK.” Tony answered as he took another sip. “And I just got a taste for it.”

“So tell us what happened.” Jethro said as he sat down besides Ducky with his usual cup of industrial strength coffee.

Ducky watched Tony pull a face.

“I got shot twice.” Tony answered finally. “Was following a lead, my partner…” He said with a bitter twist to the last word. “… He thought I was wasting his time, so I stupidly went alone.”

“I guess it wasn’t such a waste of time.” Jethro cut in.

Tony shook his head.

“But you went in anyway?”

“Yeah.” Tony answered softly, glancing over his shoulder to the living room where the children where now quite happy watching their television show. “Some idiot dealer handing out drugs that he laced himself with washing powder. Couple of kids were dead cause of it, others only just making it. After a couple of unsuccessful raids, I finally got another tip… Seems I was right. Bastard shot at me through his door.” Ducky watched the young man rubbing his leg again. “One shot went through the top of my femur. They had to replace my hip. The other went through the middle of my thigh, taking a lot of the wood from the door with it. Took them hours to try and get all the splinters out, an infection destroyed any chance of the muscle healing properly, and as I was going down, I managed to dislocate and fracture every bone in my ankle.” He said rather matter of fact, as he finally took another sip of his tea.

“Is that all?” Ducky asked.

“They wanted to amputate.” Tony whispered. “But the Doctor through it was better to try and save it…”

“And you regret that decision?”

He watched as the younger man shrugged. “That question mostly depends on the day and the temperature.” He smiled back ruefully.

“So, in a scale of one to ten, what is the worst pain?”

Tony shrugged. “Simmering two most days.” He said and Ducky noticed him glance over at Jethro. “Then varying, sometimes it can get to a nine if I’ve done too much on it.”

“Physiotherapy?”

Another shrug from the younger man, “A few weeks before the money ran out.”

“Ah.” Ducky sighed, saddened by the fact the needy couldn’t access the health care they so needed. “Well, if you don’t mind removing your trousers so I can take a look?”

Tony gave a snort of a laugh, before he sobered up. “Here?”

“That or in the bedroom?” Ducky tried to smile reassuringly.

The young man looked at Jethro again before stiffly getting to his feet and undoing his belt, finally pushing down his trousers and Ducky couldn’t help but gasp as he saw the extend of muscle damage and the scaring caused by the hip operation.

“May I?” He asked as he reached out towards the damaged leg.

Tony sighed. “Sure.”

Ducky reached out and felt what was left of the young mans thigh. The skin was thin and tight over the extensive scaring, and there was a lot of muscle lose between the skin and the bone. He pushed the material past the younger man’s knees and tested for blood flow on his calf, relived that is seemed fine, but he would need to check how good the pulse was later.

“I also have metal plates in my ankle.” Tony said softly.

“Problem with healing, or swelling in the ankle?”

“Not anymore.” Tony answered. “Just stiff, twinges sometime… but I was told to expect arthritis eventually… sooner rather than later?”

Ducky nodded as he sat back. “Sadly, that is the case. You may pull your trousers up again.” He said. “I will prescribe some ointment that will help soften the skin. Something I want you to apply every morning and night before bed.”

“Is there anything else?” Jethro asked.

“Pain medication… do you have trouble sleeping?”

“Sometimes.” Tony said as he finally sat back down. “But I can’t take anything strong… I, err, get a little loopy on co-codamol and it just makes me incredibly tired. Same thing with anything stronger too.”

“Hum… Well, do you have any to help you when the pain in bad?”

Ducky watched him glance at Jethro for a third time, a troubled look on his face as he finally shook his head. “No… I err… had more important things to worry about when I left.”

Ducky became even more intrigued. It was becoming plainly obvious that this man was in some very deep trouble. “I am guessing that I will be putting the prescriptions in your name Jethro?” he asked, looking at his old friend to receive a nod.

“Is there anything else?” Jethro asked.

Ducky looked back to the young man. “How is your mobility?”

Tony shrugged. “I can get around.”

“Tony?” Ducky insisted.

Another look over at Jethro, before his eyes were looking at his own hands. “I have trouble with stairs… and err… showering?... nothing to hold onto.”

Ducky nodded. “I will look into it for you.” He said. Knowing he would be talking to Jethro about all the modifications that would be beneficial to the younger man, if Jethro was planning to keep him around for any length of time.

“Thanks.” Tony said. “But like I was saying, there isn’t much you can really do for me.”

“Not at the moment, but I will endeavour to find a way to make your life easier dear boy.” Ducky assured.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + + [Monday – 2 days later]

 

Gibbs was relieved on Monday morning when they didn’t get a case. So he left Todd, McGee and Baker going through cold cases as he slipped down to Abby.

He knew, when it came to it, he could trust her to keep his secret to herself, even if she didn’t want to.

“Hey, Abs.” He called as he turned her music down.

“Boss man!” She screamed as she launcher herself at him for a hug.

He accepted it before pushing her away. “I need a favour.” He told her. “One I need you to keep to yourself.”

She took a step back, her eyes thinning suspiciously. “Is it something illegal?” she asked.

He smiled at her as he shook his head. “Not as far as I know.” As he gently pushed her towards her computers. “I just need you to look someone up for me.”

“Oh?” she asked. “Is this the stray Ducky told me about?”

Gibbs sighed, but he should know the two would have already talked about it that morning. “Yeah.” He answered. “Need you to see what you can find out about an Anthony DiNozzo Junior.”

“He been a bad boy?” Addy asked delightedly as her fingers flew across her keyboard.

“That’s what I want you to find out… Also see what you can find out about his sister.” He added as he left Abby to her work as he walked out of her lab.

Over the weekend, he had installed another banister to the main stairs, and those in his basement. Much to Tony complaining he really didn’t need too, but he had helped anyway, as best he could.

They had talked a bit more, but Tony hadn’t really given anything away. Though Gibbs’s gut was telling him he could trust the guy, it also told him the trouble Tony was in was making the younger man very wary and nervous. And he hadn’t missed the way Tony would sometimes flinch if he touched him without warning.

He had learned Tony had killed the perp who shot him, with a fluke shot to the neck, also through the door, and that it took a brave neighboured to come to Tony’s rescue, but he had lost a lot of blood before the ambulance and cops finally showed up.

He had talked about some of his cases in Baltimore, the funny ones at least, and that he had been good undercover. He also liked to talk about films, a lot.

He was really good with the kids, and Gibbs could tell the kids loved their uncle, and would go to him every time the phone rang, or if they heard a sound that spooked them, which sadly was a lot.

They had both also slept in the same bed since the night he had taken leave of his senses and told himself that he was only there for if Tony needed any help during the night.

The other man hadn’t mentioned anything about it, even if Gibbs still found him curled up tight against his back every morning. But he also wasn’t protesting, and if Gibbs was honest with himself, sleeping in a bed was far better than the sofa. So he was fine with keeping the whole situation as it was.

So now he just had to wait to see what Abby could find out about his stay... meanwhile, he would see if he still had some old contacts that might be able to help with the next stage of his plan, if he was going to implement it.

- - - -

Two hours later and finally Abby called him down to her lab.

If he had to put McGee or Todd on the right track again he was going to throw them both out of the building himself. Only Baker, being an ex-cop actually gave him any sensible leads.

“What you got Abs?” He asked as he held out a caf-pow for her.

“I found your little stray… or should I say big stray, as he’s taller than you boss!” She laughed as she turned back to her computer screen.

“I figured that out already Abs.” He told her as he came to stand at her shoulder.

“Well, Tony, or Anthony… What does he prefer to go by?”

“Tony.” Gibbs said as he waved a hand at the monitor.

“Ok, so, Tony was medically retired from the Baltimore PD in 2002. Where I guess he hasn’t worked since, as I can’t fine any employment records for him, so I guess he was beat up pretty bad?”

“Something like that.” Gibbs answered.

“Before that he worked in Philadelphia PD, then Peoria, not spending more than two years in both. Went to collage at Ohio State, finished with a phys-ed degree. I cant find any criminal record. So he’s been a good boy!” She sang. “His drivers license is clean too. Not even a parking ticket… can you believe that?”

Gibbs could, no way Tony would risk his muscle car being toed. “What about his sister?”

“Oh… Mariah DiNozzo, also went to collage, and then trained to be a nurse. Finally employed in a medical centre in downtown Baltimore, where she worked till her death in 2003.”

“How did she die?” Gibbs asked, to which Abby sucked in air through her teeth.

“She crashed into a tree… because her brakes gave out according to the police records… Though there was a note from one officer suspecting that the brake lines were tampered with. but they couldn’t find anything solid and it was closed as an accident.”

“Any suspects?”

“Her boyfriend, the father of her three kids.” Abby sighed. “And before you ask. I looked into him too. Daniel James Hicks, got a minor charge sheet as long as my arm. From burglary, shop lifting, stealing cars, looooots of drunken assault charges outside bars, DUI’s, parking tickets… and finally, lots of domestic violence charges that were never pressed by his girlfriend, one Mariah DiNozzo.”

“What?” Gibbs couldn’t believe Tony would stand for that… but then he recalled the bruises on Tony’s face, and now he knew for certain who put them there… and who the kids were so frightened of, their own damn father!

“Yeah… the reports all stop though when Tony change his address to where she was living with Hicks and her kids. The house deeds are in Hicks’s name.”

“He spend anytime in jail?”

“Only a few months here and there.” She answered.

“Address.” Gibbs demanded, and instantly Abby was holding out a small square of paper for him. “Thanks Abs.” He said as he turned and left.

At least now he knew he was going to be cashing in a lot of favours, and not all of them totally legal… But his gut was telling him this was what he needed to do.

Tony needed to hide, so Gibbs was going to make sure he was going to be the one to do it. He just needed to run it by the man first.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + + [Chapter 3] 

 

Tony heard a car pulling into the driveway and instantly he was on edge as he quickly limped his way halfway into the living room where he could see Gibbs getting out of his truck and instantly he let out a sigh of relief.

“It’s just Gibbs!” He shouted out to the kids who were playing outside. Knowing they would have heard the vehicle too. “Miki! You better still have your shoes on!” he heard giggling by the back door, then the kids running back into the garden. He rolled his eyes just praying there wasn’t anything out there that would end up in their feet, even if he had checked it out already, the little buggers found trouble without trying.

He was back in the kitchen when he heard the door being opened and Gibbs coming in. “You come home for lunch?!” he called back as he put the coffee percolator on. Trying to push his anxiety down that finally Gibbs was going to tell him to get out before dinner, despite what the other man promised.

“No… but if you’ve made anything?” Gibbs said making Tony jump, the man could sneak up on a cat.

“No, but I can make a ham sandwich?” Tony turned and smiled at the man, relived to see Gibbs smiling back at him, so maybe they had another night here.

“The kids eaten yet?” Gibbs asked as he made his way to the fridge and began looking through it.

“Yeah, they are just playing outside for now. I can make it.” He said going to reach for the bread.

“Sort out the coffee.” Gibbs said as he took the bread. “There’s something we need to talk about.”

Tony felt his stomach churn his own lunch as his mind began to race with where all their belongs were, how quickly he could get them all into bag’s and where they could find to stay for the night. Shit…

“Stop thinking.” Gibbs barked softly, making Tony flinch. “I said I’m not kicking you out.”

Tony blinked, surprised. “How…?”

“They don’t pay me the big bucks for nothing.” Gibbs answered and Tony could hear humour in his voice.

Tony sighed and went to fill mugs with coffee, then with one hand he carried them to the dinning table and eased himself down into the hard chair. A few moments later Gibbs sat down across from him.

“So?” Tony asked, hesitantly. He didn’t like the way this was probably going to go.

He watched Gibbs take a bite of his sandwich, chewing slowly as he stared back at him. Tony tried not to squirm, but it was hard, till his leg twinged and he could look away as he rubbed the saw spot.

“Found out some stuff this morning.” Gibbs finally spoke.

Tony signed, nodding. “Well, it’s about time.” He said looking back into the piercing eyes sat across from him. “I would have done it the first day.” He smiled ruefully.

“You never made your sister press charges on Hicks?”

Tony felt sick at the name as he closed his eyes. “I tried…” He answered softy. “Tried every time till she stopped telling me about it… The severity stopped when I had to move in.”

“That why you moved in?” Gibbs asked.

Tony opened his eyes and stared into his coffee instead. “No… I wasn’t going too… but… I could hardly look after myself.” He said, rubbing his leg, remembering how much pain he had been in, “The elevators in the apartment I was in worked when they wanted to… Trying to crawl up five flights of stairs…” He paused, remembering how exhausted he had been, and how some of his rougher looking neighbours had found him, and where he thought he was about to be robbed, they instead helped haul him up the last two flights. “Wasn’t fun… “ He sighed. “Got to a point I couldn’t leave my apartment. I was looking for somewhere else and told Mari about it. Hoping she could help me move. When she suggested I move in with her and the kids… When Daniel found out he promised that if I did he would stop drinking so much… and Mari… Mari begged me when she knew…”

“Why?”

Tony wanted to snarl, get up and leave; he pushed his cup away, making it skid to the other end of the table. “Because he wanted a chance to fuck me!” he growled instead. Finally looking over the table at the man interrogating him as he let anger take him, running hot through his vanes. “Said he only fucked my sister for the kids… that… that…” he felt his chest tighten as tears stung his eyes. “That he wanted… wanted kids that looked… looked like me… so we… could be the happy little fag family!” Then he lost it as he began trying to suck air into his lungs loudly as he focused on nothing. The guilt and shame overtaking him as his panic attack ran away with him.

His sister had known, the bastard had told her and she hadn’t cared, just so long as the beating stopped. But she wouldn’t leave the bastard who caused her all that pain because of the kids. Then… then he had let… let that fucker have him when he was so low he hadn’t care. He had given himself to the man who had killed her… for god sake the fucker had killed his sister and he had done nothing! Just given in to the numbness.

“Shhh… shhh…”

He felt arms around him and he reached up and clung on tight as he tried to breathe.

“We… We… looked alike!” He managed through each breath, trying to explain. “And I… I let… him… After everything… I let him.”

“Breathe, Tony… just concentrate on your breathing.” Gibbs was saying and Tony became aware of the man sitting down at his side. Pulling him against his chest tightly. “You’re okay, you can do this.”

It took a few minutes before Tony felt spent, letting Gibbs take his weight as he rested against the man. “Sorry…” he uttered, knowing he should sit up, but just didn’t want to. God help him, he didn’t want to.

“You got nothing to be sorry for.” Gibbs said gruffly and Tony was sure the guy just laid a kiss on the top of his head. “Were you doing what you had too to survive?” Gibbs asked, his voice barely a whisper.

Tony found himself blinking. He had just lost his sister, he was in so much pain, physically and mentally, he couldn’t get a job, the kids were missing their mother. Running was not an option and Daniel… “We had no where to go.” He whispered back. “He… he threatened to put the kids in care if I didn’t… didn’t…” His throat threatened to close up again, he could breath in but not out.

“Shhh… He wanted you to have sex with him in exchange for keeping the kids out of care and putting a roof over your heads?”

Tony nodded as he moved his face into Gibbs shoulder. And here he was again, to some extent. Asking another man to take care of him and the kids.

“I don’t think I have to double check with you then, about getting some new identities?”

Tony shook his head as he felt himself relax into the other mans arms, feeling suddenly very tired.

“But after what you just told me, I do have to ask if you’re okay staying here?”

Tony felt his chest get tight, he felt safe here for some unfathomable reason, safer than he had in forever… He still didn’t know why he trusted this guy, or why Gibbs was willing to do all this for him… But he didn’t want to leave… “Please…?” He asked weakly.

“Okay then. I’ll set the ball rolling today… Any preference on a last name?” Gibbs said matter of fact.

Tony didn’t really have to think. “Paddington?”

“Really?” Gibbs asked, sounding a little confused.

“My mother’s maiden name.” He answered with a slight shrug.

“Don’t mind me sorting out your finances too?”

“Need my wallet?” Tony gave as an answer, feeling Gibbs chuckle a little.

“Phone?”

“In the car, probably out of charge.”

“Got anything you need on it?” Gibbs asked.

“A few numbers…” He said. “Got a few friends around the country might like to know we are okay… family I guess. Some photos.”

“Charge it, but don’t turn it on… We’ll deal with it tonight.”

Tony nodded again as he moved a little, making himself more comfortable. He was so tired. All the tension he hadn’t realised he was holding was letting go.

He felt Gibbs move, and thought the man was about to get up. But after some faffing he just settled down again and Tony felt his arm tighten around his shoulders. Then the sound of a phone dialling a number.

Tony frowned when he heard a small voice giving a greeting.

“Hey Duck, mind coming over and babysitting for a few hours?”

Tony tried to protest, but Gibbs’s arm was like a vice.

“See you then… Come on, let’s get you upstairs.” Gibbs was saying as he did finally push Tony away.

Tony groaned as he sat up. “I’m fine…”

“Sure you are.” Gibbs was laughing at him. “Eli!”

“Yeah?” Came his niece’s voice after a few moments.

“Gonna put your uncle to bed.” Gibbs said. “Will you be okay with Ducky looking after you for a few hours?”

Tony moved to look at his niece, she looked worried, so he smiled at her. “I’m okay honey, I just need to take a nap.”

“Ducky that doctor that came by the other day?” Eli asked, she didn’t look convinced at all.

“Yup.” Gibbs said as Tony felt hands on him, pulling him to his feet. “Did you find the ball the neighbours kids forgot about down the side of the house?”

“No.” Eli said, then she was gone again.

“You do realize you might have to replace a window when you get back?” Tony managed to smile genuinely, while Gibbs was helping him towards the stairs.

“Then you can help me replace it.” Gibbs was chuckling.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs stood outside on his back porch as he sipped another coffee: he had just helped the kids set up an impromptu goal with his only two garden chairs and was now watching them try and score goals. He couldn’t help but smile at Eli teaching Miki how to kick, as Danny kept goal, badly.

It all ended though when they heard a knock at the door. All kids stilled and he found all their eyes turned on him, all fun gone.

“It’s okay.” He reassured them, “It’s only going to be Ducky, he’s come to look after you for a bit… carry on playing, We’ll just be inside.” He then turned to let his old friend in.

“Hey Duck.” He greeted, noting the bag the older man held.

“I thought I would bring some afternoon snacks.” Ducky said as he came in. “So, where are they?”

“In the back yard.” Gibbs said, shutting and locking the door. “I actually wanted you here while I ask them something.”

“Oh?” Ducky asked as he removed his hat. “Without Tony present?”

Gibbs had told the ME about Tony’s panic attack, with no specifics, but that he was now sleeping it off. “Come on. I’ll call them in if you get the milk.” Then he went and back outside. The kids were stood by the back door, still looking unsure of themselves. “Ducky bought snacks.” He said, ushering them all inside. Instantly the kids brightened up as they hurried inside.

“Wash your hands first!” he called as he saw Ducky filling glasses with milk.

When they were all finally sat down, Miki on Gibbs lap, where he kept trying to reach for the bag Ducky had brought.

“One second.” Gibbs said as he pushed the bag away from small reaching hands. “I just need to have a word with you guys first.”

“What about?” Danny whined, his eyes also on the bag, but he kept his hand on his glass of milk.

“Well, do you guys know what your last name is?” He asked, Danny just shrugged while Eli was frowning at him.

“It’s Hicks.” She whispered. “But… But I wanted moms…” She fidgeted and looked over her shoulder towards the stairs. “And uncles.”

“Me too.” Danny uttered, as Eli reached out and took his hand.

“Okay.” Gibbs glanced at Ducky, who looked as saddened as he felt. “So, to keep you safe, we are going to have to change your last name for a while… Do you think you can do that?”

“I can.” Danny said quickly.

“What did uncle say?” Eli asked causally.

“He knows about it.”

“Can we have your name?” Eli asked, her innocent excitement at once warmed him but also made him cold. Her enthusiasm for being distanced to her biological father was slightly disturbing, if understandable.

“I don’t think so.” He answered with a smile. “But your uncle wants to use Paddington.”

“Can we use that too?” Eli asked.

Gibbs nodded. “I don’t see why not.”

“Wouldn’t that make him our dad then?” Danny asked, looking at his sister.

“He’s mom’s brother.” Eli said to her brother. Before she looked at Gibbs for confirmation. “So it would make him our mom.”

Gibbs struggled to keep from smirking.

“If you wished.” Ducky said from his side, humour in his tone. “But he could still be your uncle with the same last name. It would tell everyone you are his family, and he is your caregiver.”

“You can ask him about what you want to call him.” Gibbs said, hoping he got to be the fly on that wall. “Your uncle told me it was your grandmother’s maiden name.”

“Your mothers, mother.” Ducky answered when the two oldest kids looked at him in confusion. “It sounds like a very good name.”

“Can we have our treats now?” Danny asked as Miki bounced up and down on his lap.

“Ducky?” Gibbs grinned as he got to his feet, handing over little Miki to the older man. “I have to go back to work. I’ll see you rug-rats tonight.” His only reply was the sound of Ducky opening the bag he brought and the smell of doughnuts.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs sat back in his chair. He had just finished up setting everything in motion. By Wednesday, he should have four birth certificates, a new driving licence for a Tony Paddington. Tony’s disability and pension checks were also being delivered to a P.O box in the post office on his way home from work, as well as any other mail he had was being redirected there too. Abby would set up a new bank account once she had all the new information, and she was also looking into local schools in the aria.

Now he just had to ponder if he could get away with putting the younger man and kids onto his own medical insurance as dependants... And if he should.

He heard the elevator door open and turned to see Ducky coming back into the office. The EM came to stand infront of him.

“A word if I may?” Ducky asked.

“Sure.” Gibbs said as he got to his feet. “You guys found anything yet!” He barked at his team, to a muttered round of ‘no’s’. So he just sighed and followed Ducky into the back elevators. Once inside, it was Ducky who hit the switch to stop it.

“Ducky?” He asked.

“How long are you planning on keeping that young man and his family?” Ducky asked straight out, peering up at him.

Gibbs shrugged. “As long as he needs.” He answered.

“For a month? A year? Till those kids go off to collage?” Ducky demanded. But before Gibbs could even open his mouth, Ducky continued. “Those children need stability, understanding and time to heal from whatever has scared them enough to make them older than their years.”

“I know, Ducky.” He insisted.

“I know you have a ‘saving’ complex Jethro, but they need more than a plaster and a kind word. Even that young man. Are you willing to be patient with them for as long as they need?”

Ducky was sounding angry now, and it was pissing him off.

“Also, what happens when you find another wife? Will you just kick them out!”

“No!” Gibbs barked. “I said he could stay as long as he wants, and I meant it! Baggage and all!”

“Why?” Ducky glared at him and Gibbs found himself speechless again.

He finally ran a hand over his face, leaning back against the metal wall. “I don’t know.” He answered calmly. “I just trust him…”

He looked back at the ME when the silence became too much.

“You are attracted to him?” Ducky finally whispered, a little shocked at his own conclusion.

Gibbs sighed deeply. “And that.” It was satisfying to see the older man speechless for a change. But he could also see the mans mind working overtime.

“But… all your wives?”

Gibbs shrugged. “It’s not something I wander around advertising.” He said with a half smile. “Or something that happens with any regularity…” He sighed as Ducky still looked at him in confusion. “I’m bi Ducky, I just swing more towards woman.”

“But you have swung young Tony’s way?”

Gibbs shrugged again.

“And what if he doesn’t swing your way?” Ducky asked. “Or if he finds someone else?”

“Then I’ll deal with it.” Gibbs answered, meaning it. “He’s been through enough that I don’t think he’s interested in anything like that at the moment anyway, and hell knows, I’m not going to be pushing.”

“Raped?” Ducky instantly jumped to the right conclusion.

“That, or the kids father threatened to put his own children in care and kick Tony out.”

“My god.” Ducky swore. “The poor boy… I take it this happened soon after his sister passed and he was still recovering from his injuries?… before you ask, Abigail told me once she knew I knew about your stray.”

“Right up until he left, from what I can gather.” He answered his initial question.

“Does he not have any family or friends he could turn too?” Ducky pondered.

“If there was,” Gibbs answered, “I think he would have gone to them already.”

“Then it’s more imperative you look after that boy.” Ducky said firmly.

“I will Duck.” He nodded. “So, I’m guessing you like him too?”

Ducky sighed. “From what little I’ve seen… I do. And I trust your gut.”

“Good. Now, do you have anymore ideas how I can help him get around more?”

“Now, that I do!” Ducky said as he flicked the switch and they began descending again. “I had someone come round when mother was still able to get up the stairs, who installed all kinds of gadgets and…”

Gibbs listened to his old friend carry on as they made their way to autopsy.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

“It charged?” Gibbs asked as he heard Tony limping into the kitchen behind him.

“Yeah.” Tony answered, sounding reluctant.

“Turn it on then.” He said turning around, drying his hands after he had finished the washing up from their late dinner. Tony was just stood their, looking down at his phone in his hands like it was a dangerous rock. “Tony?... It’s not gonna turn its self on.” Gibbs quibbled, then he watched Tony square his shoulders fliping the thing open and press a button on it.

They stood there as the thing started working, and instantly it started playing annoying sounds again and again.

“He… err… Left lots of messages and texts.” Tony said softly as his attention was on the phones screen.

“Any from other people?” Gibbs asked curiously.

Tony shook his head, “But nothing new there.”

“Ignore everything and just get off the numbers you need.” He said, reaching over to a small pad he used for groceries and a little pencil. Tony took them and started fiddling with the phone till he was writing stuff down on the pad.

Gibbs turned back and started finishing off drying the dishes. Tony had made chicken stew and dumplings, and he was glad he hadn’t missed out on it. So he didn’t mind washing up the mess, especially as the kids had helped, causing more of a mess than he was sure was necessary.

He was just closing the last cupboard when he heard a phone go off behind him. He turned to see Tony had backed away from the thing like it was on fire, just staring at it on the counter.

With a sigh Gibbs picked it up, it took him a moment to read the caller ID, god damn his eyes. [D. IKES]. It took him a second to realise who it could be, and where as he would be amused at any other time. He put his agent face on as he clicked the button, then managed to his press the ‘hands free’ button.

/“Tonio!”/ A man said desperately on the other end. /“Where the fuck are you man?!”/

“He’s busy at the moment.” Gibbs growled into the phone as he put it down on the counter, turning his attention to Tony. The man had gone pale, and when he reached out to put a reassuring hand on his arm, he could feel the man trembling.

There was a shocked silence at the other end /“Who the fuck are you?”/

Gibbs fought down his anger, knowing what this man had wrought. “This is Agent Fornell, Who am I speaking with?” He put a finger to his lips when Tony looked at him sharply. He was sure Tobias wouldn’t mind him using his name.

/“What… I want to talk to Tonio right now! What the fuck are you doing with his cell anyway, he been arrested?!”/ The man asked angrily.

“He’s right here… but he doesn’t want to talk to you.” Gibbs growled as he kept eye contact with Tony. “And neither do I.”

/”I don’t care what you want!”/ The mans voice was low now and threatening. /”Tonio! Tonio! Get your fucking ass back here NOW!”/

Tony let out a small distressed groan, and Gibbs was sure the other man heard it.

/”How dare you fucking leave! I fucking own your ass!”/

“Shut up.” Gibbs snapped. “You listen to me. Tony’s mine now… and what’s mine, I keep.” Then he picked up the phone as he heard the other man began to yell something, but he never got to finish as he twisted the phone, snapping it then pulling it apart. Throwing the pieces behind him into the sink with a growl. The guy hadn’t even asked where his children where. If they were even safe at all!

It took him a moment to squash his anger, before he realised he shouldn’t have shown anger in front of the other man. He had had enough of that as it was. It wouldn’t help that he had just destroyed the guys phone.

When he turned back though, Tony had a ghost of a smile, even though he still looked pale, his arms wrapped tightly around his chest.

“If only it was that easy, hu?” Tony said, his voice low.

Gibbs returned the grin. “I’ll see about getting you a replacement cell from work.”

“Really?” Tony asked, his voice a little shaky. “You can do that?”

Gibbs just shrugged. “I go through a lot, so someone’s always got a replacement for me. I’ll get McGee to give me one…” He shrugged. “I don’t like my people being out of reach.”

Tony gave him a searching look before he nodded. “Okay.”

Gibbs let out a silent sigh of relief. Tony didn’t seem too affected by his bout of violence toward his cell. He even uncurled the tight hold he had on himself.

“So…” Tony drolled out. “I’m yours now, hu?”

Gibbs winced inside, but smiled as he looked at the other man, shrugging one shoulder. “If you want to be.” He watched Tony’s eyes go very wide, and he thought that maybe he had just gone and utterly ruined any friendship they could have had. But then Tony gave him a slow smile as he began to turn away.

“Maybe.” The younger man said as he made his way into the living room. Just as they heard a small voice calling from upstairs.

Gibbs heard Tony call back he would be right there, and Gibbs leaned back against the sink, shaking his head as he put a hand over his eyes. “Well, damn.” He smiled to himself.

 

TBH

Chapter Text

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + + [Chapter 4]

 

[6 Month later]

 

“Jethro, wait!”

Gibbs turned as he was about to open the door. Just after Tony had gotten up to get the kids lunches made and to make breakfast for everyone, Gibbs’s phone had gone off, calling him in early.

“Here.” Tony said as he limped closer, a travel mug in one hand as he poured a cup of hot coffee into it with the other. “If you have a minute you can take a bacon sandwich? They are almost ready.”

Gibbs shook his head. “Dead navy seal in an alleyway.” He explained as he reached out and took the travel mug. “It’s fresh, so…”

“The quicker you’re there, the quicker you can be home.” Tony was smiling as he put the cup down on the back of the living room chair precariously, then held the travel mug steady, putting his own hand over Gibbs’s as he screwed the top on it with the other. “It’s fresh bolognas for dinner…” He said looking up. “If you can’t make it, I’ll leave it in the microwave.”

“And if I can’t make that?” Gibbs couldn’t help but ask with a smile at the conversation they had had many times over the last six months.

“Then it’ll be in the freezer.” Tony smiled. “Just try and phone to let me know.”

“Okay.” Gibbs laughed as he finally pulled the door open and a swirl of snow blew between them both.

“Christ!” Tony exclaimed as Gibbs looked outside into the snow, thankful he wouldn’t have to dig out his truck yet, as it wasn’t that deep.

“Here!” Tony was saying from behind him, then something was being thrown over his shoulder. “Don’t want you getting a cold.” Gibbs glanced down at the scarf Tony was tying a knot in as he turned “And don’t slide off the road on your way in!”

“Yes, honey.” Gibbs said long-sufferingly, then without thinking he put his free hand on Tony’s hip as he leaned in and kissed the other man on the corner of his lips.

He pulled back in shock. To find round green eyes staring back at him. Then, like a coward he was striding out into the cold morning, wondering what the hell he had just done.

When he was in his truck, he glanced up at the warm light coming from the front door to see Tony looking back at him, one hand holding the door open, the other held up to his face.

Gibbs saw Tony smile, then the fingers that were touching the side of his mouth, turned and waved at him.

Gibbs returned the smile as he began to reverse, giving the other man a wave as he did so.

“Well… Hell.” He muttered to himself as he pulled onto the road.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Tony watched as the truck pulled onto the road before closing the door on the winter morning. Then he rested his forehead against the cold glass of the door. His heart was beating wildly in his chest as he stared at nothing, then he was reaching back up to the warm tingly patch at the side of his lips.

It had been six months since he had moved in with the man, taken over his house, made him cash in enough favours to get himself fired, looked after the kids, looked after Tony himself when his injury kept him immobile for days. For Christ sake, he slept in the man’s bed, with him! And he never asked for anything.

He had slowly let himself become more comfortable with Gibbs. He knew the older man was attracted to him. The way those crystal eyes would look at him, or a callused hand would run through his hair, or down a shoulder. Even the way Gibbs would put his arm around him when they were on the sofa, pulling him close. Or the way he would sometimes wake up with his head on Gibbs’s chest, or the way the man would sometimes spoon up against his back, holding him tight.

And now this?

Tony felt himself smiling like a fool.

He had been interested in Gibbs since the moment he saw him on a dark road across the roof of his stupid car as he ran from…

And that’s when he sobered up and pushed himself into standing straight.

He was being stupid, it was just a joke, a silly chaste kiss, it probably meant nothing.

Despite Gibbs saying he was his all those months ago, Gibbs hadn’t made any advances towards him, which was something Tony had to be honest with himself, he was glad for.

He still had nightmares, though they were less lately, being slowly erased along with his panic attacks. Though he hadn’t had one of those in over a month. Even if his anxiety attacks could reduce him to a wreck as he found himself hiding in the bathroom till his brain could stop spinning and thinking a mile a second about everything bad that could happen.

With a sigh, he limped back to the kitchen; the bacon smelt like it was over cooked, if not burned already.

Luckily he had just enough time to get it out of the pan before it was lost, but he knew Eli and Danny wouldn’t mind it crispy, but he had to put some more on for Miki.

“I DON’T HEAR MOVING!” Tony yelled into the silence of the house.

He had to get Eli and Danny ready for the car pool.

When Gibbs had given him new birth certificates and ID’s, and he knew the man wasn’t about to kick them out. He had finally gone out and introduced himself to some of the neighbours when he had seen them outside.

He had just introduced himself as Gibbs’s ‘friend’ and let them think what they wanted from there. But they had slowly introduced him to the other neighbours, till he finally found the Jones’s at the other side of the street, two doors down. They had seven year old twin girls and a nine year old boy and he had managed to get his kids into the same school. And for the first time, his kids had friends they could play with.

In the short time they had been in Gibbs’s home, all the kids had come out of their shells, they were happy, happier than he had ever seem them.

Eli had loved school, and still did. But Danny had hated it, but now he also went willingly, both kids looked forwards to it. And Miki loved spending Monday, Wednesday and Friday with the Spencer’s, two spinster sister three door up. And luckily their Labradors adored him. He had tried to pay them something, but they had refused point blank as they fussed over the little boy. They even came over and babysat the kids on the odd night Gibbs had been given reservations to a restaurant or other. Or on the rarer occasions he managed to talk Gibbs into seeing a movie with him.

He finally heard some movement in the area of the bathroom. So at least someone was getting up.

He just put the breakfast things out, and was making his way towards the stairs to get Miki out of his night dipper and dressed. He still had accidents, but they were getting fewer, But not enough not to be careful, and Tony hated seeing him cry in embarrassment.

It helped that Gibbs had made bunk bed for the boys, so they didn’t have to share, and it was easier changing a single bed than a double if accidents did happened.

What had surprised Tony more, was the night, all those months ago, whe he found Gibbs in his daughters room. He had packed away the long lost girls bedding into a vacuumed sealed bag, along with some soft toys that must have been the girl’s beloved plushis. Tony had just stood by the door and watched Gibbs as he also placed a few more items into a box and sealed it. ‘You don’t have to do this.’ He had said, once Gibbs looked like he had finished.

‘Kelly hasn’t needed this room in a long time.’ Gibbs had said softly. ‘I don’t think she would mind another little girl using it.’

And that had been that.

Tony had insisted Gibbs tell her the good news, and she had been ecstatic, even giving the man a hug. Tony had helped her a few days later to move the furnisher around the way she liked it. Mostly with her bed at the opposite side from the door in the corner, as she liked to cuddle up to the wall. Gibbs hadn’t said anything, just asked if she would like any new furnisher. All she had asked for was a table. Which Gibbs had made for her. He had also asked the same of the boys, but they hadn’t cared for anything once they had their own beds, and room to play in.

So that’s how their life was now.

He just put a hand on the banister to pull himself up the stairs when his cell went off in his pocket. A quick look at the ID and he saw it was Susan.

“Hey.” He said.

/”Tony, I just called the school, and they are closing for the day.”/ Susan said, she was meant to be coming round to pick the kids up, as it was her day to car pool.

“It’s only snowing.” He said, going to take another look outside, then winced. The road was already covered again in a layer of white. “Ah. I guess it’s snowman building day.”

/”I’m going to try and convince mine its cookie making day.”/ Susan laughed. /”The forecast says it might stop in an hour or two, but from experience I know it’s just going to turn into sludge or ice.”/

“I think you have a point. Got any good recipes?” he asked.

/”Sure, I’ll email them in a bit. I’ll see you tomorrow if this clear up.”/

“Thanks, Susan, talk to you soon,” He said as he hung up. Then he started up the stairs. “DON’T RUSH!” he called as his leg gave a twinge and he knew he should have had a salt bath last night to ease it. But Gibbs had been home late and he just hadn’t found the time.

“What?” Eli was asking as he saw her come out of the main bathroom, still brushing her hair.

“Snow day.” He told her. “Schools closed for the day, so we are gonna have to find something else to do.”

“SWIMMING!” Danny yelled as he came out of his room, struggling to get a tee-shirt over his head, till Tony helped him into it.

“If we do, you are going to have to use the hairdryer to dry your hair.” Tony smiled as Danny pulled a face, he hated drying his hair on a good day. “Don’t, I’m not letting you out in this weather with wet hair.”

“Can we play outside then?” Eli asked hopefully.

“I was thinking more that we do some baking.” Tony said as he went into the boys room to find Miki rolling around on the floor trying to take his dipper off.

“Can I build a snowman?” Danny asked.

“Yeah, can we?” Eli said excitedly.

Tony sighed as he went to help Miki. “Oh, no accidents.” He cooed at his youngest nephew. “Do you want to build snowmen too?”

“Yeah!” Miki shouted as he ran over to the closet half naked and tried opening the door.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Tony couldn’t believe his luck; the toyshop was having a sale and with the weather being so bad there was hardly anyone in the mall to jostle him as he tried to get around.

After they had had breakfast, the kids had all gone running outside, and Tony found himself helping them building a very wonky snowman. Carrot for a nose and all. Then he had ushered them inside to change clothes and fed them lunch. At which point, Mary Spencer had called, and Tony had apologised profusely, he had forgotten to phone them that morning. But they were more that happy to look after the kids for a few hours as he went out to do some shopping.

He had done some grocery shopping, picking up a few items they were out of, as well as ingredients from the recipes Susan had sent. Then he had hit the mall to try and get in some early Christmas presents, he had got all the kids a big present, as well as some small things to open on the day. He just needed to find something for Gibbs.

He was just about to go into Barns & Noble thinking he might find something for Gibbs there, after all, he had been through Gibbs small collection of books, so he had a good idea what the man liked to read. So maybe he could find a book or two, maybe something for the kids. He was just about to step in when something made his hackles rise on the back of his neck.

He turned his head slowly to look up the thoroughfare.

And froze.

Half a dozen shops down… Daniel Hicks was looking directly at him.

The air caught in Tony’s throat. His knees felt wobbly, his crutch the only thing keeping him on his feet.

He turned and went straight into the store. It only took him a moment to see how he could use the layout to his own advantage as he hurried over to shelves on his left. A quick look as he went proved this shop had no public exit towards the parking lot that surrounded the mall.

He tried to control his breathing as he waited for Hicks to enter the shop. His mind already trying to form a plan, but they just kept slipping away as he felt his chest tightening...

“Can I help you sir?” A young woman in the shops uniform asked.

“Is there a back way out of the store?” He asked, looking back to where he could see the main door.

“No sir.” She answered. “Not for public use.”

“Then there is one for staff?” He asked, a little too desperately.

“Yes, but it only leads to the staff parking lot. And loading bay.” She said, looking very wary now.

Tony almost sagged with relief. “Please… someone very bad is following me… I just need to make it outside.”

“Hu?” the young woman said as she also looked over to the door. “Do you need me to call the cops?”

“No!... no, I just need to leave where he wont see me… he’s no danger to anyone else.” He tried to reassure her. “Please?” Then he turned to see Hicks walking in and his heart beat heard in his chest. “Oh god…” he uttered.

“That him?” the woman whispered.

“Please.” He echoed.

Suddenly she was reaching out and took his arm. “This way.” She said pulling him deeper into the store, towards a hidden door behind another bookshelf. Then pushed him in first, closing it firmly behind herself and throwing a latch. Then she was leading him through a small staff room, then into a locker room with another door. It took her a moment to open it.

“Good luck.” She said as he walked into the frigid air. “Go right till you get to a gate, it leads into the public parking lot… I’ll go distract him, tell him you went upstairs in the elevator. Go.” She said hurriedly before she pulled the door closed. He could hear it being locked as he stumbled away.

He was a long way from his car, and his crutch kept slipping in the snow. But as he walked, his mind finally got over its flight mentality and he pulled his phone from his pocket. He dialled the Spencer’s.

“Gemma!” He said as he heard her beautiful voice.

/“Tony!”/ She said happily. “We thought you would be an hour or so yet.” she sounded almost regretful. /“We are just about to put the cookies in the oven.”/

“No… Look, did anyone come round? A man, short brown hair, scraggily beard?”

/”No, no ones been round… what’s wrong?”/

“I don’t know how long I’m gonna be… but keep the kids inside. Don’t let them out.”

/”Tony… Darling, You’re scaring me.”/ Gemma whispered down the phone.

“I know, I’m sorry.” He apologised as he finally saw his car, an ugly people carrier Gibbs had helped him buy. But the thing was reliable at least, even in this weather. “Remember I told you we were staying with Gibbs for ‘reasons’.” He said, then cursed as he slipped on a patch of ice. “That reason just… just showed up.”

/”Oh, darling… don’t you worry one bit. Me and Mary will look after the babies, we have enough room if you need to leave them with us over night.”/

“I’m so sorry for doing this to you.” He said honestly as he fumbled for his keys.

/”You going to Gibbs for help?”/ She asked.

And if she was stood infront of him right now, he would have kissed her. “Yes. I have to go.”

/”Take care darling!”/ She said as he hung up and opened his car. Throwing his bags into the passenger seat as he heaved himself inside.

He took a moment to breathe as he clutched at the wheel. He needed to keep it together… Just for a little longer. He had a goal, he could fall apart once he reached it!

With a growl he pulled out of the parking space, but just before he got to the exit his adrenalin spiked again as he saw an all too familiar truck. He spun his head round, but he couldn’t see the monster who owned it, so he slammed his foot on the exhilarator and skidded away.

It took him longer than he wanted to finally get to the Navy Yard where he knew Gibbs worked. And some fast talking to get him through the gate. But apparently the gate security had a standing order to let him through, no contest.

He saw Gibbs Truck and pulled in next to it, hoping the guy was still in the office. He had through about phoning the him, but he knew he would brake down if he did… and he hadn’t reached his goal yet… just a little more.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

“Who was that?” McGee asked as Kate hung up her phone.

“I duno.” She answered. “They are sending up a guest for Gibbs.”

“A woman?” McGee asked.

“I guess we’ll find out.” She said as she turned, hearing the elevator opening. She saw Omar get out, followed by a very good looking man in his mid thirties with a visitors badge attached to his black woollen coat. Then she saw him limping, leaning heavily on a single crutch.

“Where’s, Gibbs?” Omar asked as he saw her.

“He’s up in MTAC.” Kate said. “Is there something I can help with?”

“I just need to see Gibbs.” The man said, giving her a smile. But there was something wrong, it didn’t reach his eyes.

“He shouldn’t be to long.” She answered. “Mister?” she asked.

“Paddington.” The man answered, as she watched him looking around the office, his eyes seeming to be looking at everything and every one.

“Well, Mister Paddington, I can show you to the break room if you would like to wait?”

“Where’s Gibbs’s desk?” Paddington asked, looking back at her.

“It’s over here.” McGee said from behind her. Then the other man was limping over to it.

“Thank you Omar.” Paddington said over his shoulder. “Is it okay if I wait here?”

“Sure.” Omar said. “I’ll make sure someone puts a note on your car.”

“Yeah, thanks. I didn’t know.” Paddington said as Kate watched him sat down in Gibbs chair.

“Don’t worry about it.” Omar said as he walked away.

“Err… Gibbs isn’t gonna like you sitting in his chair.” McGee said as Kate went to stand next to the other agent.

“I don’t think he’s gonna mind.” Paddington answered, his eyes once again looking around the office. “Cant you go and tell him I’m here?” He asked.

Kate could hear something in the man’s voice that sounded a little desperate. “Not when he’s in MTAC. Mister Paddington.”

“Tony.” The man said, giving her a look she couldn’t quite decipher.

“Okay, Tony.” She smiled at him. “Are you sure there isn’t anything we can help with in the mean time?”

Tony shook his head as he started to fiddle with his crutch.

“Can I get you a coffee or something?” McGee asked.

“I’m guessing you don’t have any tea?... good tea.”

“Err…”

“Ducky might have some.” Kate told McGee.

“Is Ducky in?” Tony suddenly asked and Kate saw him sit forwards in his chair.

“He should be.” McGee said. “Wait, you know Ducky?”

Kate watched Tony fidget and look away, like he was pondering what to say.

“Yeah, we’ve met. A coffee will do, milk, sugar?”

Kate waved the younger agent to go get it when he looked at her. She smirked when he took a step towards the brake room.

“Tony?” Gibbs’s voice suddenly rang through the office, and he didn’t sound pleased.

“Gibbs…” Tony gasped, then Kate saw the mans hands begin to shake as Gibbs came into their area of the office from the back elevators. And she took a step back to watch the floor show. Gibbs did not sound happy to see the other man.

“Where are the kids!” Gibbs demanded as he came to stand at the side of the man who was still sat in his chair.

“With… with the Spencer’s.” Tony stammered, his attention now solely on Gibbs.

“What happened?” Gibbs sounded even more pissed.

“Went shopping… I was in the mall… He was just stood there.” The man was sounding desperate now, enough that Kate was about to step in. he was obviously under a lot of stress, and Gibbs was being his usual bastard.

“He follow you?” Gibbs growled.

She watched as tears started falling down Tony’s cheeks and he seemed to be having trouble catching his breath. “I… I don’t know… god… he found… me…”

“Gibbs.” She warned, then watched as Gibbs suddenly got down on his knees, pulling the younger man into his arms. One hand on the back of Tony’s head, pulling it down to his own shoulder, as his other hand stroked up and down the man’s back.

Then she heard Gibbs cooing at the man. Telling him he was okay, and that he should take in shallow breaths.

She cast a look at McGee, who looked as awkward as she felt. She had never seen someone having a panic attack before, and it was rather disturbing as they listen to the man trying to breath.

It took an agonisingly long time for the man to finally calm himself down. Then she watched Gibbs start to wipe away the other mans tears with one hand.

“You with me again?” Gibbs was asking, to which Tony nodded.

“I saw his truck… Lost… lost him in a bookshop.” Tony was whispering, making Kate lean in to hear. “What… what if he found us? What…”

“Hey!” Gibbs barked, making Kate jump. “He hasn’t.”

“How…”

“I know.” Gibbs said firmly. “But I’ll look into it. And I’ll send you home in a blacked out pool car with some security till I get home… I said I won’t let him hurt you again.”

Kate blinked. Gibbs couldn’t have just implied he lived with this man… could he? And didn’t he mention kids? She thought he had been divorced so many times he had lost track. She needed to know what the hell was going on. Then when she thought she couldn’t be more shocked. She watched as Gibbs lay a kiss on the side of the other mans mouth, then rested their foreheads together.

She looked again at McGee, who had gone red as he turned away “I’ll get coffee.” He muttered as he passed her.

“Come on.” She heard Gibbs saying as he stiffly got back to his feet, no doubt his knee was bothering him again, and she instinctive went to help, but he waved her off as he started to help the other man out of his chair. “We’ll go see Abby. Tell her where you were, so she can find the bastard.”

“I don’t wana… see him.” Tony was saying, before Kate watching him collapse back onto the chair. “Shit.”

“Bad?” Gibbs was asking.

“I’ll be fine.” Tony was saying as he eventually got back on his feet with his crutch on his left arm. “Just need to move.”

“Kate… Go hold the elevator!” Gibbs barked, finally looking at her.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Abby could hardly suppress her curiosity as she glanced past her monitor to the man that was currently sat at her desk, on her computer surfing the internet.

She had tried asking Gibbs about his stray after she had look up his history, but Gibbs had been tight lipped, even Ducky had gone rogue on her, saying she should just ask Gibbs. Much good that had done her. Then she had forgotten about it all.

So to find one ‘Anthony DiNozzo’ limping into her lab was more than she was ready for on another boring day.

“Sooo…” She grinned at her boss. “You still letting him stay with you?”

“Abs.” Gibbs sighed.

“I can see why you would.” She said. “I wouldn’t kick him out either… What?... He’s gorgeous! Is he single?”

“No.” Gibbs said as he looked away from her and she gasped.

“Oh my god!... Boss!... You sly dog!” She laughed, she didn’t know her boss swung that way, but hey, it was a small world, and who was she to judge? And with that tall glass of water in the other room, she couldn’t blame him. “So? Is he good in bed?” she leered at him.

“He’s a snuggler.” Gibbs deadpanned right back.

For a moment she thought he was joking, but she knew him better then he liked. “Who’s the little spoon then?” she shot back, watching him closely, but his eyes were on the monitor and she watched as his face morphed from slightly embarrassingly amused, to hard and cold in a split second.

“That’s him.” He said, pointing at the CCTV footage they had been going through of the mall Tony had been at.

Abby turned to see a tall man looking like some kind of scruffy lumberjack walk into the bookstore Tony had gone into.

“Tony said he left through the back door… Can you get footage from inside the shop?”

“Not without going there and getting it.” She answered as she sped up the footage. And sure enough, almost ten minutes later they saw the man running out of the shop, they followed him on various cameras to the parking lot, he had run past a line of parked car’s till he stopped suddenly.

“Shit!” Gibbs cursed.

“What!?” Abby couldn’t see what he had. Then she saw an ugly looking people carrier tear out of the parking lot, and the man running toward an ancient looking truck. They watched it pull out of its spot, hitting another car, but luckily, another car pulled out and seemed to stall, it took a good minute before the old truck could get back into traffic, but by that point they could both tell the ugly people carrier was out of sight and long gone.

“Gibbs?” She asked softly, seeing how tense he was. But he stepped back then made his way to her office, where Tony looked up at them.

“The bad news is, he saw you driving away.” Gibbs said as he walked up to Tony, putting a hand on his shoulder. “The good news is he didn’t manage to follow you.”

“Hu…” Tony said and Abby could see he was actually shaking.

She watched as Gibbs got to his knees, taking the other mans hands in his own.

“At least you don’t have to drive that rust bucket anymore.” Gibbs was saying as Tony looked like he was forcing a smile. And Abby noted the way he didn’t take his stunning green eyes from her Boss. It was kinda sweet.

“I have some of the kids Christmas presents in it…” Tony whispered. “I parked it next to your truck… I don’t now…”

Abby tried not to smile, of course kids were involved, Gibbs always had a huge soft spot for them.

“That’s fine.” Gibbs had reached up and was running his hand over Tony’s hair. “At least I don’t have to go looking for it.”

Tony chuckled and seemed to be calming down.

“I’ll also get someone to get the shopping…”

“There are groceries in the trunk too… We were going to make cookies.” Tony was smiling.

“With frosting?” Gibbs asked.

“And M&M’s.”

“Without Danny eating them all?” Gibbs was chuckling.

“Oh my god! You guys are so cute!” She couldn’t help herself. “Gibbs, you have to bring some in for us too!”

“Err… we can make more.” Tony said as he looked between her and Gibbs.

“Sure. You’re gonna be up all night baking now?” Gibbs was chuckling as he got to his feet, but Abby grinned over the fact he still had a hand on Tony’s shoulder.

“I don’t mind.” Tony said, “You don’t mind ginger?”

“Love it!” Abby gushed.

“Great… Think you can do me a favour Ab’s?” Gibbs asked.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs sighed as he sat down on the edge of Abby’s desk.

He had asked her to go get Todd, and then go get everything they could out of Tony’s car, but to leave the child seats behind. He would have the car toed then find an auction he could throw it in. It should still be worth something.

“Do you think he got the licence plate?” Tony asked softly.

“Don’t matter if he did.” He answered. “I registered it to your old address, in your old name.” At least they also didn’t have to worry about insurance, as he had registered Tony Paddington under his own policy. “He can’t trace that car back to either of us. You don’t have to worry.”

“How do I get out of the building?” Tony fretted. But Gibbs couldn’t feel him going into another panic attack. “Just incase.”

“We have an indoor garage; I’ll have McGee take you home in one of the blacked out cars.”

Tony sighed and sat back. “Think this time you can get me something where I can open all the door without a fight?”

“It was only the passenger door.” Gibbs smiled.

“And windows that don’t wake up the dead whenever we try and open them?” Tony asked.

“I’ll see what I can do.” He promised with a laugh. Remembering Tony growling how he had just about thrown Danny out of the window as he constantly played with the automatic window that screeched horrendously when used, and the kid had found it great fun to drive everyone in the car mad with it.

“And put more money into it this time.” Tony demanded. “I still have the cash from my Corvette.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Gibbs assured.

“Gibbs… Seriously, I don’t want another one from the police impound, I still don’t think it would have even sold at the auction it was about to go into.”

Gibbs sighed. “I did only pay a hundred bucks for it.”

“I can tell.” Tony said sarcastically before he smiled. “But I guess it did what it had too… So thanks for that. But I would really like one where the middle seatbelt works?”

“Leaving me to find you a new car then?” Gibbs razed and eyebrow.

Tony grinned up at him, and Gibbs felt his hand squeezing his own. “If I go looking, I’m only gonna drool over all the classics… I can trust you.”

“Thanks.” Gibbs answered. He was actually touched; he knew Tony could make friends easy. After all, he hadn’t talked to his neighbours in years, and now they were friends with everyone on the street. But he knew Tony didn’t trust them all, not completely. Especially if the kids weren’t home quick enough for his liking, then he got a bit manic. And only the Spencer sister had ever been invited into the house. “I’ll look into it.” Or more likely he would get McGee to find something, then go see it himself this time. “So, what were you doing on Abby’s computer?”

“I was looking up bread recipes, then I ended up looking for some movies. And now I’m on this site where people can post their own videos… Some of them are pretty weird; I was just watching some of people’s cats.”

“Really?” Gibbs asked, as he moved so he could see the monitor as Tony began playing some of the things he had been watching. He laughed appropriately, but mostly his attention was on Tony.

He had been surprised to see him in the office. He had hoped he could keep Tony separate from work. But he knew it had to be something serious for him to turn up.

Now he was just glad he had a standing order on the Gate to just let him in. The though of Tony having a panic attack alone in his car wasn’t something he wanted to subject the younger man too, especially when Tony’s PTSD had lessened so much in the last three months. A relapse wasn’t something he wanted, especially as he liked his sleep undisturbed by the younger man waking up in a cold sweat while letting out a gurgled scream; that even in sleep Tony tired to stifle.

He reached out; resting a hand on the other mans back, where he could rub his thumb across his bare neck in a reassuring gesture, disturbing Tony’s hair that had grown into a stylish mop in the last six months. He would let himself play with it when they were resting on the sofa, late at night after the kids were in bed, and he had pulled Tony against his side. It was a guilty pleasure he couldn’t resist, even if he had promised himself that he wouldn’t touch, he just couldn’t help himself. Luckily for him, Tony had never minded, especially if the little purring noises he made were anything to go by.

He was also resisting his instincts to put out a BOLO, find Hicks, and shove his teeth down his throat. But for once, he knew Tony needed him more right now.

Hicks could wait.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Tony had been exhausted when McGee finally drove him home. He had tried to shake the guy before he picked up the kids from the Spencer’s. But the guy had been insistent. If unbelievable nerves when he did so. To a point where Tony wondered how Gibbs could stand him on his team, especially if he was part of the MCRT.

He could tell the man was very curious about him, if the glances he kept giving Tony from the rear-view mirror were anything to go by. But he had been rather halting in his questions, and had given up easy when Tony either gave vague answered or changed the subject entirely. Something Tony wasn’t sure a trained investigator should be susceptible to.

The kids had been weary of him as they walked back home. But about his only redeeming point was that he insisted entering the house first and checking every room for intruders. Even if it had pissed Tony off no end. And it had become obvious the guy had never been in Gibbs’s house before. As he eyes were everywhere, taking in every little detail. So at least he had that, and was maybe a reason why Gibbs kept him, if he was observant, if nothing else.

The only thing that got rid of the guy was his phone going off as Gibbs called him back into the office on an emergency lead. So Tony had known Gibbs wasn’t going to be making it home any time soon.

He had told the kids that his car had broken down, something that they believed readily, thankfully. So despite the fact Tony just wanted to take some Tylenol and crawl into bed. He ended up baking cookies with the kids, then some more for Gibbs’s team. He even found the time to make one for Abby, after he had put the kids to bed, in the shape of a skull and cross bones he was sure she would get a kick out of it, if the tee-shirt she was wearing was anything to go by.

So now he lay in bed, too exhausted to sleep.

Or that was what he was telling himself as he tried to read one of Gibbs’s crime novels. It was engaging, even funny at times, but it only distracted him so much, till he found himself just laying there, staring at the books cover where it lay on the pillow next to him as his mind began spiralling.

Had he locked the back door? Were all the windows shut? Had he checked the basement? What if Hicks had managed to follow him home? The man was a monster, but he was charming when he needed to be. What if all Gibbs’s caution and subterfuge were not enough? What if he had to run again? Where would he go? Fate had driven him into Gibbs’s path but he wasn’t fool enough to even think his luck would hold out a second time… Christ… and he didn’t want it too. He wanted to stay; he wanted to stay so bad it was a pain in his chest. But as he tried to take in a full breath, he knew he would give it up for the safety of his kids.

He gasped for air, realizing he had started to cry, feeling another attack coming on and he needed to stop it, now!

He struggled to sit up and breathe.

He needed to call some of his frat buddies… needed to find out if any of them could be a bolt hole. Maybe Fred, he still lived in California… somewhere. It was far enough for now… After that, maybe he could contact some of his family in England? He would need to get them all passports. There was no way Hicks would be allowed into the UK with his criminal background. Why had he not through of that before!

He cursed when he tried to swing his leg out of bed and his left calf cramped, sending shooting pain up his back and he threw the covers off, reaching for his foot to pull it up before the cramp lasted too long and he would be in even more pain tomorrow.

“Cramp?”

Tony jumped badly, he hadn’t even heard Gibbs climbing the creaky stairs, never mind unlocking the front door. But in his moment of surprise he had let go of his foot as it pointed forwards again and he only just managed to swallow his cry of pain. Then one of Gibbs’s hands was on his calf as the other grabbed his foot and bent it up with a hard tug, and this time Tony couldn’t strangle his cry, as he blindly reached out, fisting a hand into the cloth of Gibbs shirt by his shoulder. But the relief came soon after, leaving him on his back as he stared at the ceiling. As the pain faded he felt Gibbs begin to rub the blood back into his calf roughly.

“You would think.” Tony whispered. “That with all the nerve damage I have… It wouldn’t hurt so much.”

“Better then not feeling it.” Gibbs answered. “I guess I don’t have to apologise for waking you at least.”

“Wasn’t sleeping.” Tony moaned as Gibbs dug his fingers into a sore spot.

“Thinking?” Gibbs asked.

“Too much.” Tony sighed as he felt Gibbs stop, then the covers being thrown over him. He looked up to see the other man striding around to his side of the bed, already removing his shirt. “I wasn’t expecting you home tonight.” He said softly.

“Sure.” Gibbs drawled before giving him a smile and sitting down on the bed to take his socks off. “The kids okay?”

“Said the car broke down.” Tony answered. “They believed me… You still on the case?” He asked.

“Yeah… but unless my team finds anything out tonight, I wont be disturbing you till morning.” Gibbs said as he stood and began removing his trousers.

“You left them still working?” Tony asked, a little shocked, before he smiled in amusement as he made himself more comfortable on his side. “Boss privilege?”

Gibbs smiled at him and he pulled his tee over his head. “They need the experience.”

Tony chuckled, “You need to toughen up McGee though. Couldn’t ask me one question without stammering… Observant though.”

“No doubt the rest of my team are grilling him for information.” Gibbs sighed as he threw the covers back and started to get in, before seeing the book and putting it on his beside table.

“Your own fault.” Tony said as Gibbs finally lay down, facing him. “You shouldn’t have told him to go on protection detail… if you lost anything lately, just ask him, his eyes were everywhere.”

“He’s good at computer stuff.” Gibbs sighed as he leaned up to turn off the lights.

Then they laid there for a bit, just staring at each other in the dark, before Tony finally plucked up the courage to speak. “What are we doing here, Gibbs?” He asked as he looked into the other mans eyes.

“Waiting.” Gibbs smiled at him enigmatically, thankfully knowing where his train of thought was going.

“For?” Tony asked softly.

“For you to be ready.” Gibbs answered.

Tony chewed on his lip for a moment, “And what if I’m ready?”

“Are you?” Gibbs said.

Making Tony want to scream at him, but he looked away, was he ready? He was sure he could be. Despite all his anxiety… “Maybe… are you?”

A slow smile stretched across Gibbs’s face. “Only if you are.”

Tony found himself chuckling. “You’re not going to make this easy on me are you?”

“I’m right here.” Gibbs whispered and Tony’s heart quickened. “And I won’t say no.”

Tony found himself taking in a quick gasp in surprise. Well, at least he didn’t have to worry about that anymore.

“Tell you what.” Gibbs said softly, his eyes sparkling, actually sparkling from the light coming in from the hall. “Why don’t we just start with you calling me, Jethro, and work from there?”

Tony pulled a face.

“Well, you could try, Leroy.” Gibbs chuckled.

“Oh god, that’s worse!” Tony laughed quietly. “How about… Jet?... or…”

“Call me LJ and we might have a problem.” Gibbs was laughing back. “But Jet’s fine.”

Tony just watched the other man for a bit, before he nodded. Then he shuffled forwards, relieved when Gibbs moved to put one arm under his head, the other on his waist, helping to pull him closer. Tony ended up with one arm between their chests, his other rested on Gibbs’s waist. “Night… Jet.” He whispered as he pushed his forehead under Gibbs’s chin then finally relaxed as he closed his eyes.

“Night, Tony.” Gibbs whispered in his ear, as the mans arms pulled him tight for a moment.

Tony let out a slow breath, then fell asleep. More contented than he knew he had any right to be.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + + [Chapter 5]

 

[Three weeks later]

 

Tony stifled a yawn as he tried to concentrate on the movie he was watching as he laid on the sofa, but the volume was too low to keep his attention for long before his eyes started closing, again.

The soft lights from the Christmas tree and around the window were not helping to stop his lethargy.

The kids had tried to help put them up yesterday, but just ended up playing with the baubles he had found cheep in the thrift store, then got bored and gone played in the snow as he put the rest up. Then he had run around after the kids till he managed to put them all to bed.

When he had woken up that morning, after spending another night alone, Jet being on another case that kept him at work all night. Tony had found he could hardly move. His leg had been throbbing and twinging all day, even put him on the floor when he was trying to make dinned when he lost all strength in the damn thing.

Eli had been besides herself as she fretted over him, which probably explained why she was laid on his chest right now, fast asleep.

He had just about been ready to go to bed himself when she came down, saying she had a nightmare. That had been over an hour ago, and he really was ready to call it a day. And he had to get the kids up in the morning for school. Something he wasn’t looking forwards too. Not if today had been anything to go by.

“Hey, Princess.” He uttered, stroking Eli’s hair, trying to wake her.

“Don’t wana.” She muttered, rubbing her face into his chest, her hand fisting in his sweater.

“It’s late and you have school tomorrow.” He whispered. “You want to miss your last few days before the holidays?”

“Nooo.” She groaned, finally lifting her head to look at him. “Can I sleep with you tonight?”

Tony chuckled, it had been a long time since she had asked that. “Your dream that bad?” he asked as he watched her eyes fill with tears.

“I dreamed you were really, really sick.” She sniffed as a tear fell down her cheek. “And dad was really sad.”

Tony’s breath caught in his throat.

“No… No… I mean Jet… I... err…” She started blushing, then whispered. “In my dream he was my dad instead.”

“No need to cry about that.” He said as he wiped the tear away. “And as you can see, I’m not sick.”

“I was so sad.” She said, threatening to cry again.

“It was just a dream,” He assured her. “We dream about stuff that scares us sometimes, so we don’t have to worry about them things during the day.”

“Are your bad dreams like that?” She asked. “The ones that make you wake up and cry?”

“Yeah.” He said, feeling guilty she ever had to hear him.

“You dream about Jet not coming home from work cause he got hurt too?”

Tony sighed, stroking her hair again. “Yeah, I do…” He said honestly. “But he really likes his job, and he’s helping people and catching the bad guys.”

“Helping people like us?” She asked, sitting up, her elbow digging into his diaphragm. “Will he bring home more kids… to replace us?”

“No!” He said, but great, now that was another thought that his anxiety would chew over when he wasn’t expecting it. “I think we are an extra special case… I don’t think he would let us go anytime soon.”

“Too right.”

“Jesus Christ! Jet!” Tony yelled, as he looked over to the hall to see Jet stood grinning at him.

“Uncle! Swearing!” Eli scalded as she got off him, all elbows and knee, hitting every soft spot she could as she scrambled to get up. Then ran towards Jet to throw her arms around his waist and hug him. “I was worried!” She cried and scolded the other man. “You didn’t phone!”

Tony fought to swing his leg off the sofa as he watched Jet getting to his knees so he was on the same level as Eli.

“I had to catch a bad guy who had hurt a lot of people, and wanted to hurt some more.” Jet said.

“But you weren’t here!” She growled, impressively for an eight year old. “Uncle fell down and couldn’t get up for ages!”

Tony saw Jet look up at him with a frown, before turning back to Eli.

“Didn’t I tell you, you could phone me at anytime if you’re scared? And your uncle isn’t around? You remembered the number, right?”

“Yeah. But he was around.” She argued.

Tony smirked a bit as he watched a muscle twitch in Jet‘s jaw.

“Okay, then you can ask him if he needs you to phone me, and if he can’t answer you…?”

“Phone anyway?” She asked.

“Yup. Every time… Now, isn’t it past your bedtime young lady?”

“I had a bad dream.” Eli said, then once again threw herself into Jet’s arms. “You were sad… Can I sleep with you guys tonight?”

Tony gave Jet a shrug as the other man looked at him over Eli’s shoulder. After all, he didn’t mind.

“Fine.” Jet sighed. “But just tonight. And no complaining if I have to get up and go to work, you have school in the morning.”

“I know.” Eli said, then yawned.

“Now, go on up. While I help your uncle up.” Jet said, getting to his feet, stiffly. No doubt he had ignored his knee so it had become inflamed again.

Tony watched Eli run off as Jet came over to him and sat down at his side with a deep sigh.

“I take it it was a bad one.” Tony said softly.

“Two raped and murdered petty officers, with the third missing…”

“You find her?” Tony swallowed hard.

“Yeah. Alive, but not so well… but she’ll live.” Jet sighed as he put his head back.

Tony didn’t know what to say to that, lost in his own thoughts. She might be alive, but he knew the living part wasn’t going to be easy for the un-named woman.

“How long did you spend on the floor?” Jet suddenly asked and Tony felt a hand run down his back.

“Did too much yesterday.” He said, waving his hand at the small plastic tree and fairy lights. “Leg just isn’t playing ball… Gave out of me in the kitchen, just took me a while to get up.”

“How long?”

“About twenty minutes.” He sighed out an answer. “So I’m getting better.” He grinned at the other man, who was now looking at him critically. “I shaved ten minutes off my time!” he protested.

“You need more aids?” Jet asked.

Tony rolled his eyes. Sure, the grab rails they had installed beside the toilets and in the shower were a massive help, even the plastic stool in the shower was a god send. “I don’t think we can put grab rails all over the house, Jet.” Then he grinned. “Unless you want to get me a strapping young live-in nurse to lift me up and carry me around in his arms all day… OUCH!” He yelped when Jet poked him hard in the side. “Great, just add to the bruises our little angel just gave me as she got up!” He protested, rubbing the sore spot. Then wondered why Jet was looking at him funny. “What?”

“Nothing.” Jet said as his face morphed into a smile as he sat up. “You still hurting?”

Tony shrugged. “When am I not?” He asked, then sighed as Jet’s eyes got that annoyed look. “Fine. It hurts like a bitch. I was hoping to take some tramadol tonight, but I guess that’s out the question.”

“Do you need it?”

Tony shook his head, “I’ll manage… If I need to I’ll get the Spencer’s to come pick Miki up tomorrow, then pass out till the kids come home.” He promised. Jet had seen him on the stuff and knew he couldn’t look after the kids when he was taking it, either he was loopy or he passed out. But he had also helped Tony up off the floor enough times to know how scary it must be for them all when they saw him go down.

“Come on then.” Jet nodded as he got stiffly to his feet with some effort.

“Your knee playing you up?” Tony asked as he took the hands held out to him.

“I’ll manage.” Jet parroted back as he pulled.

Tony growled as he got to his feet, then spent some time just clinging to the other man as he breathed through his pain. Maybe he would take some tonight, and hope he just passed out. “My crutch.” He growled. It was still on the floor along side the soft.

“Can you stand for a moment?” Jet asked.

“Quick.” Tony said through his teeth, then Jet was moving away, but not far, so Tony could keep a steadying hand on the man as he bent to pick up the crutch, then he was holding Tony as he got it on his arm. Letting it take his weight till he was steady on his right leg. “Sorry.”

“Nothing to be sorry for.” Jet said, and Tony knew it was something he said a lot. But Tony wouldn’t stop apologising. “Come on; let’s get you to bed… Then a tramadol nightcap.”

Tony didn’t protest as they made their way over to the stairs.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs had woken that morning on the edge of the bed, a small foot in the middle of his back, almost trying to push him off completely. At first he wondered why Kelly was in their bed, before he remembered, with a pang of grief that it was Eli.

The little monster had been asleep when he had dragged Tony up the stairs. And like a cat, she had sprawled across the entirety of the bed, and had resisted all efforts to get her to give the adults some space till Tony had just pushed her onto her side, rolling her into a sausage.

So he had gotten up, his knee protesting, to make the kids their breakfasts, made sure they all got up as quietly as possible, fed them, made Eli and Danny their lunches, waved them off as Susan picked them up, then bundled Miki up and taken him over to the Spencer’s. Who all but snatched the little boy and slammed the door in Gibbs’s face.

So now he was looking at Tony as he slept, making cute little snorting noises in his sleep as he tried to snuggle the covers against his chest. He wondered if he should wake him and feed him another tramadol and hope, like last night, he just slept it off, giving his leg a chance to rest.

“Humm…” He heard Tony hum as he was turning onto his side so he was facing Gibbs, and onto his bad leg. Something he rarely did. “What ya doin?”

“I was about to see if you needed waking up.” Gibbs grinned.

“Hummmm… I’m ‘wake…” Tony said sloppily, meaning the painkillers were still making him loopy. Then he was reaching out a hand toward him.

Gibbs watched the hand waving around before he stepped forward and took it, then Tony was trying to pull him closer, but was too weak to do so.

“Too far.” Tony pouted.

Gibbs sighed as he perched on the side of the bed, facing the other man. Then he helped Tony sit up as the younger man tried to pull himself into a sitting position, using Gibbs shirt. Then he found his arms full as Tony flopped against him.

“Umm… warm.” Tony purred. “Am I dreamin’?”

“Nope.”

“Rugrats?”

“Fed, watered and out.” Gibbs answered the slurred question as Tony moved until they were chest to chest. Tony’s arms around him like an octopus.

“Am dreamin’ then.” Tony hummed into Gibbs ear.

Gibbs tuned his head to try and see how blown Tony’s eyes were when he found the younger man’s lips on his own. Then a tongue licking across his lips, in a sloppy form of seduction.

Even through this was what he had been anticipating, this wasn’t how he wanted it… It also didn’t help that he wanted to laugh.

He found himself holding Tony upright as he suddenly flopped his head back and groaned. “Ugg… gimmi.” Tony complained. “Dream Jet is meant to kiss me back… meanie…”

“Real Jet would prefer you try this again when you aren’t so stoned.” Gibbs laughed.

Tony lifted his head a little and peered at him through one eye, down his attractive nose. “Kiss me anyway.” He pouted.

Gibbs did laugh then. “I can’t when you’re all floppy.”

“Then stop giving me drugs… Meanie.” Tony grinned, then he was sitting up again and Gibbs let Tony deepen the sloppy kiss, as he fisted his hands in Tony’s soft hair.

When they pulled apart, a little breathlessly, Tony was licking his lips. “Who knew.” He said with a little smirk. “Dreams could taste so gooood!”

“At least one of us is minty fresh.” He said as Tony scrunched up his nose.

“Cant tell me I is stinky.” Tony complained as his whole body seemed to melt and Gibbs found himself being pulled down with him. “Humm… comfy…”

“If you say so.” Gibbs said as he tried to make himself more comfortable.

“Shhh…” Tony sounded like he was about to go back to sleep again. “Yeah know Eli called you ‘dad’ last night.”

Gibbs blinked.

“Well, she dreamed it… but I guess it counts, as you’re my dream…”

“Tony…” Gibbs whispered.

“Humm?...” Tony sighed as his arms relaxed from around Gibbs’s sides.

“I’m not a dream.” He whispered.

“Then marry me!” Tony stirred, but didn’t open his eyes.

Gibbs swallowed the lump in his throat. “I would if I could.” He whispered hoarsely.

Tony squirmed a little, then gave a little whine of discomfort. “It’s a dream…” Tony complained. “You can make it ha… happen…”

Gibbs felt the moment Tony fell asleep again as he became a dead weight, he didn’t even stir when Gibbs managed to retrieve his arms from under Tony’s back.

He got up stiffly; pulled the covers from around Tony’s legs, made sure his left leg wasn’t twisted, before putting the covers back. He then sat down again on the side of the bed and just looked at the younger man as he slept, placing a hand on Tony’s chest, just to feel him breathing.

And god help him, he would marry the man if he could.

But he had to ask himself why…

After all, his track record with marriage wasn’t inspiring.

Over six month of abstaining from sex… He hadn’t missed.

Six months of taking on a stranger and his kids. Turning his home over to the same four strangers without a second thought… Then looking forward to coming home each night.

Six months of having to deal with all of the strangers crippling mental and physical disabilities… And regretting every moment he wasn’t there to help him through it instead of hiding at work.

Six months of hardly having any free time to work on his boat… And hardly missing it, or if he did go down to his basement to clear his head. He knew he wouldn’t be condemned for it, and there would still be someone in his bed when he crawled back to reality.

Six months of risking his job and reputation… And just wondering where he could open a hardware store if it all went to hell.

Six months of lusting after the pretty handsome stranger… Only to find himself falling in love with the mans mind and quick whit.

He ran his other hand over his face.

Living his whole life knowing he was bi, but only falling for women, choosing a career in a strong homophobic environment, then carrying it on, working from the outside in. And here he was, falling for a brilliant smile and a good sob story.

But so help him, his gut had been right that cold night, and he still couldn’t find a fibre in him to regret it.

He hadn’t been this happy in a long time.

Tony moved a little under his hand, but didn’t wake up.

Gibbs sighed; thankful he had the day off, and he would make sure Tony took it easy today; in the house he had made a home.

Especially if the living room was anything to go by. He smiled to himself. He wasn’t sure about the multicoloured lights around the window, and the tree seemed a bit thread bare, but it had been years since he had given any thought to the holidays… and this year, he actually had something to look forwards too.

He leaned forwards, touching his lips to Tony’s. “Thank you.” He said to the sleeping man as he moved hair from his forehead.

Then he got up and left the room. He had a cold case file to get out of his car that he knew Tony would love, especially as the last three cases he had given Tony; he had solved in a few hours, almost finding it boring.

Then he had lunch to make and a boat that desperately needed sanding till sleeping beauty woke up.

 

 + + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Tony woke with a groan as the light from the window told him it was late… too late!

He tried to sit up but his back protested at being asleep to long, and he flopped back on the bed with another groan. Then he remembered it was Monday and with a great deal of effort he managed to sit up. That was when his leg told him it still wasn’t happy as it throbbed more than usual. “Bastard thing.” He muttered at it as he pointed his toes for a moment, then bent them back as far as they would go, gritting his teeth as his muscles stretched, all the while, trying to rub the pain from the scar that was most of his left thigh.

He was just about to try getting out of the bed and to the toilet when he heard someone climbing the stairs, and froze.

The Footfall was too heavy to be one of the kids and he started looking for a weapon on his bedside table. A couple of paperbacks, his ointment, his cell phone and an empty mug. He grabbed the mug, if he threw it right he could stun who ever was now opening the door.

“Jet!” He growled as the other man came into the room, pushing the door open with his back, and carrying a tray.

“Hello.” Jet smiled at him, then his eyes looked at the mug. “Bit small to take a leek in.”

Tony frowned, then put the mug down with a thump. “I wasn’t expecting you home…” He said as he heaved himself up the bed when Jet gestured using the tray, letting him know he should move.

“What time is it?” He asked as Jet sat down at the end of the bed, then placed the tray on his lap.

“Late enough for lunch.” Jet said as Tony looked at the tray with two sandwiches, two mugs of coffee and what looked like cream filled doughnuts.

“What about the kids?”

Jet started chuckling. “I’m guessing you can’t remember our conversation this morning?” he was then handing Tony a sandwich, cheese and Branston pickle.

Tony took a bite, then hummed as the pickle assaulted his taste buds. “So good… And… err…” Tony chewed as he thought, then he groaned at what he thought had been a dream came back to him and he put a hand over his eyes. “Sorry.” He said. “I was still stoned.”

“I know… and…”

“Nothing to be sorry for… I know.” He sighed as he let his hand fall. “I just… I loose the filter between my brain and my mouth when I’m stoned.”

“You were just being honest.” Jet replied, his attention on his own sandwich.

Tony took another mouthful as he tried not to be too embarrassed. He had asked the guy to marry him for Christ sake… and he had kissed him!!

He swallowed his mouthful and it went down hard.

“Hu?” Jet grunted at him, seeing him staring.

“Err…” He uttered. It had been… nice. It had been a long time, years, since he had actually kissed someone like that… well… willingly… were he initiated it… Where he wanted it… And god he wanted it! “Minty fresh…” He scoffed out, amused.

Jet shrugged at him. “I wasn’t complaining…. Much.”

Tony laughed aloud.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs stood in the doorway of the kitchen as he watched Tony sat on the sofa.

After they had eaten lunch, he had helped Tony get up and go to the head, then gotten his clothes, even helped him put his socks on. Then assisted him get down the stairs and onto the sofa.

It was obvious to him that Tony was not having a good day and was in a lot of pain, even though Gibbs had only managed to convince him to take some Tylanol.

He took another sip of his coffee.

Now Tony had one hand up to his mouth as the other turned a page in the cold case file Gibbs had given him.

None of Gibbs’s agent had been able to add anything new, dismissing the cold case as totally lost, but that, sadly, hadn’t surprised him. Gibbs knew there was something he was missing, but annoyingly, he just couldn’t put his finger on it.

“You gonna stand there staring at me?… or make me a cup of tea?” Tony said without looking up.

Gibbs did as he was told and came back with the brew; just the way he knew Tony liked it. He put the cup down on the coffee table and sat down next to the other man.

“Got anything?” He couldn’t help but ask.

He knew from the other cases he had given the ex-detective, that he should just leave the man to it till he came to his eureka moment, or just threw the case file to one said with an annoyed growl.

“You need to question the fiancé again.” Tony said. “She said she had gone to watch ‘The Others’ with her girl friends the night of his death… but it was only released in November three days after he was found dead in October, so you might also want to question her friends… Also, from glancing at her phone records, she didn’t call anyone the day after he was found, bit strange don’t you think? She wasn’t calling her nearest and dearest?… She did it, or she knows who did.”

“Hu…” Gibbs said taking the paper Tony passed him, looking over the phone records. “Always the wife.”

“Nine times out of ten.” Tony uttered as he carried on reading. “I don’t see her financials here… See if she had any large sums of money leave her account, or an accumulation over a few weeks, months…”

“At’a boy.” Gibbs said as he reached out and ran a hand over Tony’s head, earning a grin from the other man. “I’ll sort it out tomorrow.”

“Not today?” Tony asked, looking at him in surprise.

“Nope, not today.” Gibbs said. “It’s my day off.”

Tony made a ‘pfft’ sound, not believing him.

“I have something more important to do today.” He answered.

“Looking after the cripple who’s solving your cold cases?” Tony asked.

“Tony.” Gibbs warned. Not liking the way Tony used the word ‘Cripple’ in relation to himself. “I was more thinking I was looking after my… Better half.” He watched Tony’s eyes widened, then his pretty lips open, then close. Gibbs got bolder as he leaned towards the other man. “Boyfriend?” he asked. “Fiancé?” he whispered. He watched as Tony’s cheeks reddened.

“Crap…” Tony cursed softly. “In my defence I was high and half asleep.” Gibbs watched as Tony seemed to rally himself as a slow smile ghosted over his face. “Are you proposing?”

Gibbs felt his heart beat hard in his chest. But he knew he had taken to long to answer as Tony finally looked away, his eyes downcast.

“Hey.” He said, making the other man glance at him sideways. “If you could… Tony Paddington… Would you marry me?”

With a shy smile, Tony answered. “I want a ring.”

“Is that a ‘yes’?” Gibbs asked as he leaned directly into Tony’s personal space.

“Yes.” Tony smiled at him.

“Then I’ll get you that ring.” He replied, then leaned in and kissed Tony. The other man responded instantly, and within moments, he was pushing the younger man back onto the sofa, devouring his mouth as Tony’s hands fisted into his hair, holding him in place as their tongues fought with each other in a dance neither of them wanted to stop.

“Get OFF HIM!”

Gibbs jumped when he felt a small fist get punched into his side.

“Eli!” Tony said crossly beneath him as Gibbs turned as the little girl grabbed his arm and began to try and pull him off the sofa. She looked angry and upset as she was doing it.

“No, Eli, it’s okay…” Tony said as he tried to reach for the girl.

“NO!” Eli protested again as Gibbs managed to sit up without knocking her over. “Stop hurting him!”

“Eli… Eli… He’s not hurting me. I promise.” Tony said as Gibbs reached out with his other arm and helped to pull Tony up.

“But… but…” She said and Gibbs saw tears in her eyes, then he looked over to see Danny staring at them from the hall, he was also crying.

“Come here.” Tony said as he reached his arms out to them both, and reluctantly they went to him, but both kids gave Gibbs a wide birth, going around the coffee table till Tony pulled them against his side. “Jet wasn’t hurting me.”

“But…?” Danny sniffed through his tears and Gibbs once again wanted to find Hicks and bury him so deep, the centre of the earth would burn him to ash.

“This is not the same as what… he… did. I wanted this.” Tony was telling them as he hugged them close. Then Gibbs saw Tony glance at him. “He just promised me that he won’t leave us.”

Gibbs couldn’t help but reach out and put a hand on Tony’s shoulder. “And that you guys wont leave me either.” He said softly. “And I promise, I won’t hurt your uncle.” Then he leaned towards the kids. “But if he wants to kiss me, will you let him?”

Danny pulled a disgusted face, Eli didn’t look happy about it, but she did nod once.

“Thanks.” He told her softly. “And I’m guessing it’s pizza for dinner?” That made the kids tears stop as they looked at Tony imploringly.

“Only with anchovies.” Tony teased, making them pull faces as they shrieked in protest.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

[Christmas day]

 

Tony yawned loudly as he stretched on the sofa.

The house was a mess. They had cleaned up most of the wrapping paper and boxes, but bits still littered the carpet, the washing up was still in the sink, the leftovers from Christmas dinner were in the fridge where he would fry it all up for lunch tomorrow. He had purposefully made too much for when Ducky came round. Gibbs has said the ME had invited himself over, but Tony hadn’t minded, the kids seemed too really like the older man, especially his stories, to they were thrilled.

Now though, the kids were in bed… or at least in their room, probably playing with their new toys. He had gotten them all a PS2 to share, it was second hand, but they didn’t seem to mind, and a few games they could play. Eli got a doll he had seen her looking at in a magazine. Danny got a fire truck, with a little city play set and for Miki he got a Noah’s ark play set he couldn’t chock on. He had also gotten them all a variety box of candy bars.

Jet had gotten them all three wheel scooters and they had spent a good half hour roaming up and down the living room and around the dining room table. Bemoaning that they couldn’t use them outside because of the snow and ice.

Tony was just happy, that for the first time in their short lives, they actually had a Christmas with no drama or angry screaming… Well, the only screaming was from the kids when they had seen the scooters.

Tony had finally found some new crime novels for Jet for an author he had seen the other man reading. He had also found a leather workers in the same mall just outside the city, and bought him a very nice leather wallet and had it inscribed with Jet initials.

Jet had bought him a new set of cookware. Which Tony had laughed over, especially when he had complained jokingly that he couldn’t make good meals with crap pans. But he had been impressed; they were a really good make. Jet had also bought him a laptop. Tony had been speechless. Especially when Jet told him someone would be coming around after New Years to get it on the internet.

He had also made everyone watch ‘It’s a wonderful life.’ That he had found second hand on VHS when getting the second hand decorations. He hadn’t watched the movie in years, but he was determined to make it a Chrisman tradition as it once was for him and his sister.

“Hey… Almost ready for bed?” Jet asked as he came in with a coffee in one hand and a tea in the other.

“Drinking in bed?” Tony chuckled as he sat up, his leg had gone stiff so he had to push and shove it off the sofa, damn it. “You’re leading me down a dangerous path Jethro.”

“I can go get the bourbon from the basement if you really want to go wild with a proper night cap.” Jet chucked as he sat down next to him, handing him his tea. But when Jet razed his arm, Tony leaned back against the other man as Jet put his arm around his shoulders, pulling him close. “Thanks for today.” Jet whispered into his ear.

“Hu?” Tony asked in confusion, glancing sideways at the other man as he sipped his tea, then moaned, it was just the way he liked it and it seemed to make the challenge that the day had been all worth it, like a little reward for all his hard work cooking. “Humm… That’s hitting the spot.” He purred, taking another sip. “And all I did was cook.” He yawned.

He saw Jet’s cup wave around at the room, “For everything.” Jet said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve actually enjoyed this holiday.”

“You’re not the only one.” Tony whispered back, purposefully not looking at the other man, “I… I don’t think the kids have ever had a Christmas that didn’t have some form of… drama, at some point…”

“They seemed happy enough.” Jet said just as quietly.

Tony nodded. Eli sometimes looked like she was expecting something to kick off, but he hoped he had distracted her whenever he saw a haunted look in her eyes. “They were…” Tony answered. Then he sat forwards and with a bit of effort, he pulled himself around so he was facing the other man, putting his tea down as he did so. He finally settled back against Jet’s side, the other man’s arm still around his shoulders.  “And so was I…” He smiled shyly into those stunning ice blue eyes.

He watched a slow smile spread across Jet’s lips as the other man was putting his coffee on the floor forgotten, never losing eye contact as he did so. Then Tony found Jet leaning into him, and a tingle of anticipation went through him, they had stolen kisses hear and there since that first time.

At first it surprised Tony that the man never pushed for more, a fact Tony was grateful for, as he hadn’t been ready for anything else, not mentally, and defiantly not physically. But his body had slowly been getting a stirring of interest since their first kiss, if his first morning wood in years a few day’s ago was anything to go by. And as Jet lips pressed against his own he felt a fluttering in his belly.

As Jet’s fingers laced through his hair, he felt his other hand on his legs, pulling them up onto his lap. Tony reached out and helped as best he could as he opened his lips to the other man, who was pulling him close while also pushing him back into the sofa as they deepened the kiss.

Tony let himself just float as they made out like teenagers. His hands fisting into the other mans hair. He wasn’t sure how long they were groping at each other before he felt his jeans getting tight and with a grunt of surprise he pushed the other man way with one hand on his chest.

He tried to catch his breath as he looked up at Jet who was sat up, blinking down at him, a frown of puzzlement on his brow.

“Your leg?” Jet asked, as he ran a hand over Tony’s legs that were still over his own.

Tony looked down purposefully to his crotch, blinking himself.  “Err… no…” He answered. Christ, he was hard!.

“Oh.” He heard Jet exclaim. “That’s new.”

“Yeah…” Tony said incredulously as he just looked at his bulging jeans.

“Can I?” Jet asked and Tony grabbed the wrist that was hovering over his flies, stopping Jet’s reaching hand.

He looked up at the other man and knew instantly that if he refused, Jet would not hold it against him. Would probably just pull him back into his arms and hold him till it went away. Would probably tell him it was all right, then take him to bed and hold him as the just slept.

Finally Tony forced the fear down as he bit his lip then nodded once as he let got of Jet’s wrist and pulled his hand away.

- - - -

An embarrassing short while later, Tony lay gasping for air, one fist still shoved against his mouth to stop from screaming his release to loud, the other fisted in the shoulder of Jet’s shirt.

At first, after opening his fly and releasing him from his boxers, Jet had used his hand on Tony’s flagging member, then with a bit of awkward manoeuvring, pushing Tony up the sofa, Jet had given Tony the best blowjob of his life!

When he could finally see straight, he looked up at his partner,

Jet was grinning at him as Tony realised he was putting himself away too. He hadn’t even noticed Jet had been giving himself a hand job. And he would have felt a little guilty, but he knew there was no way he could have returned the favour. Physically he was too exhausted and mentally? There was just no way he could even contemplate that, if ever again.

“You okay down there?” Jet asked with a grin.

Tony purred at him. “I think you broke me.” He answered with his own grin, everything felt heavy and loose. “I can’t move.” He demonstrated by trying to lift his arm, then letting it fall back against his chest.

“Am I gonna have to drag you upstairs by your feet?” Jet was chuckling as he reached forwards and began putting Tony back into his own jeans with gentle care.

“I was thinking more carrying me up in your strong arms.” Tony joked as he let his head fall back to look at the stairs. Then sighed, the thought of trying to get up them wasn’t something he was looking forwards too.

“Wana stay here a bit? Or try and make it up while you’re still high on endorphins?” Jet asked.

“Can’t we just stay here?” Tony groaned, but then he struggled to sit up, Jet actually pulling him most of the way. Then yelped when he saw the mess they had both made of their clothes. “Did you have to?” he groaned.

“It’s not like there was a towel anywhere.” Jet laughed at him, then he was lifting Tony’s legs from his own as he started to get up. “Come on then, let’s go get changed and into bed.”

“What times Ducky coming over tomorrow?” Tony asked as Jet began pulling him to his feet. And despite being stiff, he wasn’t in that much pain.

“You okay?” Jet asked once he was on his feet.

“Apart from sticky?” Tony asked, “Not so bad.”

“And he’s coming over about noon.” Jet answered as he began walking backwards towards the stairs, letting Tony use him as a crutch.

“Crap.” Tony cursed, “I guess I can’t sleep in then.”

“Nope.” Jet answered with a grin.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + + [Chapter 6]

 

[One month later]

 

Tony felt awkward.

“It’s gonna be fine,” Jet was smiling at him. “If anyone looks at you funny, I’ll just glair at them, usually works.”

Tony rolled his eyes even as he pulled the hem of his shorts down a little.

“Come on Uncle!” Danny whinnied.

“Fine, Look…”

“Look after Miki and make sure he doest drown, I know!” Danny sighed.

“Go on then, don’t run!” Tony yelled after his nephews as the two boys rushed over to the door that lead to the public swimming pool where their sister would be waiting for them all.

“Now come on.” Jet said with a grin.

Carefully Tony made his way to the pool. He had bought the kids here a few times. But he had just taken a seat next the life guard, and talked to her while the kids played in the pool.

He felt self-conscious.

Sure, in another life, he had never been shy of his body, or showing it off to anyone who wanted to look or play. But that had stopped outside a decimated door on the floor of a filthy apartment hallway.

Now, being hideously scarred and too skinny for his liking. He really didn’t feel like flaunting anything. But when the kids had pestered him they wanted to go swimming on Saturday, Jet had over heard and thought it was a great idea.

So here they were.

Tony had to admit, at least there were some bonuses. Jet in some swimming shorts was a pleasant sight to see.

So when he got to the side of the pool, Jet helped him down so he could sit on the side of the pool, then took his crutch and went over to the lifeguard and asked her to hold it for them. She had been more than happy, and when she saw Tony, she gave him a wide grin then waved at him, which he returned.

“Nice to see you finally getting in.” She said to him as she came over with Jet, he remembered her name was Dawn. “If you need anything, just yell.”

“I will, thanks.” He assured her. Pleased she had only glanced at his leg, but nothing else.

“You have about an hour before the Saturday rush comes in.” She assured him as she then looked over the pool. Apart from the kids who were still in the shallow end, there was only three other people swimming lengths at the other side and paying them no attention. “When you want to get out, let me know so I can help.”

“Thanks.” Jet said to her as she smiled at them both, then went back to her station.

“Ok, lets get you in.” Jet said as he sat down next to him, then hopped into the water. “Come on then.” He said, holding out his arms.

Tony leaned forwards, putting his hands on the other man’s shoulders, then Jet pulled him forward. There was a second of panic before he was in the water and clutching at Jet. It took him a moment to get his bearing, but the feeling of the water taking the weight off his leg was nice.

“Come play!” Eli said as she came over to them, dragging Miki by the hand as he floated in his rubber ring.

“I thought you wanted to swim.” Tony teased her, knowing she just wanted to dump her little brother on him.

“No going into the deep end.” Tony told her as he reached out to take Miki’s hand as he kept his other hand on Jet for balance.

“I know!” She sang as she swam off.

“She’s a good swimmer.” Jet observed.

“Mari insisted on it, I think it was her escape and something she could just do with the kids.”

“I guess it’s up to you then to teach Miki here.” Jet put a hand on his back, comfortingly.

Tony gave him a sad smile. “Yeah.”

“I can look after him if you want to try swimming yourself?” He said as he nodded over to the other adults swimming lengths.

Tony wasn’t sure if he still had the strength, but he couldn’t deny the pull of just trying. He remembered his physio saying it would be the best exercise.

“Go.” Jet nudged him.

Tony didn’t need anymore prompting as he made his way over to the slightly deeper end of the pool.

By the time he had finished his fourth lap he had to admit defeat as he swam back over to his family.

Jet was still teaching Miki how to swim, and was now letting the little boy hold his hands as he walked backwards and Miki’s face was a picture of concentration.

“Swimmin!” Miki said excitedly as he saw Tony.

“Yes you are!” Tony clapped his hands as he came over to them. “Soon you’re gonna be a fish!”

Miki’s eyes lit up. “Dophin!”

“Yup, dolphin.” Tony laughed. Then Jet was holding Miki by the waist as the little boy splashed his way towards Tony.

Tony laughed as he sank down and gave his nephew a hug when he got to him. “Such a clever boy.”

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs could see how the little exercise had exhausted his lover, but how much he also seemed happy and relaxed, and he fell in love with the man all over again as he played with his nephew's and niece.

“Ok kids.” He said as he swam closer. “You have another five minutes before we have to go.” There was a round of groans. “You have till I get your uncle out of the pool… no pouting, or we don’t go get ice-cream.” That got the pet lips put away as they all brightened up. “Now, look after Miki, and go play.”

“Yaay, Ice-cream!” Tony grinned at him.

“Shut it.” Gibbs grinned at him. “Not like you’re not exited too.”

Tony shrugged. “Guilty pleasure.” He grinned, truly happy.

“Come on… Think you can climb the stairs?” He asked as he put an arm around Tony’s waist and pulled him towards the side of the pool.

“I can.” Tony said. “But standing when I get up there? Maybe not so well.” He confessed.

Once they were at the side by the stairs. Gibbs turned Tony around to face him. “Ok, lets try something else, let’s hop you up onto the side.”

Tony put his hands on his shoulders as Gibbs put his hands on Tony’s waist.

“Ready?” Gibbs asked. Tony nodded, then Tony bent his legs, then with Tony pushing himself up, Gibbs help lift him, then with a grunt, pushed him till Tony was again sitting on the side of the pool. “Okay?” he asked, seeing the slight discomfort in Tony’s eyes.

“I will be. So now what?” Tony asked.

Gibbs used the stairs to get out, then waved to the young lifeguard and as soon as she was him she came over, then pulled one of the chairs at the side of the pool with her.

“Think you can get on the chair?” The young woman asked.

“With a little help.” Tony answered.

Gibbs put one hand under Tony’s right arm, his other on the chair. “On three.” He said as the young lifeguard braced her foot against the chair. “One, two, Three.” Then he was pulling Tony up as Tony was using his right leg to push himself up. But just as they had Tony over the chair, Tony’s foot slipped and he sat down hard with a grunt of pain.

“Are you okay?” The young woman asked, concerned.

“Just give him a moment.” Gibbs answered for him. The grip Tony had on his arm was so tight; Gibbs knew he couldn’t speak right now. He glanced over to the kids, who were still to busy splashing about with some other children that they thankfully hadn’t seen. He knew, Eli would be over like a shot if she had, and he wanted her to enjoy what time they had left in the pool.

Then he heard two mothers having a conversation over by the lifeguard station that made his blood boil.

“Should he even be in the pool with that?” One of the women sneered, and she wasn’t even trying to being quiet about it.

“Shh, Wendy. Just looks like a scar.” The other said.

“I still don’t want my kids looking at it… will give them nightmares.” Wendy said in disgust. “And I don’t wana look at cripples.”

Gibbs had had enough as he started to take a step towards them, but Tony hissed at him, tugging on the arm he still held. When he looked down, Tony shook his head once.

Gibbs wanted to ignore the silent plea, his anger was still running sharp through him. But as he looked back up he saw the young lifeguard turning to the woman.

“This man was injured in the line of duty.” The lifeguard snapped at the woman as she simultaneously put her hand on Tony’s shoulder. “And if he wants to use our pool to help him exercise with his family, then he has every right too!”

“I was just saying.” Wendy looked down her nose at them.

“Then don’t!” Gibbs couldn’t help but snarl. At least Wendy’s friend looked more embarrassed as the life guard walked over and snatched up Tony’s crutch and brought it back to them.

“I’m sorry about that.” the young woman said as Tony took his crutch. “Your welcome here anytime, I’ll ask the boss if you can have a few free admissions and one for your family.”

“You don’t have too.” Tony said softly.

The woman waved her hand dismissively. “Pfft. Not a problem, though if you want to come alone, I’ll ask my bro to come down and help you get out. We have a few vets come in, I’ve seen it helps a lot.”

Tony chuckled. “Simon? Getting wet?”

“He will if I ask him nicely.” She was grinning. “And the best time to come on weekdays is after all the kids are in school. Or really early in the morning.” She patted his shoulder. “You stay here as long as you need, but I gotta make sure no one tries to drown themselves.”

“Thanks, Dawn.”

“Friendly.” Gibbs said as she went back to her station.

“Yeah. Talked to her while the kids are playing.” Tony grinned up at him. “Jealous?”

Gibbs rolled his eyes in exasperation. “You ready to go get dry?”

Tony sighed. “Kids!” He called.

“Aww, just five minutes more!” Danny cried.

Gibbs was about to tell them to move, when Tony spoke again. “You have till that clock says ten, then I want you all out and getting dressed.”

“I’ll make sure they are.” The Lifeguard called over to them.

“Thanks again!” Tony told her. Gibbs noticed he didn’t turn to look over to her, where Wendy was glowering at them still.

Gibbs fought down his anger at her, though it was hard as he helped get Tony back on his feet, making sure he didn’t take a header back into the poor, or onto the slick tiles under foot.

“Ignore her.” Tony whispered as his side as they made their way back to the changing room. “She’s probably homophobic too.”

“Ya think?” Gibbs asked as he couldn’t help but grin.

“Her type always are.” Tony said, preoccupied with trying not to slip.

Gibbs quickly moved the hand he had on Tony’s lower back, to help steady him, down to the other man’s behind, where he quickly cupped a feel. When Tony turned to him in shock as Gibbs moved his hand back, Gibbs swiftly moved in to plant a chaste kiss to the other mans lips, before pulling away as Tony gawped at him. But it had the desired affect as he heard something fall to the floor, then Wendy was cursing as the lifeguard was laughing. So the little display had the desired result.

“Worked.” He apologised, but couldn’t stop the grin.

Tony slowly returned the grin. “I hope whatever she dropped, broke.”

Gibbs looked over their shoulder as they began to walk forwards again. “Looks like a cell phone.”

“Oh… shame.” Tony chuckled.

Then Gibbs saw the lifeguard giving him a thumbs up, so he gave her a nod. Then they were in the changing room. Gibbs first busied himself with helping Tony shower, then dried him off first, finally leaving him to dress as he did the same for himself. Then they sat and waited for the kids.

“You really shouldn’t let people saying stuff like that get to you.” Tony said softly.

Gibbs knew what he was talking about, but it did still bother him. “Don’t mean I have to like it.”

“True.” Tony acknowledged. “I don’t like it either. But she’s not the first, and she won’t be the last. Some people are just that way, cruel and mean.”

“It will be the last time if I have anything to do with it.” Gibbs grumbled.

“Yes, dear.” Tony said sarcastically as Gibbs watched him pat his leg just as sarcastically. “But thanks.” He said softly.

Gibbs reached out and held the hand that was still on his leg. “Any time.”

Then Danny and Miki were trudging into the changing room like they were going to the gallows.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

[Over a months later]

 

Gibbs couldn’t help but smile as he watched Tony purring as he savoured his ice cream.

Gibbs had booked the Italian restaurant a month ago, he had thought about trying to find somewhere for Valentines Day, then thought better of it. But what he had in his pocket just couldn’t wait anymore.

What had been a surprise was the look on Tony’s face when a pianist had started playing in the restaurant, then finding out the man sat across from him could actually play. It had taken a little sweet talking, but finally Tony had performed one song, much to the pleasure of the other guests and staff alike.

“Hummm… you just gonna sit there grinning at me?” Tony finally said. “Or are you gonna eat that?” he asked. “Cos I’m about to order seconds!”

Gibbs sighed, he was going to eat his own ice-cream, but he pushed it over anyway. “You can order more if you want.” He said indulgently. He had already told the other man, they were not going to go Dutch, and that he was paying for it, even if their desserts were free, a little gift from the owner.

So Gibbs put his chin on his fist and watched his partner licking his spoon. It was stupid, but there was just something alluring about watching Tony eat sometimes. Especially when he was being incredibly adorable over something he liked so much.

“We can stop at the store on the way home and buy more you know?” He offered.

Tony snorted. “The kids will smell it the second I put it in the freezer.” He sighed, anther spoon full of dessert heading towards his mouth. “and I wouldn’t get a look in.”

Gibbs nodded, it was true, he’d seen it happen. “Cos they have you wrapped around their little fingers.”

“Pfft, you too!” Tony chuckled. Not denying it. After all, it was true. Though Tony wouldn’t let them get away with a lot of stuff when push came to shove.

So he let the other man eat as he reached into his pocket and pulled out what was inside. He waited until he was sure Tony was on the last mouthful, short of licking out the bowl. Then put the little black box on the table, and making sure Tony saw it, he pushed it over the table cloth towards the other man.

“What…?” Tony asked, as he pulled the spoon from his mouth, looking down at the box before lifting his wide eyes up to him.

“A promise I hope to keep.” Gibbs replied softly. The restaurant’s patronage had thinned out while they had been there, and they were in a sami private corner. But he still kept his voice low.

Tony carried on looking at the box, before he finally reached out. He took so long, Gibbs feared he was going to reject it outright.

Slowly the other man held it with both hands, then slowly opened it to peer inside. Then his eyes shot up again as his mouth opened.

“Will you?” Gibbs asked as he reached out a hand, laying it palm up on the table.

Slowly Tony’s closed his mouth, then smiled at him. “I will.” he said softly as he rested his own hand in Gibbs’s on the table, a slight blush went over his cheeks as he pushed the box back towards Gibbs. So he took it, opened it to reveal two plain silver bands, taking out one, he took Tony’s left hand, pushing it onto Tony’s ring finger. Relieved when the thing actually seemed to fit. It had taken some wily investigating to try and get the right fit.

“How?” Tony was asking as he looked at his finger, now adorned with his silver promise.

“I am a trained investigator.” Gibbs answered evasively. It was half the truth. The other had been measuring Tony’s fingers against his own with the pretext of playing with the other man’s fingers when they were snuggling.

“Sure.” Tony grinned. Then he was reaching over and plucked the second ring out and quickly slipped it onto Gibbs own finger. “There… You’re mine now!” Tony exclaimed.

Gibbs laughed. Feeling the warmth of that fill his chest. “I could say the same thing.”

Tony shrugged with one shoulder. “I’m not arguing about that.” He smiled, though his red cheeks seemed to get darker.

The urge to lean over the table and kiss his partner was almost overwhelming, but he saw the waiter lingering just off to the side, too close for Gibbs’s liking. “Good.” He said instead. “So, you wana drink up and go home?” he asked. Tony still had half a bottle of his third beer left.

“Ugg.” Tony groaned as he picked up the class in his free hand. His other still holding Gibbs’s on the table. “I’ll need it.” He said taking a swig. “How could you forget my disability tag!”

“You forgot too.” Gibbs shot back as he sipped the last of his coke. Though how either of them had forgotten was a mystery, as Tony had been in pain that morning, before Gibbs had had to go to work late because he had sorted out the kids for school.

“Can’t you go get the car and come pick me up?” Tony asked, whining a little.

“It’s not that far.” Gibbs answered, and it really wasn’t, it was just up the street. “And I think these guys want to go home.”

He watched as Tony looked around, seeing how fidgety the wait staff was being as they hovered, ready to bring checks the moment anyone asked.

“Fine.” Tony sighed.

It didn’t take Gibbs long to settle the bill, then he was helping Tony into his jacket, pulled him up out of his chair and handed him his crutch.

Then they stepped out into the unusually cold March night.

“Jesus!” Tony cursed as Gibbs felt him stumble a little. “If it starts snowing, I’m not going to be surprised!”

Gibbs looked up at the dark clear sky. “I think we might be saved from that.” He said pointing up as they passed the front of the restaurant.

“Ugg… still doesn’t stop it being cold.” Tony complained.

“Just a little further and you can put the heating on full blast.” Gibbs offered, He could see the truck in the distance, and was reaching for his keys in his pocket when he felt Tony lurch into his side, but he wasn’t quick enough to grab the other man as Tony slumped to the ground with a groan of pain.

“Ouuuuch!” Tony growled. “Fucking leg!”

Gibbs instantly went down too. “Cramp?”

“No… just gave way… gimmi a sec.” Tony sighed as he got himself comfortable on the dirty sidewalk. “Doesn’t help you didn’t ply me with enough booze!” he joked.

Gibbs could tell he wasn’t drunk enough for it not to hurt. He stood up to see if he could get the truck any closer without double parking. But he couldn’t see any free spaces until he looked over the street where someone was pulling out, then he saw a figure stood looking at him, the man was wearing a ball cap as he stood beneath a street light, so he couldn’t see his face, but Gibbs’s gut churned ominously, he knew he recognised that man, but he didn’t know why. What ever it was couldn’t be good. He glanced at his truck again, then back at the figure, but the man was gone.

He looked up and down, but he wasn’t one of the couples or revellers going from club to club. And none of them seemed to be noticing anything unusual like a man crouched behind a vehicle.

“No where nearer?” Tony asked from the ground.

“No.” Gibbs answered, his eyes still scanning as his unease grew. There was no way he was going to leave Tony alone now, not even to drive the hundred yards.

“What is it?” Tony asked softly.

“Thought I saw someone.” Gibbs replied just as quietly.

“I’m taking it’s no one good… as there are a lot of people out, it is Friday.” Tony said. But Gibbs could also hear the wary tone to his partners voice.

Gibbs wanted to shake it off. It could have been some Samaritan that was just looking to see if they needed any assistance when Tony fell, then moved on when they realised they didn’t… but he just couldn’t accept that. He placed a hand on top of Tony’s head, his eyes still searching for anything.

“From work?” Tony asked.

“Don’t think so…” Gibbs answered, still looking around.

“Help me up then… Don’t wana be on my ass if anyone comes at us.”

Gibbs didn’t argue, as with some shoving and pulling, they somehow managed to get Tony onto his good leg. He held on as Tony breathed through whatever pain he was in

 

 + + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Tony felt on top of the world, as he lounged in the trucks passenger seat. Jet wasn’t driving like the hounds of hell were after him, and Tony had not only listened to a good pianist playing in the restaurant, but also got to play a song himself. As soon as Jet knew he could play, he had asked if Tony wanted to, then went and made it happen!

Now Tony was wondering if Jet was going to try and build him one from scratch in the basement. And he found the whole thing funny. He just let out a laugh when his hip let him know it still wasn’t happy about being walked on so soon after flooring him and he swore as he rubbed it as best he could.

“Hu?” Gibbs grunted a question.

“You are NOT allowed to try and build me a piano!!” Tony chortled. Watching Gibbs’s eye widen then a smile appeared on his face.

“Damn.” He said. “And I was going to make it a grand.”

Tony ‘pfft’, waving his hand around as the alcohol in his system seemed to be making him drunker. “Might be an upright in an antique shop or a thrift store?” he pondered. If he saved and looked really hard, he could probably get one for a couple of hundred dollars… it could go in the dining room, maybe?... he would have to measure the space he could make. Then he sat upright and stared at Jet, blinking as he realized, for the first time since he was a child he could actually have a real piano in the place where he lived… no shared dorm, no appallingly small apartments with paper thin walls and noise sensitive neighbours, no house where noise was only allowed by one man, and whoa betide anyone who tried to scream louder… But that thought sobered him again.

“What?” Jet asked, glancing at him. Then placing a hand on his leg.

“Err… if…” He looked at the ring now resting on his ring finger. “If I did find one…” he trailed off, as a sliver of doubt squirmed into his drunken dubitation.

“Would one fit in the dining room?” Jet asked, giving him a smile.

Tony felt himself relaxing down from an anxiety attack. “Would you mind?” he whispered. Which got Jet looking at him like he was crazy.

“The way you play?” He was asking. “Are you joking?”

Tony shrugged. “Some people don’t like it…”

“Well not in our house!” Jet smiled at him quickly. “Want to go looking this weekend?”

Tony felt a lump form in his throat. ‘our’ Jet had said, and he didn’t know if he should laugh or cry. Instead, all he could come out with was. “Antiquing?” Jet turned to him looking a little startled, then he was sighing, finally laughing. “You know not all antique dealers are gay right?” Jet was still chuckling, his attention back on the road.

“Two men walk into a shop… antiquing…” Tony fought back his mirth but only just. “Who ‘just happen’ to be sleeping… together… pfft… No homo!” Nope, his stupid drunk mind found the whole thing more funny than it had any right to be. And he broke down into a giggle fit. Wandering if he had a tweed jacket, silk cravat and could talk in a high class British accent the whole day. Then imagined Jet wearing the same thing and he was finding it hard to breath, threatening to slip into the foot well and chock himself with the seatbelt if he didn’t calm down.

“Do I even want to know?” Jet was asking, giving him glances. His brows drawn in wonder, but a puzzled smile on his lips.

“Do…Do you have a tweed jacket?” Tony managed to ask.

“Probably.” Jet answered. “I have a red cravat too.”

Tony gasped, then he was holding his stomach, crying. “It hurts!” as he ‘hehehe’ed’ himself silly.

“Is this a fetish of yours?” Jet asked, making Tony laugh so hard he was coughing, slapping a hand on his good knee.

“Only if you bring the horse!” he snickered breathlessly.

“No can do then.” Jet sighed, a disappointed pout on his lips.

Tony reached out and patted his hand on Jet’s shoulder. “Oh, never mind then… a ferret will have to do… “ Then he was laughing again.

“Next time we are getting a cab.” Jet was saying. “You are on a whole different plane of thinking right now.”

“It’s very strange here.” Tony confessed with a solemn nod. “But it would be nicer to be here with you.”

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Kate couldn’t help but keep staring at Gibbs’s left hand. She had tried to get McGee’s attention to it. But he had just been oblivious and Baker had left on a tip before she could see if he had noticed.

So when Gibbs finally went up to MTAC, she rushed over to Tim’s desk. “He got married again!” She hissed at him, to which he just blinked at her. “Gibbs! Did you not see the ring?”

Tim gawped at her before shaking his head. “No… and are you sure?”

“Yes!” She hissed. “It’s on his left ring finger that usually means you’re married to someone!”

Tim blinked at her then frowned. “But Isn’t he living with that Paddington guy?”

She waved her hand dismissively. “That’s got nothing to do with the fact he’s wearing a wedding ring!”

“Abby will know.” Tim said as he stood up, “If he did get married she would know.”

It took them no time to get down to her lab. Though when they had last grilled Abby for information, she had been strangely tight lipped.

“Abby?” Tim called as they walked into her lab.

“Timmy?” Abby asked, from her usual place in front of her annalistic computers. “I haven’t got anything for you, because you haven’t brought me anything lately.” She pouted at them.

“Gibbs is wearing a wedding ring!” Kate blurted out, grinning as she watched the other woman’s eyes go wide.

“Really?” Abby asked as she turned back to her computers and began looking through footage from the cameras in the bullpen.

“You mean you didn’t know?” Tim asked as they both stood at her side.

“No!” Abby said as she found the time Gibbs had come into the office that morning. “And you guys know he doesn’t tell me everything right?” She said as she went through the footage.

“He tells you more than us.” Tim answered. “Wait… there?”

“That is definitely a ring.” Abby confirmed as she leaned back. “Is it gold?”

“Silver.” Kate answered.

Then they were all looking at each other.

“How much you wana bet Tony has one just like it?” Abby started grinning.

“Seriously?” Tim asked, “Gibbs isn’t gay.”

Kate smacked him in the arm as Abby frowned at him dangerously.

“He isn’t… is he?” Tim grumbled.

“I’d be gay for Tony.” Abby was grinning again. “You did see him right?”

“He was good looking.” Kate had to admit. “In a classic kinda way,”

“And he does like saving those in need.” Abby sighed.

“Yeah… but not that much. Surely?” Tim said, trying to sound reasonable.

Abby shrugged. “From what I saw, there was definitely chemistry between them… And you guys might not know, but after Gibbs let the stray into his home, he sure has smiled more.”

“Abby! I have some evidence for you… Oh? Whats going on here?” Chris Baker asked as he came into the lab.

“The Boss man is wearing an engagement, slash wedding, slash promise ring on his ring finger!” Abby blurted out excitedly.

Chris razed an eyebrow at them. “What I miss?” he asked. Putting the small bag he was carrying down on the table.

Kate quickly explained and Chris just shrugged.

“Still haven’t met the guy, but I guess Gibbs likes him a enough.”

“You’re not buying into it are you?” Tim asked.

Chris shrugged again. “Why not?”

“Because men can’t get married.” Tim said in frustrated.

“Not yet.” Chris said. “But I don’t see anything wrong with it if it makes him happy… But I didn’t take you for homophobic.”

“I’m not!” Tim said shrilly. “I just… it’s… I duno… Gibbs.”

“No arguing that.” Chris answered with a smile. “Have you actually asked him about it?”

Kate let out a snort of a laugh. “Why don’t you?”

Chris grinned at her. “Not a chance in hell.” He replied. “So… evidence?”

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs put Abby’s Cafpow in front of her. “So?” he asked. Knowing she would have his results back by now.

“Soooo?” She said instead, not looking at him.

Gibbs sighed inside. He had expected someone to say something earlier. But they were all being quiet… But only Baker hadn’t been looking at him intently since he came down from MTAC. But he knew Baker had seen, but wouldn’t be bothered by it. He was proving to be a good find and a good fit for his team and never seemed bothered by the scuttlebutt in the office.

“Get it out…” He sighed.

Abby turned to him fully, her eyes sparkling, if that was even a thing. “The ring?” She grinned.

“Yes.” He answered. He didn’t see why he had to make this easy on her, especially when Todd and McGee would be down to grill her eventually.

“Did you get married without inviting me?” she asked.

“No.” He couldn’t help but smile.

“Is there a matching ring on someone else’s finger?”

“Yes.” He nodded. At that Abby got more exited.

“Is it Tony?” She asked.

For a moment he thought about changing the subject, or deflecting somehow, but really, why should he. He wasn’t ashamed of what he had with Tony. If he was so inclined, he would shout it from the rooftops.

“Yes.”  He finally answered. Then he was enveloped in her arms as she threw herself at him.

“Oh my god! Gibbs!” She was squealing into his ear. “I’m so happy for you! You have to let us meet him properly! Welcome him to the family!”

“Maybe.” Gibbs chuckled.

Abby pulled away. “Can I sort it out? Is he a bar man or a restaurant? What kind of food does he like?”

“Abby!” Gibbs tried to calm her a little. “Let me ask him first.”

“Oh… Oh yeah, okay, do you think he will agree?”

Gibbs shrugged one shoulder. He honestly couldn’t say, what with Tony’s distrust of letting people into the private world he had created at home and not forgetting he was still in hiding. Tony would be weary of letting trained law enforces anywhere near his fake identity.

“But I’ve seen the cold cases you let him crack! He would fit right in! He’s so smart!” Abby gushed.

“I know, Ab’s. Now… Evidence?”

“Oh.. Oh, yeah… okay. So…”

Gibbs sighed a little as they got back to work. When he was finished with Abby he went back to the bullpen in the elevator, but flipped the switch to stop it as he dialled Tony.

/” What?”/ Tony asked down the line, sounding a little winded.

“You okay?” Gibbs asked, concerned.

He heard Tony sigh. /”Yeah, Danny just fell off his scooter and scrapped his knee open. Just finished calming the hysterics and cleaning up.”/

“He okay?”

/“He will be…”/ Then Tony whispered down the phone. /”Can you pick up some ice-cream on the way home?”/

Gibbs chuckled. “Sure.”

He herd Tony groan as he must be sitting down. /”So, I’m guessing your not phoning to tell me you’re not coming home tonight?”/

“No. They finally asked about the ring.” He heard Tony laugh.

/”They really that scared of you it took this long?”/ He asked.

“They got Abby to do it.”

Tony sighed. /”What else?”/

Gibbs smiled; trust Tony to know there was more. “They want to meet you on mutual ground… make you part of the family.”

There was a long pause. /”Really?”/ came the sceptical question.

Gibbs shrugged to himself. “Yeah. You up for it?” Another pause. “You can say ‘no’ if you want to.”

/”When and where?”/ Tony asked.

“It’s up to you.”

/”Humm… There is that new gastro pub opened up down town… I’ll look into it… Just need to know when you guys have a weekend off I guess?”/

“We are off rotation at the end of the month. That enough time?” He heard Tony hum down the phone. “So you’re sure about this?”

/”Yeah… Ducky seems to like them… Will Baker be coming?”/

“Don’t see why not.” He answered.

/”Cool, wouldn’t mind talking to him.”/

Gibbs guessed it was because the two ex-cops would have more in common. “I’ll let you get on with booking a table then. Make it for seven.”

/”We better be going dutch!”/ Tony laughed.

“My treat.” Gibbs chuckled back. “I’ll see you tonight.”

/”See ya later.”/ Then the line went dead leaving Gibbs looking at his phone with a smile.

 

TBC 

Chapter Text

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + + [Chapter 7]

 

Gibbs stood next to Tony on Monday morning as they both watched the piano tuner doing whatever it was he was doing. Mostly making a racket until he was satisfied with a note, before moving on to the next.

That Saturday, as promised, Gibbs had taken Tony, and Eli, Danny didn’t want to go, so they had left him and Miki with the Spencer’s.

Tony had phoned around and made a list of all the thrift stores and antique shops close by that had a piano. So, after two thrift stores and three antique shops. Tony had finally found what he had been looking for.

To Gibbs, it just looked like the other four they had seen, a care warn instrument that looked like it had spent the last fifty years in a school. Though the one Tony picked did have a nice wood grain underneath all the grime and yellowing varnish. It had only been when Tony had touched the keys, to play the same little song he had on all the others that Gibbs could see. But his partner had found whatever it was he was looking for. Even if there were bum notes every now and again. It did sound good.

So they had paid two hundred bucks for it, with an extra twenty to get it delivered first thing Monday. What they had not expected was the little old lady who ran the shop, to then throw in a lamp of a ballerina with a fake tiffany shade that Eli had been gushing over, claiming that Eli looked like her own granddaughter, but Gibbs guessed it was more because of Tony’s smile.

That morning, as soon as the Eli and Danny had gone to school, they had made room in the dining room for the piano, then Gibbs had helped the two men who had bought the instrument get it into the house and the tuner had come over while they were getting it into its permanent home.

So, now he stood next to Tony, who was vibrating with excitement as he held a sleepy Miki in his arms.

“Okay, why don’t you give it a go?” John said as he finally took a step away from the piano.

Suddenly, Gibbs found Miki being thrust into his arms as Tony limped over to sit at the piano.

At first, it just sounded like a mess of notes to Gibbs, but it seemed to please the other two men before Tony began playing the same song he had plaid in the restaurant a few days before, and if anything, it sounded better as it seemed to fill the whole house.

“Satisfied?” John was asking, but even Gibbs could tell Tony was lost in what he was playing.

“I think he is.” Gibbs smiled at the other man, “How much do I owe you?” He asked.

The other man scratched his head, and Gibbs reframed from rolling his eyes, knowing he was about to get robbed, but he wouldn’t even know it. It wasn’t everyday he came across piano tuners in his line of work.

“Well, she’s a fine peace of work.” The man said as he reached out and patted the old wood. “But she aint been tuned in years…” then he was smiling. “Call it fifty bucks and you call me if she needs another tune up?”

Gibbs quickly nodded to the offer. Tony had told him it would cost anything from seventy five dollars to two. So he shuffled Miki up onto his shoulder so he could hold him in place with one arm as he got his wallet out and pulled the bills from his wallet and handed them over.

“He’s pretty good.” John said as he began packing up his equipment. “He professional?”

Gibbs shook his head, even though he had no idea.

“He should be. It’s not often I get to hear someone with his talent.” John gave him another smile as they lapsed into silence for a moment as they just listened to Tony transition to another song. “Well, I’ve got another client, so I’ll be off.”

“Thank you.” Gibbs said as he watched the guy walk out the house, then he made his way over to his partner and just watched in fascination as Tony’s long fingers flew over the keys, pulling such wonderful sounds that Gibbs had no clue how he managed to remember which key to his and when.

It took another ten minutes before Tony finally pulled away and began rubbing his fingers. “Oh, sorry, got carried away.”

“No, kidding.” Gibbs grinned down at him. He had watched how much Tony was enjoying himself, his eyes closed as he played, a slight smile on his lips.

Tony chuckled. “I need more practice though, my hands are saw now.”

“I’m sure you will.” Gibbs said. “John asked if you were a professional.” And he watched as Tony blushed a little.

“No.” he answered. “I’m not that good.”

“I might not know squat about music.” Gibbs said as he pulled one of the dining room chairs out and sat down. “But you’re really good… maybe you could tutor or something?” he watched as Tony shrugged half heartedly.

“It would bring in a bit more cash for the house?”

“Pocket money.” Gibbs answered immediately. After all, they were getting on just fine with his income and Tony’s funds. They would never be rich, but they weren’t about to starve either. Then he remembered something else. “You don’t have to do it at the house. There is the local church or the school who might be interested in hiring a tutor?” This made Tony look a little bit more alive.

“I could ask around.”

“You do that.” Gibbs said as he stood up again. “But get your strength back first, then we can look into it together… but here.” He said handing over a now sleeping Miki. “I need to be getting to work before Morrow fires me.”

Tony laughed at that. “From what you told me, I doubt he would do that.” Then he was standing up stiffly. His free hand reached for Gibbs shoulder. “Thank you.” He said before pulling Gibbs in to kiss him.

Gibbs cupped the other mans cheek to deepen the kiss for a moment. “Just keep playing to your hearts content.” And Tony was blushing again.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Two weeks later and Gibbs held Tony up as they stood besides his truck in the parking lot of the restaurant Tony had booked a few weeks before. The younger man hadn’t had a good few days after he slipped down a few steps at home. But he had insisted they still come, claiming that he would just be sitting down anyway.

Gibbs had half expected an anxiety attack from this little get together, but Tony had actually been looking forwards to it.

“Is anyone else here yet? Other than Ducky?” Tony asked as he pulled away, taking his own weight. He had recognised the old ME’s car, but he didn’t know what the others drove.

“I think Abby came with him.” He had a quick look around. “And everyone else is here too.”

“Damn, I wanted to be sat down first.” Tony bemoaned. “Come on, lets go.”

Gibbs stayed by Tony’s side. Keeping a hand on the small of his back as they went. Then held the door open for him as they entered the bustling restaurant.

“Can I help you?” A waitress asked as soon as the door closed.

“We are with the Gibbs party.” Tony answered her, and instantly she waved for them to follow her deeper into the building. It didn’t help that Gibbs had to move some chairs out of Tony’s way, then as he saw Abby spot them and get to her feet he realised they had to get up three steps to the raised platform they were on,

“Gibbs! Over here!” She called, making everyone else turn to look.

“Shit.” Tony swore from behind him and he turned his attention back to his lover.

“One at a time.” Gibbs smiled at him, then he noticed the stairs didn’t have proper hand rails. “Oh… Just put your arm around my shoulder.” He said, moving to Tony’s good side, then as Tony put his arm around his shoulder Gibbs took Tony’s weight as he put his crutch and bad leg on the first step. Then he was pushing Tony up. Before they had to deal with the second step, Baker came up to Tony’s other side.

“Can I help?” He asked. “I’m Chris, we haven’t met before.”

“Err… sure, thanks.” Tony said as with Bakers help they managed to get Tony all the way up with minimal swearing.

“Oh!” Abby said as she also came up to them. “I should have asked for another table when we got here, I didn’t think.”

“It’s okay.” Tony smiled at them. “Just having a bad day.”

“Come and sit, dear boy.” Ducky called as he pulled a chair out in the middle of the table. “Then we can all relax.”

Gibbs helped Tony over and got him settled before sitting at his side. Ducky sat to Tony’s right, with Baker, Todd and McGee sat directly opposite them, with Abby at the end on Gibbs’s other side.

“Oh my God! You do have a matching ring!” Abby was suddenly gushing, pointing to Tony’s left hand.

Gibbs watched Tony look at his own hand in shock. “Yeah.” He answered, before giving her a dazzling smile, his eyes flicking to Gibbs for a moment, to which he gave the other man a nod, letting him know he could say as much or as little as he wanted.

“So.” Abby said leaning forwards. “How did he propose?” she whispered loudly. “Was it romantic?”

Gibbs sighed, he had expected the grilling, but not quite so soon, they hadn’t even ordered their drinks yet.

“I serenaded him first.” Tony whispered back just as dramatically, so everyone heard.

Then the floodgates were opened as they all went full force with the interrogation.

Gibbs managed to order them both light beers, and as the evening drew on. He was impressed with the way Tony avoided questions he didn’t want to answer, told amusing stories about some of what Gibbs knew were darker aspects of his life. About all they got out of him was he was looking after his sisters kids; that Gibbs had run into him on a cold lonely road one night when they were looking for somewhere else to live. He had gone into more depth about his disability, keeping the gory detail to a minimum, but filling in most of the conversation with his time on the force. Which ended up with him and Baker comparing some of the more amusing stories and experiences as cops.

Gibbs was seeing a whole different side of the man he had come to love.

Tony was managing them all like an expert conductor. Giving everyone his time and attention, making sure no one would feel left out, not even McGee who was the quietest. And the whole time, he was pulling more information from them about their own lives, than they were his.

Gibbs could see now why this man had been so good at undercover, he had a natural flair that Gibbs couldn’t help but mourn the loss of, such talent was rare, and he would love to see Tony really ‘interview’ a suspect. Then he had another amusing thought, all of Eli’s potential boyfriends wouldn’t stand a chance against her uncle.

Finally the night was drawing to a close, and Gibbs knew Tony had had enough, if the yawns he kept trying to hide were anything to go by. Also the fact Tony was leaning against him a little.

“Okay, guys. We have to be going.” He said as he signalled the waitress to bring the bill.

“Oh, but it’s like you only just got here.” Abby protested.

“Sorry guys. But we promised the kids we wouldn’t be out to late.” Tony said with a smile.

Gibbs smiled too. Tony implying the kids would be waiting for them, when they were actually staying over at the Spencer’s for the night, meant that he really was tiring.

“Oh, damn, I forgot!” Abby sighed. “Next time, you have to invite us over to meet them all too!”

Gibbs felt Tony stiffed suddenly. And remembered the other mans stress over inviting other people into the house. “Maybe… Oh, thanks.” He said as the waitress put their check on the table. He was just about to pick it up when Todd snatched it away.

“We’ll get this.” She said, sending glairs around the table for any protests. “Why don’t you guys get off.”

“Thanks.” Gibbs said, sure Tony was about to protest, so Gibbs got to his feet. “See you all Monday.”

“It was nice meeting you all.” Tony said as Gibbs helped him to his feet, feeling how stiff he was as he did so.

“Here, I’ll help.” Baker said as he also got to his feet. “I’ll pay you guys back Monday.”

“See yeah Tony! Don’t be a stranger!” Abby said as she also got up and made her way over as Baker pulled Tony’s chair away to make it easier for him to leave. “Can I have a hug?!” She asked, her arms out.

“Abby.” Gibbs warned. But Tony held out his free arm.

“Sure.” Tony said.

Gibbs grinned as Tony let out an ‘umf’ as Abby bear hugged him. Then she was launching herself at him, as he also got a hug.

“I approve.” Abby whispered in his ear before she let him go.

Then, with Baker’s help, they got Tony back down the stairs and out of the restaurant and slowly to the truck.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Tony slouched in his seat as Jet turned into their neighbour hood. The night had been good. Talking to people who he had stuff in common with was actually really nice, and something he hadn’t done in a long time. It almost made him feel normal again.

Even though he would like to see Tim toughen up a bit, he was too timid. And Kate seemed a little too dismissive of Chris’s angle on things. And he loved Abby, he could actually see himself being friends with her.

“Would you be okay if I invited them all over at some point?” He said into the silence.

“It’s up to you.” Jet said, as usual, not needing an explanation on where his thought processes was going. Sometimes Tony wondered if Jet was a telepath.

“Humm… Maybe thanks giving?... I’ll have enough time to process I guess.” He joked. “But the 4th of July would give me enough time… do you think they would come?... but I guess they will have their own families to hang out with…”

“Don’t let it stress you out.” Jet told him softly. “They are mostly just being nosy.”

Tony chuckled. “I thought you liked nosy people!”

Jet glanced at him. “At work… sure. It makes good detectives.”

“Not only at work…” Tony grinned as he watched the man’s profile.

“Are you asking for all their personal files?” Jet shot back.

Tony nodded. “Oh, you know me so well!” Abby had already given him her My Space link, which he would look up ASAP… or tomorrow. As he yawned again. He had hoped for a little adult time tonight, but he was exhausted and his leg still wasn’t happy with him. If it hadn’t been for Jet and Chris, he would have fallen down those damn stairs at the restaurant.

“Bed for you when we get in.” Jet said as they were pulling into the driveway. “Tony?”

“Humm?” He asked as he unlocked his safety belt.

“Get ready to call 911.”

“What!” He asked looking up, his heat quickening as he saw what Jet was looking at. The front door was open. “The kids?” He gasped.

“The Spencer’s would have called… Shit!”

“WHAT?”

“No gun…” Jet growled as he began to open his door but Tony grabbed his arm.

“No!... Wait!” Tony quickly hit 3 on his phone and waited.

/”Hello?”/ Came Mary’s voice.

“Mary, this is Tony… are all the kids still with you?” Tony asked quickly.

/”They should be, dear… What’s wrong?”/

“Can you just check?” He asked. “We just got home… the doors open.”

/”Oh no.”/

Tony could hear her whispering to her sister and movement, then Mary was back. /”They’re all sound asleep right here.”/

“Oh thank god.” He breathed in relief.

/”And before you ask, we haven’t seen anyone suspicious.”/ She said reassuringly. /”But we’ll check all the door and windows right now. Go and call the police, your babies are safe with us for now.”/

“Thank you.” He said meaning every letter. “I’ll call back when we know what happening.”

/”Make sure you do!”/ Then she was hanging up on him.

“Can I go now?” Jet asked.

“NO!” Tony snapped. “Pull out into the street while I call the cops!” He said as he dialled 911 and as he was waiting to be connected, Jet actually did as he asked. Then as he was talking to an operator, Jet was also on the phone.

They both hung up at the same time.

“They are sending out units now.” He said, still keeping his eyes on the house for any movement.

“I called in the team on call. If we are lucky, they wont call the FBI right away.” Jet sighed.

“What?” Tony asked, suddenly feeling out of control, which only cranked up his anxiety.

“Procedure. I’m a federal agent.” Jet answered. “We have no idea who this was.”

“You think this could be because of a case?” Tony felt himself gasp, desperately trying to not think of an alternative.

“Shh… Calm down. Let’s leave speculation till someone, preferably with a gun, gets here.” Jet said and Tony felt a hand on his leg.

- - -

An hour, two police cars and an NCIS van later, they found out that someone had got in through the back door by breaking the glass. Then leaving through the front door.

Jet had gone in when he was given the all clear, while Tony stayed in the truck.

The house had been turned over, stuff had been smashed, books thrown off shelves, drawers had been tipped out, and to top it all off, Jet told him someone had taken bleach and poured it over their bed.

“So… So… it’s personal.” Tony stammered, his heart racing so badly he thought he might pass out… “Did… the kids rooms?”

“They’re fine… no damage at all from what I could see.” Jet answered as he pulled the blanked he had pulled form the back of the sofa tighter around Tony’s shoulders, then put his arm around his waist as they watched strangers swarming through their home as they stood besides the truck.

“What… did they take?” Tony whispered. He felt like his skin was crawling, caught between wanting to run screaming, or crawl into the back of the truck and sleep till it all just went away.

“Nothing that I could see… They didn’t even take your laptop.”

Tony felt his stomach drop out. “It’s him… isn’t it?” Hicks had found him. He quickly looked up and down the street. He should have been looking sooner! But the neighbours had thinned out awhile ago over all the excitement, and from the people still lingering, he didn’t see Hicks ugly face anywhere… but that didn’t mean he wasn’t somewhere… watching his handiwork… ready to gloat!

“Calm down.” Jet was snapping at him as the arm around Tony’s waist held him tighter. “I haven’t seen him. And Pacci will be taking any evidence they find back to NCIS to check out. Think you can keep it together till then?”

Tony looked at his partner, nodded once, then shook his head. “Try.” He offered, god he was so tired. “I have to sit.” he warned, feeling his leg wobble beneath him.

Jet quickly pulled and pushed him till he was sitting sideways on the trucks passenger seat again. Then Jet was holding him in his arms, clutch tightly, and Tony was finding some calming comfort in it. He was also rubbing a hand up and down his back. “Just breathe. It’s gonna be all right.”

“We are gonna be awhile.” Pacci suddenly said, Tony thought his first name was Chris or something. “You guys might wanna get a hotel room for the night.”

“Thanks Pacci” Jet said, pulling away to face the NCIS agent Tony only knew from getting emails from him once about a cold case he had done for Jet. “We’ll get out of here once we pick up the kids. Phone me the moment you have anything.”

“You want me to call in Abby?” Pacci asked.

Tony watched as his partner nodded. “Sure. Can you call her, let her know what happened?”

“Sure thing, go, get out of here.” Pacci said with a smile. “I’ll make sure the house is secured… want me to also call in clean up? And I have a cousin who does good security, CCTV, lights, the works.”

“Tony?” Jet turned to him.

For a moment, Tony’s felt a shiver of revulsion at the thought of having even more strangers in his home… but he didn’t think he could deal with walking into the mess ‘someone’ had left without loosing it. He wanted to protest when Jet all but demanded he stay in the truck, but now he was thankful he didn’t witness the devastation.

“Yeah… please call in someone to clean up… and err… how fast can we get the security system fitted?”

“I’ll call my cousin tomorrow, then call you back if that’s okay?”

“Thanks.” Tony whispered, giving the man a smile, even if it was a little forced.

Pacci gave them a smile, then walked away.

Jet helped him sit properly in the truck and got in the drivers seat. Then he was pulling out his cell phone.

Tony just watched him as he heard a reedy voice say /‘hello/’.

“Ducky…” Then he was explaining everything that happened. “Would your mother be terribly confused about us staying with you a few days?... You sure?... We’ll be over within an hour?... Thanks.” Then he was putting the truck in gear, heading down the street.

“Ducky?” Tony questioned.

“He’s got enough room for us to crash…” Jet was saying as he drove right past the Spence’s drive. “You want to take the kids to a hotel?”

“No… But still…” Tony answered distractedly as he watched the house with his kids in disappear.

“His mother’s a little eccentric and has memory issues… also a couple of corgis.”

“The kids?” Tony said, his stomach churning.

“Call Abby, then Backer, to come get them.” Jet said as he handed over his cell. “She knows where Ducky lives. Then try and warn the Spencer’s about her.”

Tony tried to smile at that as he found the Goths number in Jet’s phone, but he just couldn’t find the strength.

“And before you ask… if… He… is around. Then he can try and follow us… Not like he seems to give a damn about the kids… other than using them against you.” Jet explained and Tony really thought he might be sick. Jet was right and it scared the shit out of him. Somehow he finally managed to call through Abby, and talk to her without sounding as fucking scared as he was.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs stood, watching Tony as he slept.

It was about three in the morning and he was still waiting on news from Pacci and his team or the rest of the people on the case.

His first instinct was to go back into the office and light fires under everyone to get this over and done with… But one look into Eli and Danny’s worried eyes, when Abby and Backer had brought them over, and he knew his place was with them for now. It also didn’t help that Tony was in pain and on the brink of a panic attack. But he had to give the guy credit; Tony had kept it together in front of the kids as they settled them all into bed.

“Here.”

Gibbs was glad he hadn’t flinched when Ducky had come up on him, holding out a shot of whisky.

“Thought you might be needing this.” Ducky smiled at him.

“Thanks.” Gibbs said, taking the offered drink then downing it, wincing at the smoothness as it burned down his throat.

“Why don’t you go and get some sleep too? I can wake you if anything comes in.” Ducky offered as he also took a look into the room where Tony slept fitfully, but at least he was asleep.

“Too on edge.” Gibbs answered. He had sat with Tony till the kids had finally fallen asleep in another room, the boys taking the main bed and a camp bed for Eli. Then he had sat with Tony till he had also gone to sleep.

“Well, the least you can do is take a chair and sit out here.” Ducky said, as he walked over to two hall chairs, pulling one over. “There,” he said putting it down in the middle of the hall, so Gibbs could see into both rooms. “Now you can watch over my long lost son and my grandchildren.”

Gibbs laughed softly. “You sure it’s okay for your mother to believe that?”

Ducky waved a dismissing hand as he went and got the other chair and sat down next to him. “She was thrilled with the idea. As for me, it might stop her asking for grandchildren from me…” Then Ducky was looking at him, “You think Tony will be okay with it?”

Gibbs sat down then. The look on the kids face’s when it had been mentioned had at first been confused, soon replaced with hope. “I think the kids will be okay with it, they like you anyway. Are you okay with them calling you gramps?” The smile on his old friends face was answer enough. “But I don’t think Tony will mind if you don’t… I haven’t asked, but I don’t think Tony’s father had ever bothered with the kids, and from what little Tony’s told me about his family growing up, he loved his grandfather.”

“I would be honoured to think of myself as that young man’s family.” Ducky answered. “And I trust your instincts.” He said. “You wouldn’t have taken this young man so under your wing so readily if you didn’t trust him completely.”

Gibbs sighed, looking through to Tony as he moved a little in sleep. “Sometimes I wonder why that fact doesn’t bother me at all.” He said honestly. “I could have given him some advice, put him in contact with other people that could have helped him out, and seen him on his way.”

“You could have.” Ducky reasoned when Gibbs paused.

“But in stead I gave him my home.” Gibbs sighed as he slumped a little in his chair as he ran a hand over his eyes.

“And your heart.” Ducky said softly.

Gibbs managed a smile at that. “Yeah… and my career if someone looks too closely into all the favours I pulled to keep him.”

“Something I’m sure you would gladly give, if that ring on your finger means anything.” Ducky was chuckling under his breath.

Gibbs looked at the band on his ring finger and smiled. “I must have lost my mind.” He grinned at his old friend.

“Pfft.” Ducky snorted at him, also smiling. “Maybe you just found something worth living this life for.”

Gibbs nodded. “And that.” He whispered.

They lapsed into silence for a while before Gibbs felt his phone vibrating in his pocket, and as he pulled it out, he saw Todds name on the little screen, and he was just about to flip it open when he heard Tony let out a strangled cry. “Take this.” He said as he tossed the phone to Ducky and rushed to Tony’s side.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Ducky had answered the call from a very tired sounding Caitlin, who proceeded to tell him what they had, or more rightly, hadn’t really found. And Ducky had told her to get everyone to go home to start fresh first thing in the morning.

Now he was stood watching as Jethro rocked Anthony, who was curled up against Jethro’s chest, a hand clamped over his eyes, and even in the gloom, Ducky could tell he had been crying, and it broke his heart.

Jethro had told him Anthony still had nightmares, but that he had been getting better. Now Ducky feared they would come back with force.

When Jethro had told him about the ‘stray’ he had taken in, never in a month of Sundays, did he imagine Jethro would take it this far. And to see his old friend care for someone this way, well, it was heart warming.

All he could hope for now was that Anthony never decided he wasn’t so broken anymore and he didn’t need Jethro any longer. However much he liked the younger man, he didn’t know his heart.

It was made more complicated by the fact Anthony had been relying on an abusive relationship since his accident, and now he had moved that dependence onto Jethro. It was a concern that Ducky just couldn’t shake. He had seen it happen before and it had never ended well.

“What did she say?”

Ducky started, he hadn’t realised Jethro had gotten up and silently come over to him. “They hadn’t got anything yet.” He whispered, taking a look at the bed where he could see Anthony under the covers again, looking to be asleep. “I sent them home till the morning.”

Jethro nodded. But Ducky half expected him to go rushing into the yard anyway. “That’s fine. Fornell not called?”

“No. But I’ll keep your phone. Why don’t you get some rest too?” He saw the hesitation in Jethro’s expression. “Go. There’s no bodies in my charge, so I can look after him and the children tomorrow, I’m sure mother will be thrilled.”

“If you’re sure?” Jethro asked.

Ducky couldn’t quite believe it himself, but he was very sure. “I am, go.” He said, pushing Jethro into the room again. “I’m sure the kids will enjoy playing with the dogs and Anthony can keep my mother amused.”

Jethro rolled his eyes. “You do know he will probably enjoy that?”

Ducky frowned. Most people didn’t really know how to handle his mother, and more so now she was getting worse with her dementia.

“He likes the company of older people.” Jethro answered, no doubt seeing the look of confusion on his face. “Said only older people ever treated him and his sister like they weren’t a burden.” Jethro ended with a shrug.

“Well, we will make sure he’s distracted enough till you get back.” Ducky smiled. “Goodnight.”

“Night.” He heard Jethro say as he walked down the corridor to his own room at the other side of the house. He would get some sleep in and hope no one called with anything he couldn’t deflect till morning.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs was tired and beyond frustrated.

Pacci’s team had found DNA and fingerprints, but they were still being processed. Neighbours had been interview, but they hadn’t seen anything they didn’t already know, but at least it was confirmed at least that it had been Hicks as one nosy neighbour had taken the registration number, but so far the BOLO had come up with nothing.

So finally, Banks had asked if they could call it a night, and he would take any phone calls that came in and relay it back to him asap if they were important.

So, reluctantly and a little defeated, Gibbs had agreed and sent everyone home on his team.

He had found himself almost driving home on autopilot before he remembered that Tony and the kids wouldn’t be there, so became even more frustrated and angry with himself as it took him an extra fifteen minuets to get to the Mallard residence.

He was about to knock and walk into the large house when the door was thrown open and he suddenly found his arms full of Danny, who had launched himself at him.

“You’re home!” Danny said as he hugged him tightly, still giggling from something.

“Sure am.” Gibbs said as he entered the house, closing the door behind him. He could hear something going on further into the house.

“Uncl… err… Papa is stuck under the puppies and they wont let him up!” Danny laughed breathlessly. Then he was leaning in to whisper in Gibbs ear. “Oh… Uncle said we have to call him Papa when we are here.”

“Did he now?” Gibbs said, smiling a little.

“And Ducky said we should call him Grandpa?” Danny said, his face serious. “Cos his mum is reeealy old and she thinks we are her grandkids.” He then pulled a face. “She said we have to call her Great Gran… err… ma’mar?”

“And so you should.” Gibbs said. Once again he was floored by how the kids seemed to take in all the change going on around them with such ease.

“Oh, there you are Jethro.” Ducky called as Gibbs saw him come into the hallway. “Danny, why don’t you go see if you can distract the Corgis off your Papa?”

Gibbs let the kid down and watched him run into the room Ducky had just come from. He guessed his friend wanted a privet word before he would be invited in to see what all the giggling and barking was about in that room.

“Duck?” He asked as he took his coat off and hung it up with the other coats.

“I was about to call.” Ducky said coming up to him, looking a little concerned. “Not to startle you, but Tony’s leg gave out… No, a moment.” Ducky said hurriedly when Gibbs was taking a step forwards. “He’s fine, for the moment, but I fear I wouldn’t be able to help him up alone.”

“He can usually get himself up after a while.” Gibbs answered, though his attention was mostly on going to see if Tony was okay with his own eyes.

“Yes, but I wanted to just let you know about a few name changes.” Ducky said.

“Yeah, Danny told me… Grandpa.” He smiled at his old friend, to which Ducky actually blushed and smiled.

“Yes, mother is delighted.” He answered.

“And how does she think I fit in to all this?” He asked, it was something they hadn’t actually talked about earlier that morning.

Ducky just shrugged. “We told her the truth… almost.” He said, then carried on when Gibbs raised an eyebrow. “That their mother died in an accident and that you and my long lost son are together now.”

“And she’s okay with that?”

“I don’t much think she cares.” Ducky confessed. “She thinks she has three wonderful great grand children.”

Gibbs reached out and put a hand on his arm. “Why don’t we let her just carry on believe that then.” He smiled.

“It does make her happy.” Ducky beamed at him. “Even though we will have to keep reminding her.” he sighed.

“If it makes her happy, it won’t hurt.” Gibbs promised. “So, now can I go see if he’s ready for a hand up?”

“Oh, yes, yes.” Ducky said as he led him into a large kitchen.

Tony was indeed on the floor with his back against a bare wall between the door they came in and another closed door, and he was being slobbered over by four Corgis as kids and dogs playfully scuffled together. The dogs trying to lick Tony’s face and the kids trying to pulling them away unsuccessfully to howls of giggles.

“Oh thank god!” Tony gasped when he saw them.

“Don’t blaspheme!” Came Victoria sharply.

“Sorry Grandma’ma!” Tony sang as one of the dogs managed to lick the side of his face making him splitter.

“Mother, why don’t you let the dogs out?” Ducky suggested, going over to her. “Children, go and play in the back yard with them until dinners ready.”

As soon as Mrs Mallard opened the door and whistled, all the dog instantly ran for the door with Danny and little Miki toddling after them. Only Eli turned and ran up to Gibbs to give him a hug before she too was running after her siblings.

“You okay?” Gibbs asked as he went to his lover and bobbed down at his side, putting a hand on his shoulder as Tony sagged back against the wall.

“I will be.” Tony answered as he gave him a tired smile, though Gibbs could see he was in pain, the smile was as least genuine.

“Need a moment?” He asked, to which Tony nodded and rubbed at his leg.

“I’m afraid you might have over done it these last two days.” Ducky said as he came over to them.

“Well if you will have my grandson running after the dogs and children all day.” Mrs Mallard scalded as she made her way over to the stove. “Even I can tell he’s lame. Donald, go get him a blanket. And you young man.” She said giving Gibbs a glair as she looked like she was making tea. “There is a wheelchair behind the sofa in the parlour, go get it for him at once!”

“I don’t…” Tony began to protest.

“Nonsense!” Mrs Mallard snapped. “I wont have a grandchild of mine suffering when there is perfectly good apparatus to help you get around!”

Gibbs gave his old friend a look, then got to his feet. “Ducky?” he asked, not knowing where the ‘parlour’ was.

“This way.” Ducky said, “And you stay there.” He told Tony.

Gibbs followed his friend and retrieved the said wheelchair while Ducky got a fleece blanket from a cupboard in the hall. When they got back to the kitchen, Victoria was stroking Tony’s hair as he was sipping at a cup of tea.

Gibbs couldn’t quite understand why the younger man actually looked happy, like it was the most natural and comforting thing to be sat on the floor, drinking from a delicate china cup as an old lady, he didn’t know, was patting him.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Tony ground his teeth to stop a groan of pain as Jet helped him up then down to sit in the wheelchair.

He hated the damn things; he had spent enough time in them when he was first injured to last a lifetime. But he was exhausted.

After being stressed out about meeting Jet’s work colleagues, then to deal with what had happened back at the house, to then spend most of the night trying to sleep, but only being confronted with old and horrible nightmares. Then to blearily be dragged out of bed in the morning when Jet had gone to work and the kids got up. To say he was exhausted was an understatement.

He had talked to the kids, trying to explain why they weren’t at home and that they would be spending some time under another strange roof. They had at least taken to Victoria quite well and were more than happy to go along with the ruse.

He had to admit though; he had loved Victoria on sight. She was a stern old Lady, and her memory was shot, but she had doted on him and the kids all day.

Now though, he just wanted to go to bed and lay down for the next month.

“Here.”

Tony looked at the hand that was held before him with two pills.

“Take them.” Ducky insisted, “Doctors orders.”

Tony had managed all day without taking anything, even though Ducky had offered numerous times. But as his leg was still throbbing he took them willingly as Ducky then handed him a glass of water to wash them down.

“Now go push him over to the table.” Victoria was saying. “And call my grandchildren in, foods almost ready Donald.”

“Yes mother.” Then Ducky was walking away as Tony found himself suddenly being pushed forwards and into the large dining room.

“How you doing?” Jet finally asked when he sat down at his side.

Tony gave him an ironic smile. “As well as can be expected.” He said, before sighing when Jet just looked at him silently. “Tired.” He admitted. “Kids are a little manic, Victoria can be a little…” he was lost for words as he felt the first stirrings of the pain medicine Ducky had given him start to kick in.

“Eccentric?” Jet offered.

“That.” Tony smiled as he reached out; just needing to lay his hand on his lover, letting it ground him. “I’m tired.”

“I’ll help you to bed after we eat.” Jet said, then Tony leaned into the hand the other man was running through his hair. “We haven’t found any new leads today.” He was saying softly and Tony sighed as he closed his eyes. “Also, the CCTV can’t be fitted until Wednesday.”

“Shit.” Tony muttered. Yeah, the meds were kicking in; making him not care as much as he knew his anxiety wanted him too.

“You are staying here as long as you need.” Came Ducky’s voice softly from his other side.

“Humm.” Was all he managed as he heard the kids come in and chairs being moved, then things being put on the table.

“We could move him to the sofa for a nap.” He heard Ducky saying.

“Na Duck, he’ll be fine.” Jet. Then. “Come on sleepy head, eat something then you can sleep.”

“Don’t wana.” He muttered as he tried to lean towards Jet’s voice, but growled when his shoulder was shaken.

“You gotta eat something.” Danny said loudly, which brought Tony around a little as he opened his eyes to look at his nephew sat across from him.

“Then you have to eat all your vegetables!” he grinned as the young boy pulled a face. “You like sprouts.” Tony protested.

“I don’t like carrots though!”

“Swap.” Eli said from Danny’s side.

Tony chuckled, it was something they always did, and he never minded, so long as they ate something good for them it was all good.

Then a plate of vegetables, roast chicken, and Yorkshire pudding, all smothered in gravy were being put down in front of him. It had been years since he had had Yorkshire puddings and his mouth watered.

“What’s this?” Jet was asking from his side.

“If you don’t want them, hand um over!” Tony demanded.

“Proper English Yorkshire puddings.” Victoria said, “From my own mother’s recipe.”

“They are a little like popovers.” Ducky said as Tony hissed at the older man.

“Shhhh… don’t tell him.” He told Ducky before turning back to Jet. “You wont like them, just give them to me.”

“Never say you don’t like something under my roof until you have tried it!” Victoria snapped. “And they are nothing as vulgar as ‘popovers’.” She spat in horrified disapproval.

Tony watched in dismay as Jet cut a piece off his Yorkshire pudding and ate it, he even watched him eat it.

“Oh, these are really good Mrs Mallard.” Jet said as Tony watched him eat some more.

“Oh, Victoria, please.” Victoria all but blushed at the compliment. Then Tony saw her start feeding Miki who she had on her lap. He frowned at that, she was a frail looking old lady and Miki was heavy and could be wriggly when he chose. “And Anthony, eat.” She said when she saw him looking.

Without another thought, he began to eat with everyone else. He left his puddings till last then groaned with pleasure, they really were as good as he remembered eating back in the UK when he was younger. He was just about to start on his second when a third was pushed onto his plate. He glanced up at his lover.

“I’m sure Victoria will give you the recipe, so you can make me more.” Jet smiled at him.

Tony smiled back, “I love you.” He said, and meant every letter at that moment. Then he frowned when Jet’s eyes widened, then he was smiling at him. “Hu?” he asked as he heard Eli and Danny giggling from the other side of the table.

“Oh, my.” Victoria said. And he was just about to look over to her when he felt Jet’s hand cover his own.

“I love you too.” Jet said softly, his beautiful blue eyes seemed to be sparkling in the light from the glass chandelier overhead. “Now eat your puddings.” He was smiling.

Tony didn’t hesitate as he savoured every mouthful.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs ran his hands through Tony’s hair as the younger man slowly drifted off to sleep, the pain drugs in his system would hopefully let him get a few hours of good rest.

His heart had quickened when Tony had told him he loved him. After all, it was the first time they had said it to each other.

It wasn’t something he had ever worried about hearing from the other man. He knew Tony loved him without words, and he knew Tony felt the same way. But to hear it, even if it was over food, made all the trouble he had gone through for this other being and everything they were yet to experience, all worth wile.

He leaned down and laid a kiss on Tony’s temple before getting up. He wanted to spend some time with the kids before he put them to bed too. But as he pulled their bedroom door too, Ducky was waiting for him.

“I take it nothing new’s come up?” Ducky whispered.

“No, Fornell’s on the case too with the FBI.” After all, it was also considered a crime against a federal agent.

“Well, you’re all still welcome here as long as it takes.” Ducky promised.

Gibbs reached out and put a hand on his friends shoulder. “Thanks.” He said sincerely. “Gonna be a few more days at least.”

“Think he will want to go back?” Ducky asked cryptically, but Gibbs knew what he meant.

“Did he say anything today?” He asked.

Ducky shook his head. “No, but the haunted look in his eyes when he thought no one was looking is enough of a tell.”

“We’ll have to deal with it when the house is ready.” He sighed.

“Like I said, you can stay as long as you need.”

“Jet?” Eli came up the stairs.

“Yeah, sweetheart?” Gibbs asked as he walked over to her.

“Umm… Papa said it was bath night… We are still going to school tomorrow?” she asked hopefully.

Gibbs hadn’t even thought about that. But he guessed he could take them to school, and he would have to phone the Spencer’s or they would be worried.

“Yeah, come on.” He said taking her hand, hoping they had clean PJ’s.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs finally managed to roll into bed after setting up the shower from Eli and waiting till she had finished, then managing to get the boy’s bathed then into bed. He had spent a few hours with Ducky drinking some of his fine whisky as they talked about nothing much.

“Humm… What time is it?” Tony asked sleepily as Gibbs was pulling the covers over himself.

“Late.” He answered. “You need some more pain meds?”

Tony grumbled under his breathe before Gibbs found the younger man rolling towards him. “Humm… no.”

With a smile, Gibbs settled down, pulling Tony tight against his chest. “Go back to sleep then.” He whispered into Tony’s ear.

“Kay…”

Gibbs made himself a little more comfortable as he felt Tony became heavy against him, then the other man began to softly huff a little in his sleep.

Gibbs smiled to himself as he closed his eyes and just listened to Tony as he ran his fingers through his hair lightly and contentedly he followed Tony into contented sleep.

. . .

But all too suddenly, he found himself jerking awake.

For a moment his arms tightened around his lover as his mind instantly thought Tony was about to fall into another nightmare. But then he heard his phone going off again.

“Shit.” He swore to himself as he did feel Tony waking up. “It’s just my cell.” He told the other man as he pulled his arm our from beneath Tony’s head and reached around to the bedside table. Flipping the damn thing open he instantly barked into it. “Gibbs.”

“Tell them to fuck off.” Tony grumbled from his side as Gibbs felt him pushing his face into his side.

/”Err… sorry Boss.”/ Came McGee’s stilted tone.

“What is it McGee?” He growled out as he glared up at the calling, but reached over himself to rub his hand over the side of Tony’s face that he could reach.

/”We have a case… Boss.”/

Gibbs rolled his eyes. “We arnt on call, what’s David’s team doing.”

/”Umm… they are already on another case. So, err… we got called in.”/

“McGee!” He almost snarled in fustration.

There was a scuffling on the other end of the phone before McGee finally came back. /”Two dead petty officers, suspected drug trafficking and money laundering.”/

“Is that it?” Gibbs snarked; His gut was already telling him that this wasn’t going to be something he could just deal with and be back for dinner. He really didn’t need this right now. Not with trying to secure their home and keep Tony and the kids calm.

/”Err?… yes Boss.”/ McGee answered seriously.

“Get the team in!” He growled down the phone before snapping the damn thing closed.

“Not good?” Tony mumbled softly from somewhere around Gibbs’s left armpit.

Gibbs sighed. “Nope. Corpses, drugs and money never are.” He felt Tony moving, then he was looking up into the other mans eyes as Tony looked down at him.

“Your gut telling you I won’t be seeing you for a few days?” Tony asked.

Gibbs was half expecting anger, or accusation, but as always, Tony just looked a little sad and sympathetic. After all, it wasn’t the first time, but from the first time this had happened, Tony understood how the job worked, and never held it against him. “Yeah.” He whispered as he reached up and brushed a lock of Tony’s hair to the side as he cupped his lover’s cheek. He really didn’t want to move as he looked up at the man he had fallen so hard for.

Tony just smiled down at him as he leaned his head into his hand. “Then go catch the bad guys and come home safe.”

“I really do love you.” He said softly as they both seemed caught just staring into each others eyes in the gloom of their borrowed room. He wasn’t usually so sappy, but at that moment he was sure he would have suffocated if he hadn’t just confessed his true feeling at that moment.

He knew it was worth it through as Tony’s smile widened and his eyes crinkled at the edges. “I really love you too.” He started grinning.

Gibbs then moved his hand and pulled Tony too him as he kissed him deeply. It seemed to last forever before Tony was pulling away.

“No!” Tony chuckled quietly. “Don’t start something you do not have time to finish.”

Gibbs growled as he thumped his head back onto his pillow. “The dead arnt going anywhere.” He muttered sourly, which only made Tony laugh more and start pushing him to get up.

“No they arnt, but you don’t want the clues to get as cold as their corpses.” Tony said accusingly as Gibbs managed to get his feet on the floor before Tony really did push him out of the bed.

“Fine.” He said as he stood and stretched, then looked at his watch. “Shit.”

“Hum?” Tony asked from behind him.

“It’s four… they couldn’t have waited another two hours.” He sighed as he turned the lights on then started rummaging though their clothes for some clean boxers.

“Just think of all the over time.” Tony grumbled as Gibbs turned to see him stretching across the bed, then he was yawning as Gibbs watched him snuggle up under the covers.

“Not going to see me off?” He asked as he pulled a shirt on.

Tony pulled the covers up over his nose. “Nope.” Came the cheeky muffled reply. Then he pulled the covers back down. “Gonna try get a few more hours before I have to get the kids off to school… then deal with ‘Grandmamma’.”

“She too much?” He asked seriously, he knew she would be, but he hadn’t ever had time to really talk about it, not with everything going on.

Tony shook his head. “Na, she’s fine. And the kids love her, and the dogs.”

Gibbs grinned at the tone Tony used for the last part. “I take it you don’t like them much.”

Tony groaned. “One of them thinks my crutches are a chew toy.”

“Don’t worry.” Gibbs said as he sat down on the side of the bed and started to put his shoes on. “Only a few more days and we can go home.”

“Yeah.” Tony answered, but Gibbs heard the reluctance in his voice.

“It’s gonna be fine.” Gibbs turned to lay his hand on Tony’s shoulder as he looked at him. “I’ll phone Fornell later and see what the situation is.”

“Thanks… I just…”

“What?” Gibbs asked.

“I just want to be free of him.” He whispered.

Gibbs squeezed Tony’s shoulder. “You will be… we all will.”

Tony nodded, “I just want it yesterday.”

“If I could I would.” Gibbs said as he reluctantly got to his feet, then leaned down and kissed his lover again in a chaste kiss. “Now go back to sleep, and dream about all the stuff we almost got up to tonight.”

“Oh that’s mean!” Tony barked out laughing.

Even though their lovemaking couldn’t be called prolific and Gibbs made sure that Tony was always the one who called the shots about who did what and how. But he made damn sure that Tony came. And every precious time, it was like angels singing as the earth moved.

“Especially as we don’t have any lube.” He chortled as he started to leave. “Oomf!” he let out as Tony threw a pillow at him.

“Then you better bloody bring some home with you!” Tony growled quietly at him. “And give me the damn pillow back before you go.”

“Yes, dear.” Gibbs said as he tossed the pillow back as he left, reluctantly.

 

TBC ^_^

Chapter Text

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + + [Chapter 8]

 

Gibbs was tired.

It had been over forty-eight hours since he had been woken up for this damn case, and still they always seemed two steps behind the damn killers.

The two petty officers had been mules who had run out of their usefulness, but the people who had killed them hadn’t known that one of them still had a huge wad of cash and drugs on him before dumping them.

So now, there was a BOLO out on the one of the men who was known to the FBI, and through that they would hopefully find the other three men who were involved, or so the only witness they had found stuttered at them.

But he had sent the team home for a few hours of sleep, before they all fell over or worse, slipped up on something really important. That, and he just wanted to see Tony and the kids.

When he entered Ducky’s home, everything was quiet. So he crept upstairs in the dark.

He saw a dull light coming from the kids room, so he went over and peeked into the open door to see them all sleeping soundly. Then he turned and went to the room he shared with Tony. But as soon as he started to open the door, it creaked and a bedside light came on, almost blinding him.

“Jet?”

“Shouldn’t you be asleep?” he asked as he strode over to the other man as he was sitting up.

“I only just turned the light out.” Tony was saying as Gibbs sat down on the side of the bed and leaned in for a quick kiss that Tony gave him.

“Everything been okay?” He asked as he took hold of one of Tony’s hands.

“Yeah, Susan’s is coming over to pick the kids up and bring them home for me. The Spencer’s also came over today to pick Miki up, but ended up staying, they got on with Grandmamma like a house on fire.” He paused to yawn. “So at least today I got to take it easy.” He smiled. “How’s the case going?”

“Slow.” Gibbs sighed. “Just came back for a few hours, if we don’t get called in sooner.”

“Damn.” Tony sighed, but he was pulling a face that Gibbs knew was more than disappointment that the case still wasn’t over.

“What?”

Tony looked down as his own lap.

“Tony?” Gibbs asked concerned now.

Tony sighed again as he finally looked back up. “I was hoping you could help me have a bath.” He pulled an awkward expression.

Gibbs frowned. “They don’t have a shower?” he asked perplexed. After all, Tony always managed to bath himself at home.

“They have a few.” Tony answered. “But none of them have grab rails… and I only just got the shampoo out my hair before I had to get out the shower or end up on the floor.”

Gibbs instantly stood up. “Get up then.” He said as he started to pull his jacket off.

“Hu?”

“Shower or bath?” He asked as he toes off his shoes.

“Oh! Right now?” Tony was asking as Gibbs saw him pulling the cover off his legs. “You should get some sleep.”

“You first… Sleep later… Bath or shower?”

“Charmer.” Tony grinned as he was reaching for his crutches, “But I would love a really warm bath.”

Gibbs turned and made his way out into the corridor to the shared bathroom that was next to their own, but far enough away from the kids room that they wouldn’t wake them.

He turned the taps on as he put the plug in. He was almost dead on his feet, and a shower would have been quicker and easier. But he knew that Tony really only wanted hot baths when his leg was being particularly stubborn and he needed the hot water to ease muscles.

He was looking to see if there was any bath salts on the shelved when he heard Tony come in behind him.

“Shelf to your left.” Tony said and sure enough, there was a little box of bath salts. “Dump the whole thing in.”

“You sure?” Gibbs asked amused. “You’re gonna smell of roses.”

“Anything better then smelling like I do now.” Tony chuckled.

+ ~oOo~ +

Tony watched as Jet actually did just pour the whole box of bath salts into the bath and almost instantly the steam filled the air with the smell of roses and he couldn’t help but chuckle. “Ok, so fine, but I think I can survive smelling like old lady.” He said as he put their PJ’s onto the edge of the sink.

“So long as it helps.” Jet said as Tony began pushing his sweats down his legs, then Jet was helping to pull them all the way down so he could step out of them, using the sink to support himself. Then without another word, Jet was helping him to the edge of the bath and helping him get in. They had done this enough times for it to almost be instinct as Tony wrapped his hands around Jet’s neck and they lowered down, with Tony keeping his injured leg straight as he went down.

When he was finally in the water he let out a long groan of pleasure as almost instantly the muscles in his leg began to loosen up. “Turn the cold water off.” He asked as he leaned back, watching as Jet did as he asked and the water began to warm up around his feet.

“Rough day?” Jet asked as he knelt down at the side of the bath.

“Not really.” He said as he put his hand up so Jet could hold it. “Just really needed this.”

“Well, we will be home soon.” Jet promised as he kissed his fingers.

Tony felt a knot form in his stomach at that statement.

“Abby said the CCTV is almost ready to go, she’s also got a feed rooted through to her lab, or something, I have to say I didn’t really understand what she was going on about, but that she will be able to keep an eye on you when I’m not there.”

Tony wanted to feel reassured by that, but the thought of being watched all day was a little disturbing, but if it meant keeping the kids safe, he would live with it… at least until ‘he’ was found.

“Sorry.” He said softly, knowing how much Jet would hate it just as much as he did. After all, he knew Jet was a private person, at least with everyone but him and the kids.

“Hey.” Jet said as Tony leaned into the hand he was running through his hair. “Anything to reassure you you’re not going to be alone when I can’t be there.”

Tony felt his eyes stinging, but he wasn’t going to cry damn it. “It’s just… I duno…”

“That ‘he’ was in the house… is that what’s upsetting you?” Jet asked softly.

Tony nodded. “He knows where I am…” then another though stabbed its way into his consciousness, and he was grabbing at the front of Jet’s shirt desperately. “He killed Mari! He will be after you… he will want to hurt YOU to get to ME! He wouldn’t hesitate!” He felt his breath trying to catch in his chest.

“Hey… Hey!” Jet was saying as Tony felt his hands on either side of his face. “You think I will let him get near me? Either of us?”

“But…” He gasped.

“Tony.” Jet said firmly. “I’ve dealt with a lot more intelligent and scary guys. I’ll just be vigilant. I won’t let him hurt you, or me.”

Tony looked into Jet’s eyes, that were looking into his own with a steel and determination that Tony couldn’t deny, so, reluctantly, he nodded. “But…”

“No… no ‘but’. I will protect you,”

Tony still had his doubts, how could he not. But he closed his eyes and rested his forehead against the other mans. “Okay.” He whispered. After everything this one man had done for him already, for nothing in return, how could he doubt him now? “Okay.”

“Good. Now, do you mind if I take a shower while you relax?” Jet asked quietly making Tony chuckle a little as always, Jet’s shier force of will, calmed him enough to breath normally.

“Sure.” He said pulling away, letting Jet kiss him quickly before getting stiffly to his feet. “Shame there isn’t enough room.” He said as he watched his lover getting undressed.

“Hu?” Jet asked.

“Looks like your knee needs this bath as much as I do.” He watched as Jet actually looked into the water, contemplating the possibility. “Don’t tempt me… but I don’t fancy having to explain to the kids, or Ducky why we are still here in the morning because we can’t get out.” He actually chuckled at the image of them stuck all night and it not remotely being romantic.

“Shame.” Jet sighed dramatically as he threw a sock at him.

“Hey!” he shouted as he batted the sock away.

- - -

Tony was nodding off, just listening to the shower and knowing Jet was near by, when Jet finally got out the shower and started drying himself off. But at least for the moment the constant nagging pain in his thigh had ease off considerably and he was finally feeling relaxed.

“Come on; let’s get you washed then to bed.” Jet was saying as he pulled his PJ pants on.

“Don’t have too.” Tony said, looking up at his lover, finally seeing how tired Jet actually looked. “Just help me up. You look tired.”

Jet ignored him as he found a washcloth and the soap. “Wont take two minutes.” He said. And Tony was surprised when he was manipulated about until he was in fact washed with military efficiency. Feeling a little guilty that he hadn’t done it himself when Jet was in the shower.

It was a bit of a struggle to actually get on his feet though, as he had feared. At home, there were grab rails where he could just pull himself up and a mat in the bath so he wouldn’t slip. Now he had nothing but Jet and his own shaky strength on the slick surface of the bath. But without face planting on the floor, he managed to get out upright. Where he was thoroughly towelled dry and helped into his own PJ bottoms.

“Shame I was too tired to take advantage of you.” He chuckled as Jet helped him back to their bedroom. After all, nothing had thought about stirring even when it was being washed, but then Jet was so ‘military’ about it, he guessed he shouldn’t be too surprised.

“You’re not the only one.” Jet confessed, then he was yawning so hard Tony couldn’t help but copy him as he slipped onto the bed.

“Early morning?” Tony asked as Jet bent and lifted his legs onto the bed.

“If I don’t get called in sooner.” Jet said as Tony couldn’t help but smile as Jet was pulling the covers up to his chin.

“Gonna get me a glass of warm milk too?” He couldn’t help but tease as Jet began to walk to his side of the bed. But his lover stopped, turned back to him, then bent down and kissed his forehead.

“Sleep tight.” Jet whispered at him then began to walk towards to door.

“Hey! Don’t you dare think of sleeping on the couch!” Tony said as he levered himself onto his elbows. “Jet!” He hissed as the other man left the room. With a huff off frustration, he flopped back on the bed.

He was about ready just to turn the lights off and go to sleep, again, alone. When Jet came sauntering back in.

“Get in this damn bed now!” Tony hissed so he didn’t wake the kids.

“Thought you might be needing these.” Jet said; a shit eater grin on his face as he came over and propped Tony’s crutches up against the bedside table.

Tony sputtered a laugh. “Yeah… well.” He grinned. “Next time tuck me in properly before you walk away.”

“Yes dear.” Jet was smiling as he finally climbed into his side of the bed. “Now get over here so we can sleep.”

Tony pulled himself onto his good side as Jet moved so Tony could lay his head on his shoulder comfortable, caught tight against Jet’s side as Jet’s arm came up so he would be stroking the back of Tony’s head as they fell asleep.

Tony closed his eyes as he listened to his lover breathing.

He couldn’t help but wonder when he had become a smuggler?... his entire life he had hated sharing a bed with anyone, Even when the kids snuck into his bed for comfort, he couldn’t really relax, afraid he would roll on them in his sleep. Or if he did get to sleep, they would move and rock the bed and he would wake up afraid his leg would protest at the movement. But Jet? Jet slept like a log and never seemed to move, and the guy could even get out of bed without waking him. Something that had never happened before with anyone else.

Then he guessed it was because he felt safe.

Jet had stridden into his life and given him a peace he had never known. Taken him under his wing, kids and all.

He moved the fingers on his left hand, feeling the band of metal around his ring finger. A promise that Jet had made to him. A promise he still couldn’t quite believe… not when he knew how many wives the other man had gone through… oh… he tried not to chuckle. If it was ever made legal, would he be the fifth Missis Gibbs? “Ouch!”

“Shh.” Jet hissed.

“That stung.” Tony groaned as he looked up at Jet, who had just tapped him sharply on the top of his head.

“You think to loud.” Jet whispered as his fingers began rubbing the saw spot he had just make. “Go to sleep.”

With a huff, Tony tightened his arm across Jet’s chest and settled down again. “You too.” He said as he closed his eyes.

- - -

All too soon he was being woken up buy Jet’s phone going off. He reached over Jet, who was awkwardly trying to reach his mobile with his free arm and failing miserably. So Tony reached across him, grabbed the mobile, flipped it open the barked into it. “What!”

/“Bo… Oh… I need to speak to Gibbs.”/ It took a moment for Tony to recognise the voice as Todd’s.

“It’s for you.” He said as Jet put a hand over his own that still held the phone and moved it to his own ear.

“What?” Jet barked into it as Tony rested his chin on Jet’s chest and just watched. “Get every o… Where?... Be right there.”

Tony grinned as Jet closed their hands, hanging up on the other NCIS agent.

“You enjoy that?” Jet asked; his lips quirked up at one side.

Tony shrugged awkwardly. “Well, I think I got that angry tone down… and it’s still dark and she disturbed my sleep and it going to ruin the rest of my night.” He pouted.

“Poor baby.” Jet cooed as he patted his head in a condescending manner.

“I’ll ‘poor baby’ you after I shove you onto the floor.” Tony groused as he rolled onto his back so Jet could actually get up.

“Well, if this goes well.” Jet said as he started getting up. “Then you can have me all tomorrow night.”

Tony groaned. “Great, you just jinxed yourself.” He said sourly to which Jet just chuckled as he finished dressing as Tony watched.

“I’ll see you later.” Jet finally said as he picked up his keys, then leaned down kissed him. “Be good.”

“Be safe.” Tony whispered back as he snuggled back under the covers and hugged Jet’s pillow to him as he tried to get back to sleep.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Eli wasn’t stupid, she knew why Uncle didn’t wana go back their house, but she needed her gym kit for tomorrow. She didn’t wana ware the old smelly ones that other kids had used and lost.

She kinda knew she should just tell Uncle it was okay, she could go without it, but she really, really wanted her new kit. She had told her friends about it and she wanted to show it off. But she also didn’t like the look in her Uncles eyes. She only ever wanted him to be happy. Because if he was happy, it meant everything was going okay.

“Hey, Jet. Err. Just to let you know we are going over to the house.”

She watched Uncle talking on his cell phone as he reached out and ruffled her hair, so she pulled a face at him. He knew she hated it.

“Eli needs something, just letting you know. We shouldn’t be long.”

Then she watched him close the cell. “Go grab our coats.” And she ran off to get them out of the closet by the door. When she went and found him again, he was talking to the nice nurse who came to look after the nice old lady who said she was their great grandmamma. And to be honest, Eli loved it. She could finally tell people she actually had a grandmother. It was cool.

“I’m really sorry.” Uncle was saying to Nurse Kristy.

“Oh, I don’t mind, they are good kids.” Nurse Kristy was smiling and blinking oddly at he Uncle, like a lot of people seemed to do.

“We wont be long.” Then Uncle was turning on his crutches. “Well, coat on little miss,” he said when she saw her.

“You first.” She grinned up at him as she held his coat out for him as she reached to hold one of his crutches. He had only been on one that morning, which meant his leg wasn’t that bad, but after lunch he had gone back to two. She didn’t like it when he wouldn’t take his medicine to make it better, and wished Jet was here, cos then Uncle would take it and get all funny and giggly, or be boring and fall asleep.

“Thanks.” Uncle was saying as he finished with his coat. And she quickly scrambled into his own as they went outside to the car they were borrowing from someone, or something. It looked a lot like the one Jet said was his ‘works’ car. She didn’t like it, cos like Uncles old car, he struggled to get into it and out, and today was the same as she buckled into the front seat, then waited for him to get in too.

It took no time at all to get back home, as they both sang along to her favourite Disney soundtrack. But she knew something was wrong as Uncle stopped singing along as they went down the familiar street to the house.

“In and out.” She told him, getting worried now. But he just turned to her and smiled.

“In and out.” He said back. “Easy peasy. You remember where you put your kit?”

She nodded as they pulled into the driveway. Uncles new car still sat in the driveway too, “I can just run in and get it.” She offered. Uncle had told her someone had got into the house and messed it up, but people had been in to tidy up for them. She still wasn’t sure why they couldn’t just move back though.

“It’s okay princess.” Uncle said as he started getting out. So she scrambled to follow.

She put her hand on his wrist as they made their way up the stairs and Uncle opened the door. At first she was expecting to see a mess. But she couldn’t see anything wrong. Other then a pile of mail on the kitchen table.

She looked up at Uncle when she heard him take a deep breath and let it out, slow. He was looking around at everything, like he always did in a new place.

“Go get your kit.”

“Okay!” She said as she made her way to the stairs.

“And can you get Miki’s rabbit, I think he’s missing Mr Floppsy.”

“Sure!” She said as she ran up to her room. It took her a moment to find her new kit and stuff it into a Disney princess bag she had, then she got Miki’s silly stuffed rabbit, she also picked up Danny’s favourite transformer and stuffed them both into her bag to, before running back downstairs, where Uncle was going through the mail by the dining room table.

“All done!” She said skipping over to him. Wishing they were here to stay, but knew they weren’t coming back till Jet wasn’t at work for a bit.

“You get Mr Floppsy?” Uncle asked.

“In my bag.” She said, showing him, and the transformer.

“Great, let’s go.”

They were almost to the door when she saw someone coming up on the outside. She almost yelped when she felt a hand on her shoulder, pulling and shoving her back, but instead she clamped her hands over her mouth.

Then the person banged on the door, who ever it was, was pulling on the handle trying to get in.

“I know you’re fucking in there!”

She couldn’t help but make a little squeak of fear as she grabbed the back of Uncles coat.

Then her dad was rattling the door handle harder and she thought he would open it, before she saw the new lock on the door, and it was one like on the old house. Where it locked automatically when closed. Then the door was being shaken and her dad was kicking it.

She looked up at Uncle, terrified now. But he was pulling his cell from his pocket, then he was turning and she scrambled to stay between him and the front door as she heard her dad start screaming more bad words. But Uncle was moving them towards the kitchen, and the basement door.

“Shit.” She heard Uncle swear as he was fiddling with his cell again. “Chris?” she heard him hiss. “I can’t get through to J… Gibbs…” She saw her uncle run a hand over his face. “Hicks is here… at the house! Tell him!”

Eli flinched as suddenly the banging on the front door stopped and she whimpered as she looked at the back door. Then Uncle was opening the basement door and pushing her in and following.

“Yeah… yeah…” He was saying as Eli helped him throw the bolt locks at the bottom of the door as he did the top ones.

Then she wanted to cry as they listened to the back door also being kicked and banged on, followed by her dad screaming some more.

“Tell them to get here asap!” Uncle hissed into his cell before he was putting it away. “Come on, lets get down the stairs.”

She did, but she also didn’t want to let go of him. So as soon as he got down to, she latched onto his hand again as she made it over to the chair Jet had put down there for them to sit in.

Then Uncle was sinking on to the chair, but she wanted to push him back onto his feet. He couldn’t be falling down now!

“Shh, its okay.” Uncle said. Then she was being pulled into his arms. She could feel him shaking and she couldn’t keep it in anymore as she pushed her face into his chest.

She was terrified.

Dad had always scared her. He was sometimes nice. But that never lasted. And when he had hit her that night Uncle took them away, it had really hurt. But not as much as her dad would hurt Uncle… and she could still remember her mum also crying as dad hit her too.

She loved living with Jet. He was nice and he never hit anyone, and he made Uncle really happy.

They stayed hugging each other till she heard sirens in the distance, and the horrible noises her dad was making suddenly stopped.

She lay against her Uncle till they finally heard someone else knocking on the front door.

“Oh, thank god.” Uncle sighed as he started to get up. “Can you get the locks?”

Eli shook her head. She didn’t want to move.

“I think it’s the police.” Uncle was saying softly. “We need to go see if it is, then let them in.”

Eli swallowed then scrambled off Uncles lap and slowly made her way up the stairs. She was just struggling to get the top lock when she felt her Uncle come up to her. Then there was more knocking.

“Who is it!?” Uncle called as they made their way into the kitchen.

Then she saw the glass in the back door had been cracked, but it hadn’t broken and she was scared all over again.

“It’s the police!” another man called from the front door. “We had a call about a possible brake in?”

“One second!” Uncle called back as he was struggling through the family room. “There was a man outside… is he gone?”

“Can you open the door?” The guy who said he was the police called back.

“Please… I need you to confirm there isn’t someone on the property.” Eli heard the strange tremor in Uncle voice and she didn’t like it.

“We saw a man running down the street to a truck, we have a car chasing it down… can you open the door now?”

“Sure.” Uncle was sighing, as she watched him finally open the door to an older man in a policeman’s uniform.

“You the home owner?” The Policeman asked, as he then looked at her, and she slunk behind her Uncle.

“I live here.” Uncle said. “Officer?”

“Martins.” The policeman said. “Can I come in?”

“Sure.” Uncle said, then they were moving backwards, as the other man came past them to look into the house.

“So what happened?”

“Sorry, I’m gonna have to sit down.” Uncle said as he started moving over to the couch.

“You injured?” the policeman asked and he sounded a little less mean.

“Not today.” Uncle said as he sat down and Eli instantly crawled against his side as he put an arm around her. “Injured in the line of duty a few years back.”

“Military?”

“No, I used to be a detective over in Baltimore before a purp took exception and took my leg out and I lost my shield.”

“Well that sucks… so you know the guy who was trying to brake in?”

Uncle nodded. “Yeah, Daniel Hicks… He’s err… a bit of a stalker.” And Eli felt Uncles arm tighten around her at that, so she knew to stay quiet as she hugged him tighter.

“Your wife’s?” Martins said, and she saw him gesture to Uncles hand.

She felt her Uncle tense up again. “Nope.” He was saying. “Mine… he was my sisters boyfriend.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah.” Uncle said and he sounded tired. “My sister… died a few years ago.” Then Eli looked up as Uncle was looking at her and running his hand over her hair. “So he switched his attentions to me.”

“Back doors almost off its hinges!” another man walked into the house and Eli flinched before she saw him wearing a uniform too. “Oh, hi… I couldn’t find sign of anyone else. And Mohammed is still chasing that truck last I heard.”

“Thanks, Richard.” Martins sighed. “Well, I guess we need to take a statement and then look into this.”

“I believe the FBI and NCIS will already have some insight into all this.” Uncle was saying.

“Really?” the other policeman said and Eli thought he sounded surprised.

“This is an NCIS agent’s home, and Hicks broke in five days ago.” Her Uncle said.

“You’re NCIS now?” Martins asked.

She felt Uncle sigh deeply. “No. But I am a dependent. Look, do you guys want a coffee and you can get my statement?”

“That would be great. Can we use the table?” Martins asked as once again Eli had to scramble to get up, then she was holding his crutch till he was on his feet.

“Took you out that good?” Martins was asking as they followed them into the kitchen.

“Two bullets and enough door shrapnel to take most of the muscle.” Uncle was replying. “I don’t recommend it.”

“I don’t imagine anyone would.” The older guy chuckled as Uncle started making coffee.

She stopped listening as she watched the younger policeman look around the family room, she didn’t like the way he was looking at the photos Jet had put out of them all and his old family.

Then she was startled out of glaring at the other man when the house phone went off.

“Oh… let me get that.” Uncle was saying. Then he was picking the phone up. “Hello… err, yeah, this is still his house… who.” She watched as Uncles eyes widened and he looked surprised. “Oh… Well, Jet’s not in right now… 4th of July? Umm… sure.” Then Uncle was looking down at her as he put a hand on her head. “Yeah, I’ll tell him soon as he gets home. Okay… bye” then he was hanging up.

“Some surprising news?” The older policeman was asking.

“Err, yeah… so how do you like your coffee?”

- - -

Eli was dosing as she sat on Uncle lap as he carried on talking to the older policeman. She was getting bored and she wanted to go back to Grandpa Ducky’s house.

“Tony!? Eli!?” She jumped awake when she heard Jet call out, then she watched him come straight up to them, then he was kneeling down at their side and hugging them both really tightly. Then she heard Uncle take in a breath, then another really quickly and she knew what that meant. So she shoved Jet away as she looked up at Uncle.

“Breathe, Uncle, you gotta breathe!” she said panicked. She couldn’t stand it when he couldn’t breathe properly. It scared her so much!

“Shhh… Give him a minute.” Jet was saying as he looked at her as he held Uncles head against his shoulder. “You okay?”

“Yeah.” She felt tears stinging her eyes. “Dad was here. He tried to get in… I… I only wanted my new gym kit.” She sobbed.

“Shhh. Did you find it?” Jet was asking as he stroked her hair like he was Uncles.

She nodded. “But.”

“It’s okay.” He said then she was pulled against his side too. “You find the bastard who tried to brake in?” and she knew he was now talking to the policeman.

“Richard?”

“They lost the truck. We have a BOLO out on it.” The younger policeman called back.

“That would be a no.” The older man said. “I take it you’re the NICS agent, and this is your house?”

“Yeah.” Jet said. “Look, can you give us a minute?”

She managed to look at the older policeman as he was mouthing something she didn’t understand, but Jet nodded as the other man walked into the family room.

Then Jet was hugging her again.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs was sure he would have a few tickets; he hadn’t really taken notice of the red lights or his speed.

He had been interviewing a witness to their latest case when he had ignored his phone. Then he had been annoyed when he heard Bakers phone had gone off and he answered. He hared Baker talking with someone and his tone was slightly elevated.

Then the ex-cop had leaned into him when he had been jotting a note down and whispered quickly in his ear that it was Tony who had phone and what he had said.

Gibbs had thrust his notepad at Baker then taken off, quickly calling through to Abby as he did so. To see if she could see Hicks on the CCTV. It had taken a few moment to long for his liking for her to get back to him, before she was shouting down the line that Hicks was going around the house. She had kept him up to date with everything she was seeing as she called the cops and then Fornell.

He had slammed on the brakes and run past the cop car in his drive.

So now he was holding Eli against his side as she cried, terrified. Her little frame shaking.

He was also holding on to Tony, who was gripping the front of his shirt so hard, he was sure he had lost buttons, while his shoulder was already damp with tears as Tony hyperventilated through his panic attack.

It seemed to go on for hours, before Tony’s breathing had calmed down to occasional hitches and he seemed to be resting his whole weight on Gibbs’s shoulder as he became heavy, having exhausted himself.

“That’s it. Think you can sit up for me?” He asked softly. Then helped Tony sit up. The tears had stopped flowing over his red cheeks, but his red rimed eyes looked tired and a little wild.

“I…” Tony tried to say, “I thought… he was gonna… get in…” he said through hitches in his breathing.

Gibbs cupped his lover’s cheek. “He didn’t.”

“Gibbs!?”

Gibbs turned to see Fornell coming through the front door with another FBI agent behind him.

“That bastard was at my home again!” He seethed out to the FBI agent.

“Yeah, I heard from Abby.” Fornell sighed, then he was looking at the two cops who were still in the house. “I take it you gentlemen where first on the scene?”

Gibbs ignored them all as he turned back to his two charges. Eli, as always the brave little soldier, was whipping at her eyes, but she looked a lot calmer. No doubt she had been terrified by the whole ordeal. “It’s okay now princess.” He assured her.

“Can we go back to grandmamma’s house now?” she asked as she sniffed then whipped her nose on the back of her jacket’s sleeve.

“Soon as we sort everything out here.” He promised. Then turned his attention back to Tony, who still looked like he was about to pass out, or get up and just run away and never look back. “Can you let go of me for a second?” he asked softly, watching as Tony’s eyes focused on him. Then the death grip Tony had had on his shirt finally let go. “Ok, I’m just going to get up and go into the kitchen for a moment. I want you to stay here… Eli, why don’t you hold his hand, and if he tried to move, kick him.”

Eli nodded and gave him a trembling smile.

He stiffly got to his feet and made his way into the kitchen where he shoved a tea towel under cold water till it was sodden, then filled a glass of water and went back to his loved ones. He put the glass on the table then put one hand on the back of Eli’s head then ran the tea towel over her face, whipping up tears and snot. She instantly squealed and pushed him away.

“I’m not a baby!” She scolded him crossly, but at least the haunted look was fading. Tony on the other hand was once again looking at nothing as he sat like a forgotten doll.

He put his hand on the back of Tony’s head, like he had with Eli, then ran the cold damp cloth over Tony’s face. Tony flinched a little, but otherwise just sat there as Gibbs cleaned his tears away, then held the cloth against the heat still in Tony’s cheeks, finally running the cloth over the back of Tony’s neck. This seemed to at least rouse him a little bit.

“Better?” Gibbs asked.

Tony nodded, then he was reaching out and pulling Eli up onto his lap, holding her close. “Tired.” He said softly in reply.

“I know. Think you can last till I talk to the cops?” To which Tony nodded. “Okay, I got you a glass of water, drink it.” He ordered as he went into the living room.

He nodded at Fornell as he seemed to be finished talking to the two cops.

The older one was just jotting something Fornell was telling him down, and Gibbs couldn’t help looking between the younger cop and the other FBI agent he didn’t know either of them. Both younger men looked like they smelt something bad, and Gibbs gut already didn’t like them.

“Okay, thank you gentlemen. If you could keep me appraised if anything comes through with the BOLO, or you actually pick up Mr Hicks, that would be great.”

“Will do. Come on Richard. More bad guys to catch.” The older cop said as he gave Gibbs and Fornell a nod, then left.

“Soooo.” Fornell said as he leaned to one side to look past Gibbs into the dining room.

“What?” Gibbs asked shortly, resisting the urge to move in-between his old friend and his lover.

“Going to introduce me to the ‘stray’ that’s got you all in knots?” Fornell grinned at him.

“Sure… When you tell me why your agent here looks like something just crapped on his shoes.” He said glairing at the other FBI agent who had the gall to look him in the eye.

“Sacks, get over it.” Fornell hissed at the other agent.

“Over what.” The younger man hissed back. “The fact this guy doesn’t exist?”

Gibbs froze. Fornell already knew about why Tony had to have a new identity, after all, Gibbs had told him everything when he had asked for Fornell’s help exclusively when Hicks had broken in the first time.

“HE, is not the one you need to be focusing on.” Fornell bit back. To which Sacks huffed and looked away. “Just go outside and call in the forensic team.”

Gibbs glared at the other agent as he turned on his heals and strode out of the house.

“Sorry about him.” Fornell said, “He doesn’t like it when he thinks he needs to know everything.”

“Then maybe he shouldn’t be anywhere near this.” Gibbs seethed.

Fornell shrugged. “He’s a good agent though, that’s the problem.” He smiled sardonically. “So, going to let me meet the man I’m putting my neck out for?”

Gibbs sighed but turned and went into the dining room where Tony was helping Eli drink some of the water he had brought in.

“Tony.” He said softly, as not to spook the two. When Tony looked at him he carried on. “This is Agent Tobias Fornell of the FBI. Fornell, Tony.”

He watched as Tony eyed the other man warily, then he was holding out his free hand. “Hi.” He said as Fornell shook his hand.

“No last name?” Fornell asked.

“Paddington.” Tony said smoothly.

“And who’s this little miss.” Fornell asked, looking at Eli, who just snuggled closer to Tony.

“Elizabeth Paddington. My niece.” Tony said for her. then, “Gibbs said you were on the case from the… the brake in?”

Gibbs resisted the urge to put his hand on Tony, instinctively knowing Tony wouldn’t like it right now. Not after just having a panic attack in front of other cops.

“Yeah, we have someone staking out his house and last known location, but he’s still not shown up at either.” Fornell said. “You know of anywhere else he could be?”

Gibbs watched the shadows overtake Tony’s eyes before he quickly blinked and Gibbs almost let out a snort of surprise when he saw a mask fall over his lovers face, even his body language seemed to change as his back straightened slightly.

“No… there is only his place of work… There is a bar, The Gold Rush, where he would go to after he finished work.”

“Does he have any family or friends down here?” Fornell was asking.

Tony shook his head. “No… Or none that I know of… I doubt they would give him the time of day.”

Fonrell nodded. “We did look into his family, but we can never be to sure on if he has any friends that would put him up for the night… He ever go by another name?”

Gibbs saw Tony’s eyes flick to his own. They had both heard the slight stress inflection Fornell had put on ‘another name’.

“Not that I know of.” Tony said. His mask only slipping for that split second when he looked away from the FBI agent.

“Well, I’m sure he will slip up at some point.” Fornell said, “And when he does we will have him.”

“Sooner rather than later.” Tony said, though there was no emotion in it at all.

“Always. But now this is a second attempt at a break in, I can take this all a little more seriously. Get Abby to send me over the security footage too.”

“Will do.” Gibbs answered quickly.

“Okay. So get your boy and his kid out of here.” Fornell said as he turned away.

‘boy?’ Tony mouthed, to which Gibbs just shrugged and smiled, then held his hand out. “Come on. Lets get out of here.”

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

 “What?” Gibbs growled.

After taking Tony and Eli back at Ducky’s house, apologising to the nurse, who had been most understanding as she fluttered her eyes in Tony’s direction.

He had then convinced Tony to take some of his meds, gotten him up to bed and sat with him till the pills finally made Tony fall asleep. Something Gibbs had to be thankful for, because if Tony had been any tenser he was going to break something. He had hated to leave him though. But he still had a bad guy to catch in his own case and a scumbag he needed to force the FBI to catch.

Before he left though, he had hugged Eli some more, reassuring her that she was now safe and he would be sending over someone to watch over them all, so nothing bad would happen. Then he had also hugged Danny, who knew something was up, but didn’t refuse the reassuring hug and Miki had just laughed through it, blissfully unaware of the tension in his siblings.

He was just on his way out the door when Ducky had come in. Apparently Abby had told him about what happened. So he had come to look after everyone, and he had promised to keep a close eye on Eli and Tony.

Now he was stood glaring at the footage Abby had captured from their CCTV, with Fornell stood at his side.

“Your doors made of steel or something?” The FBI agent asked.

“Had them reinforced.” Gibbs growled. Now glad he had been convinced by the guy who installed the CCTV to get them, even though they were not cheep.

“Hu, give me the number of the installers, I could do with some.” Fornell chuckled. “He’s really trying to get in, almost managed it too.”

“Yeah.”

“No wonder your boy was a little freaked out… I wouldn’t like to see what would have happened had he actually gotten in.”

Gibbs growled. “Thanks for that.” He said insincerely.

“You’re welcome.” Fornell answered, but then his tone got serious. “But I can see now why Tony was so shook up… you also didn’t tell me the young man was that disabled.”

“I told you he could only walk with a crutch.” Gibbs seethed.

“I’m not just talking about his physical state.” Fornell’s tone lowered as he said it. “Just getting shot up in the line of work doesn’t normally cause that much trauma… and from the way he went blank on me when we were talking, he’s not that weak either…” Gibbs glanced at his old friend, once again surprised that Tobias could be so observant, but then he knew he wouldn’t trust him so much if he wasn’t. Then Tobias nodded towards the screen as they watched Hicks running down the side of the house as they could hear sirens on the tape. “This bastard got your boy that messed up?”

Gibbs nodded. “Being permanently crippled that young in his career, then his sister gets murdered by the man who then raped him, and if he didn’t agree his sisters kids would be put into care, all while he was dealing with grief, guilt and being all alone?... yeah, I guess might have messed him up a bit.” After all, he had some inkling about Tony’s head fuck. After his girls, and then taking his revenge, he had kinda lost himself for a while… it was mostly Franks that had pulled him out.

“Yeah, that would do it… still… I get how you like to protect people… but taking this one a bit far aren’t you?”

Gibbs looked at his old friend as he looked down at his left hand.

Tobias rolled his eyes at him. “However much you think the FBI is beneath you, I still got eyes in my head, I saw the matching ring on your ‘boy’s’ finger.”

Gibbs turned away as he watched Abby trying to be as inconspicuous as she could be as she copied the files Tobias needed, though she would be listening to the whole thing.

“Fine… but I want an invite to the whole wedding, not just the damn after party.”

Gibbs smiled at that. If it ever was able to happen, he would make sure Fornell was there every damn step of the way, just to piss him off.

“He’s really brainy too.” Abby suddenly whispered to Tobias.

“Hu?” the FBI agent asked.

“He solved seven cold cases just by looking at the files!” She said proudly now, as Gibbs saw her grinning at him. “He’s brilliant!”

 “Really?” Tobias said, then he was looking at Gibbs again. “All by himself?” he asked a little disbelievingly.

Gibbs nodded. “He gets bored.”

“Well… if he ever might need a job…”

“Then you will be his second choice.” Gibbs growled out. To which Tobias started chuckling.

“Wow, he must be something else if you want him working with you that much.”

“Baker really likes him too.” Abby was saying, “I guess it’s cos they were both cops who made detective quite young.”

“Am I going to have to look into his career?” Fornell asked.

Gibbs couldn’t help but growl. “Not till all this is over with.” He seethed as he gestured at the screen as they watched Tony and Eli answering the door to the two officers that came to the house.

“I’ll have the tapes with you in a sec.” Abby said, and unusually picking up on the fact Gibbs had had enough.

“Oh… and we found his sisters car. I’m having it brought in now for my guys to go over.” Fornell whispered. “We’ve already got Hicks’s records that’s a mile long.”

“Get him for all you can.” Gibbs snarl.

 

TBH ->

Chapter Text

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +  [Chapter 9]

 

Tony still wasn’t sure he ever wanted to go back to the house. Even as they pulled into the drive way.

The house looked like it always did. But Tony couldn’t help feeling insecure about staying here. It had meant safety, now it didn’t feel so secure.

“It’s gonna be alright.” Jet whispered to him. “Ok kids, lets get inside.” He said louder as he turning to the back seat.

Tony sucked in a long breathe before he opened his door as he reached for his crutches. Ever since Hicks had tried to brake in, he now needed them both. He had seen Jet raze an eyebrow at him using both, but thankfully had said nothing. Tony didn’t think his pride could take it being questioned.

“Go in, I’ll get everything else.” Jet said from the back of the car. Meaning the shopping and their luggage.

Tony nodded, then watched as a police cruiser went past slowly and he felt a bit more secure, knowing that one would go past every hour or so, and an FBI car would be staking out the house at night. And that some poor security guy would also be keeping an eye on the CCTV feeds that watched the outside of the house around the clock.

He couldn’t help but wonder how long they would keep up all the surveillance. But for now, he would live with it, and willingly.

He made his way into the house as Jet was coming up behind him with the groceries and the kids were nowhere to be seen. Then he hard them turning their games machine on in their room.

“Seems the rugrats are happy to be home.” Jet said from behind him. 

Tony managed a smile. “Kids like familiarity.” He said as Jet walked past him and he followed. Just as he was about to enter the kitchen he saw the phone on the wall. “Err…Jet?”

“Yeah?” Jet asked as he came up to him, reaching out to rest a hand on his hip, a gesture Tony didn’t think he would ever get bored of, as Jet’s whole attention was on him and it helped to settle whatever emotions he was going through.

Tony nodded towards the phone. “I forgot. But you had a call when the police where here.”

“Oh? From who?”

“Your dad.” He watched as a shadow fell over Jet’s face for a moment, then he looked a little pissed.

“What did he want?”

“I can’t remember.” He confessed. “But… he’s coming over for the 4th of July?”

Jet growled and Tony felt a spike of anxiety. After all, if the rolls were reversed, he would be angry too, but it’s not like Senior would even show up anyway and if Jet’s dad was anything like his own, he knew he had fucked up. “Should I have told him not too?” he asked. More worried when Jet still looked pissed.

Jet let out a sigh. “No… It’s fine.” Then a crocked smile touched his lips, as the hand he still had on Tony’s hip tightened a little. “I think he will love you.”

“Really?” Tony asked, surprised. “Even though…?” he moved a finger between them both.

Jet just ran his free hand over his face. “What did you say?”

Tony frowned, “I’m not sure… I did say this was still your home and that you weren’t in right then… then he just invited himself over… Where does he live?”

“Up in Stillwater.” Jet answered.

“So you think he’s gonna be okay with us?” Tony asked again. After all, as soon as his own father found out he was shacked up with another guy he would probably never see him again… which might not be a bad thing.

“I have no idea.” Jet said. “But apart from being surprised, he will probably be okay with it… once he meets you.”

Tony blinked, then smiled, “He did want you to call him back. So maybe you can see how he feels then?” To which Jet rolled his eyes.

“Just so you know; he’s probably as nosy as you?” Jet gave him a crooked smile.

“That why you don’t like him then?”

“I don’t not like him.” Jet winced at his own words. “Just something he did once… and that he liked to know every little thing about my life… I didn’t always appreciate it.”

“Better then him not giving a crap at all.” Tony said bitterly, hating the sudden hollowness in his own chest, but he really didn’t want to go there right now. “So it’s okay he’s comes over? I guess he will be staying the night? You’re gonna have to ask him, will he be okay staying in the boys room with them?”

Jet sighed again, but Tony felt him step closer till they were hip to hip. “I’ll call him later… I’ll ask him then… but you better start preparing, he’s going to want to know everything about you and the kids.”

Tony swallowed feeling a spike of trepidation. “The truth?... or?” he asked.

“The truth.” Jet stated. “Then we tell him what we told everyone else that’s inviting themselves over for dinner.”

“I’m gonna have to start writing lists.” Tony mused as he began thinking of all the stuff he would have to buy, and how to cook it all in the small kitchen.

“And a list for everyone to bring over a dish. We aren’t going to pay for everything.” Jet was chuckling. “Now help me put stuff away.” He said as he leaned in for a quick kiss before moving away.

Tony managed a smile again as he moved to help out with the familiar activity.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs sighed as he looked at his cell.

Tony and the kids were in the living room and Tony was teaching them all how to play ‘Pontoon’, thought Gibbs was sure it was Blackjack, using dry pasta shells as betting chips. Jet had tried to vaguely protest, not sure that teaching the kids how to gamble was a good idea, but Tony had just grinned at him, telling him it was ‘teaching them maths and numbers.’, then waved him away with one hand as the other held Miki’s cards while the toddler sat on his lap.

So angrily, he pulled up his dad’s number onto his cell then hoped his dad wouldn’t pick up, but all to soon he heard his dad’s voice down the line.

/”Hello?”/

“Hey, dad.”

/”Oh, son!”/ His dad said happily. /”I was about to come down and see where you were, a young man said you would phone, I thought it would be sooner than this though.”/

“I’m fine dad.” Gibbs sighed.

/”Thank goodness, I was getting quite worried./

“I know, but I was only told you called earlier today.” He said as he wandered down into the basement.

/”Oh, is that young man alright then? Why was he in your house?”/

Gibbs grit his teeth, then remembered Tony’s words from earlier and he tried to clamp down on his irrational anger. If their rolls were reversed, he would want to know too. “Tony’s fine.” That was all he was gonna say before he gave himself a mental slap on the back of his head. “Some stuff happened when you called and we only just got back to the house today.”

/”I’m sorry to hear that. So… this young man, you said his name was Tony?”/

“Yeah.”

/”Are you renting out a room now?”/

Gibbs ran a hand over his eyes. “No.”

/”Work?”/ His dad asked.

“Not that either.” He hedged like a coward. And his dad was quiet for a spell.

/”A friend?”/

Gibbs wanted desperately to hang up before he heard Danny cry out in triumph upstairs, no doubt, he had just won a hand of cards. “A little more than that.” He said with a smile as he heard Eli crying about cheating.

/”Oh.”/ His dad said softly. No doubt the penny was dropping. /”Are you happy, son?”/

Gibbs leaned a hip against his work bench, feeling his shoulders finally relax, and not realising he had been tensing up. “Yeah, dad… I really am.”

/”So, I’m going to meet him when I come down for the forth of July?”/ His dad asked, and Gibbs heard the slight tone of hope in it, which made him relax even more. Trust his dad to take this all in his stride.

“Yeah, he wants to know if you’re going to be spending the night?”

/”I was hoping for the weekend, so you have time to sort out a spare room.”/ His dad chuckled.

“Ah… yeah. About that.” He sighed. “We don’t have a spare room anymore. Tony’s nephews are in there now and his niece is in… is in the other room.” He couldn’t bring up Kelly right now, not with his dad anyway, too much bad blood there. “So we needed to know if you wouldn’t mind sharing with a three and six year old?”

There was more silence from the other side of the phone call.

/”Sounds like you have found yourself a full house.”/ His dad finally said. /”And so long as they don’t mind sharing with an old man, I wont mind… and I’m taking it you’re not going to tell me everything that’s going on right now?”/

“Not over the phone.” Gibbs sighed. “We can tell you everything when you get here.”

/”I will keep you to that.”/ His dad said, and Gibbs heard the smile in it. /”You tell your Tony, I’ll be down Friday evening. And I’ll see you then, son.”/

“I’ll tell him, bye.”

/”Good night son.”/

Then Gibbs hung up, dropping the cell on his work table as he took a deep breathe. Glad that had gone better than he could have hoped. After all, coming out to his dad this late in life? Wasn’t something he thought would have gone well. But at least, for now, he hadn’t lied to Tony when he said his dad probably wouldn’t mind. He just hoped, that in the light of day, when they met, it would go as smoothly.

He finally made his way back upstairs.

“How’d it go?” Tony asked as he looked away from his and Miki’s cards.

“He’ll be coming over the Friday night, and staying the weekend.” Gibbs said as he sat down between Eli and Danny, looking at the cards they held. Then reaching out to Danny’s cards and pointing at the one he should throw away.

“Stop cheating!” Eli admonished as she glared at him. “And who’s coming over?”

Gibbs took hold of her hand so he could peek at her cards too, then pointed out what she should discard. “That one there.” He said. “And my dad’s coming down from where he lives the day before the forth.”

“Your real dad?” Danny asked, looking at him with wide eyes, still not liking the fear they held for that word.

“Yup.” He answered as he cast a quick look at Tony. “If you like Ducky and his mother, I think you will like him too.”

“Will he be our really real granddad?” Eli asked softly.

“If he wants you to call him that.” Tony said, giving Gibbs a direct look. “We can ask him when we meet him, okay?”

“Yeah… now… who’s winning?” Gibbs asked, changing the subject as he reached out and stole one of Eli’s pasta shells from her larger pile, to which she squealed with indignation and flapped her free hand at him, glaring at him. He just grinned back as he helped the two older children as they plaid against Miki and Tony.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

“Fornell?” Tony said as he opened the door to the FBI agent. He hadn’t seen him since the day Hicks had tried braking in, though they had talked on the phone and he knew he was one of Gibbs friends.

“Tony. Mind if I come in?” the FBI agent asked and Tony moved so he could come in. Then he saw Samuel at the end of the drive wave at him then give him a thumbs up. Tony returned the gesture as he shut the door. Samuel was one of the regular police officers who kept an eye on the house during the day. And some day’s he would just come in for a visit, which Tony didn’t mind, especially when all the kids were out. It was always nice talking to adults now and then.

“Couldn’t also trouble you for a coffee?” Fornell asked.

“Sure.” Tony said as he made his way into the kitchen. “I’m guessing this isn’t a social call?”

“A little. Gibbs called to say what was going on?”

Tony busied himself with preparing the coffee maker. Ducky had called earlier, assuring him Gibbs was fine, but that McGee and Kate were in the hospital after someone had tried to poison them all with the plague, through the mail of all things! Gibbs had called half an hour ago though to assure him that he was really okay, but he might be home late, if at all tonight. Now he was just praying McGee and Kate would make it.

“Yeah.” He answered, “But I’m guessing it has nothing to do with… my situation.” Not like Hicks could get his hands on anything that dangerous. Or he hoped not!

“No… but I am here about that.”

“Oh?” Tony said as he got out mugs for them both. “How do you like it?”

“Black as tar and about as thick.” Fornell chuckled.

Tony groaned. “You an ex-marine too?” he asked getting cream and sugar our for himself.

“Nope, just a long career where I don’t have time for niceties when I need something to keep me awake.”

“I don’t miss those kinds of all nighters,” He smiled at the other man, “But the kids have their moments. So, Please tell me you have Hicks in custody.”

“Wish I could.” Fornell said with a sigh. “But he seems always one step ahead of us.”

Tony turned to see how the coffee was doing so he could try and hide his disappointment. “So that all you’re here to tell me?”

“Nope. But coffee first.”

At which point they lapsed into silence as they waited for the coffee machine to finish, then Tony poured them both coffee and doctored his own.

“Let me get them.” Fornell said as he reached for the mugs, “Where are we gonna sit?”

“Table.” Tony said as he followed the FBI agent into the dining room and sat down putting his crutches to one side. “So… Whats going on?” he asked, holding his hands around his own mug.

“Gibbs tell you we found your sisters car?”

“Yeah.” Tony answered.

“Well, the brake lines were cut. And for some stroke of luck, we found blood where the person who cut them must have cut themselves… We are just waiting for DNA to come back.”

Tony couldn’t quite believe it, but then he sighed. “So, how many years do we have to wait for it to come back?”

“It’s being processed as we speak… but that’s why I’m here… I’m hoping we can get DNA from one of his children.”

Tony blinked. “Err, sure… they should be home from school in another hour… But why so fast? It’s not like my situation is high priority.” He couldn’t help but be a little suspicious.

“I have favours that need paying and a stubborn man who wont take ‘no’ for an answered when it comes to what he thinks is important.” Fornell let out a put-upon sigh. “That… and I’m not doing this without asking my own favours.”

Tony saw the sly look in the other mans eyes, and his guts churned. Then Fornell was reaching into his coat and pulled out a folded manila file.

“I heard you are good at helping solve cold cases.” Then Fornell was turning to look into the living room where Tony already had a cold case Gibbs had given him a few days ago, all spread out on the coffee table.

“You don’t see that.” Tony told him.

To which Fornell chuckled as he turned back. “Just like I’m not giving you this right now.” He said unfolding the slim file and putting it on the table.

Tony’s fingers itched to pick it up, but he resisted, knowing that agreeing to something like this so quickly was never the best way to go.

“So what else do you have on Hicks.” He asked, taking a sip from his coffee as he watched a small smile form on Fornell’s lips. Obviously this man knew what was going on in his mind. But it soon disappeared as he began talking again.

“We found the last two hotels he was staying in. But he never talked to anyone he came in contact with there. If money is withdrawn from his account, it’s always local to his home address, always large amounts. Then nothing till we guess he runs out of funds. Always different ATM’s, and it’s not always him that withdraws it, usually some kid he must have found lingering about, so nothing on CCTV… Are you sure he’s never worked in law enforcement or the army?”

Tony shook his head. “I don’t really know anything about him before he met my sister. He never said and I didn’t care to ask.” He said looking into his coffee. “He worked at a car wash as far as I knew… But I always thought he had something on the side with the amount of money he would spend.”

“Drugs?” Fornell asked.

Tony shrugged. “I suspected he was just selling a bit of weed, people would bring their car in and maybe he would deal to them, nothing large, wouldn’t look to suspicious… just enough for him to get drunk every night.”

“We looked into his place of work… They suspected the same thing, but claimed not to see anything.” Fornell huffed. “But they haven’t seen him in months… and from his bank records, he didn’t have enough to stop working, but large amounts of cash keep being put into his account, again anonymously and from different locations.”

“You think he’s gone full on with the dealing?” Tony asked, a little surprised.

Fornell shrugged. “He seems a rather affluent ghost, especially as we also found his truck burned out with no evidence inside. Meaning he’s got enough to buy another car. That or his ‘benefactors’ got bored of him.”

Tony scoffed. “Don’t get my hopes up.” Though the thought of Hicks in a ditch rotting somewhere was appealing. Then Tony and the kids could finally relax and move on with their lives.

“But still, we wont stop looking, something is bound to shake its self loose, and when it does he will be going away from a long time.” Fornell tried to sound reassuring.

“Just wish we didn’t have to wait.”

“You and me both.” Fornel said. “But until then, will you take a look at this for me?” he pushed the file across the table a little.

Tony sighed. “I hope you don’t want it back too soon. I’m still looking into that one.” He waved a hand towards the coffee table, “and I can’t do it when the kids are home.”

“It’s been on my desk for years, a few more weeks shouldn’t hurt, and if you cant get anything from it, don’t let it worry you too much.”

“You got a card in here so I can contact you?” Tony asked as he pulled the file closer to himself. Even just looking at the title, it looked like another spousal murder.

“Yup, in the bacl and Gibbs had my number too.”

Tony nodded. “Thank for this…” He said softy. “Not the case… but everything else.”

“It’s fine.” Fornell said sipping his coffee. “If we didn’t protect each other, who would?”

Tony was a little shocked at that.

“You would still be a detective if you weren’t medically retired from the force?” Fornell asked.

“Well, yeah.” Tony answered immediately. After all, it was always his second career choice. But then he narrowed his eyes. “How…?”

“Gibbs told me your real name, so I looked you up… You must be good if you made detective so young… and with what your other half thinks about your work, I figured there must be something interesting in your past.”

Tony rolled his eyes. “Cold cases are hardly rocket science, and I don’t solve them all.”

“Nope, but if you can solve that one.” He said indicating the one on the table. “I’ll be more than happy to find you a job at the FBI.”

Tony couldn’t help being a little surprised and flattered, then he sighed. “If… and I’m sure Jet will have your head for even offering.” After all, it had been something they had joked about not so long ago, thought he suspected there might be something in the offer… eventually.

“Cant help a guy for trying… and I believe the FBI pays better.”

Tony shook his head smiling. “We’ll see.” He offered the same excuse he gave the kids when they wanted something. “I have to solve it first.”

Fornell shrugged. “There might be more where that came from.”

Tony sighed. “Don’t make me have to look up how much freelances charge… or it’s going to become very expensive.” He joked dryly.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Tony woke with a start when he heard the front door being opened. Then he sighed with relief as he recognised it was just Jet coming up the stairs, so he sat up and put the light on as the door to their room opened and Jet came in.

“Welcome home.” He said softly. Jet looked beyond tired. “Oh… Bad news?” he asked gently. The last conversation they had this morning was to confirm that McGee was getting sicker.

“No… Just a really long shitty day.” Jet was saying as Tony stiffly moved his legs as Jet sat down on the bed, then Tony was wrapping his arms around the older man as Jet pulled him in for a tight hug.

“So, McGee’s okay?” He asked softly. To which Jet nodded with his head against Tony’s shoulder.

“He should be.” Jet was saying quietly as he finally pulled away so they could look at each other, but Tony kept a hold of his lover’s hand.

“So did you find out who did it?” He asked. Then listened as Jet told him how it was all because of an insane dieing woman wanting to take revenge on the agency believing her daughter was raped and they did nothing about it, but that the daughter had finally told them the whole sad truth and that her mother had believed a lie for years. “That’s crazy… where is she now?”

“Dieing in hospital.” Jet sighed. “And McGee is in Bethesda fighting just to breath.”

“Shit… Well, let me know when he’s up for visitors.”

“Not anytime soon.” Jet said as he ran a hand over his face. “But the Doctor said he’s young, so he should pull through, it just depends on how well his lungs will recover.”

Tony had a moment of anxiety, “Think he can go back to work after this?”

Jet shrugged. “Too early to tell.”

“Shit.” Tony cursed; remembering how it was when he woke up and was told he probably couldn’t go back to work. It hadn’t helped that his own life had fallen apart pretty quickly after that. “Poor kid.”

“Yeah.” Jet let out a long breath. “So, how have you been?” he asked.

Tony shrugged. “Fornell came by yesterday.”

“Yeah, he told me… Took DNA samples from the kids?”

“Eli didn’t like it, but Danny was full of questions after the cheek swab.” He smiled a little. “He also left me with a cold case. Seems you’re not the only one who has to pay in favours.” He said dryly.

“Bastard.” Jet swore.

“Said if I solve it; he will offer me a job.” Tony chuckled trying to lighten the mood a little.

“I’m gonna kill him.” Jet growled as he tensed back up again.

“Don’t worry, I told him you had first dibbs.” He smiled. But it was nice to be wanted, and he really did like going over the old files. If he couldn’t go back into the field again, he could still help people, living or dead. It made him feel useful again.

Jet scoffed, then a very small smile curved up one side of Jet’s mouth. “Want us to fight for you?”

Tony had a moment of surprise before he started blushing. He was thirty-something and he was blushing!

Then Jet was leaning into him, his pale blue eyes sparkling from Tony’s bedside light. “I would win.” He said in a sultry whisper.

Tony swallowed as his eyes glanced down to Jet’s lips for a moment. “an… and what if I wanted his offer?” He managed to ask.

“But would you though?” Jet asked, just as softly.

Tony looked back into the other mans eyes and they seemed to be looking directly into his mind. But he wasn’t quite ready to give up this little game they were playing. “We might not work well together.” He said, but even he could tell there was no conviction in his voice, but it was a truth, he hadn’t had to move jobs so many times because his superiors didn’t get sick of him.

“We work pretty well together so far.” Jet was still smiling and he was leaning in so much Tony had to lean back a little. But Tony couldn’t help but return the smile.

“I guess you have a point.” He whispered, letting Jet lean in far enough until their lips were touching.

“How are you feeling?” Jet asked and Tony felt a shiver of anticipation go through him at the familiar question.

“Good enough for you to keep me awake for the next hour.” He grinned back.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Tony knocked lightly on McGee’s hospital door.

Samuel had offered to give him a ride to the hospital in his squad car when his shift was over early that day, when Tony had invited him into the house for a coffee on his rounds that morning. Even stopped off at a convenience store so Tony could get some stuff for the young agent.

“Oh, come… in.” McGee said when he finally looked up to see him.

Tony got over to the chair at the side of the bed, and sat down, pulling his bag of goodies aside so his crutches didn’t jostle the contents too much. “I hope you don’t mind me visiting.” He said smiling at the younger man, who still looked pale and sick around the eyes, even though he had been out of danger now for five days.

“No… Always… nice to have… company.” McGee gasped as he adjusted the cannula under his nose that would be giving him oxygen.

“I was going to come a little later, but I managed to get a lift.” He said. “My car’s still in the shop.”

“Why?” McGee asked a slight frown on his brow.

“Needed a service and as always they found a list as long as my arm of the stuff wrong with it.” He grinned, then he turned his attention to his bag, and started pulling out his plunder. “But I bought you some stuff.” He said as he brought out a bottle of gatorade. “Glad I didn’t get you some flowers or balloons.” He said putting the bottle down on the table over McGee’s bed, being careful of the laptop that was already there. Almost every other surface in the room was covered with cards, flowers with some get well balloons floating above them. Then he was pulling out a punit of green grapes and brandished them. “Best thing for getting better.” He grinned when he saw McGee actually smile as he reached out and took them.

“Thanks.” He said and sounded truly grateful, “I prefer… green.”

“They are the best…” Then he was pulling out his last few treasures. “I didn’t know what you would like, so I bought a few.” He said as he started handing over the things he had brought. “This is something about computers.” He said handing over the first magazine and was glad when McGee actually looked surprised and happy.

“I… don’t have this… one.”

“Well, at least I got one right.” Then he handed over one about computer games, something about multi online player games. Again, with the same response.

“You shouldn’t… have.” McGee stuttered, and it was more than him just struggling for air.

“Well, I did.” He answered. “And if those didn’t work, I knew I couldn’t go wrong with this one.” Then he put his last magazine on top of the one McGee still held. It was a child’s magazine about transformers, with a small toy attached and a little sticker book with crayons.

McGee actually started chuckling, but all too soon it turned into a hacking cough and a nurse came running in to help the younger man.

When she finally left, McGee was leaning back against the bed looking spent.

“I’m sorry.” Tony apologised and he was about to get up and leave, Guessing he would want to get some sleep but McGee waved him back down.

“Stay.” He croaked out. “But thanks… for that.” He was smiling. “Gives… me something… to do.” He said patting the child’s magazine that had been placed on top of his laptop. “Thank… you.”

“You’re welcome.” Tony said, feeling relived. “But I can come back another time, when your feeling better.” He offered but McGee shook his head.

“Gibbs… said you… would come see… me.” McGee said, and he suddenly looked older than he should.

“I told him to let me know when you were well enough for visitors.”

“How… How did you… managed?” McGee asked.

Tony let out a silent sign. He was hoping, after seeing all the gifts from people who obviously cared for his strooned about the room; that they might not have to have this conversation. After all, he wasn’t a poster child for getting though anything easily. But then he was the only person who might know something of what McGee was going through, and the young agent wasn’t stupid, he would know it too.

“Not well.” He confessed. “Have they said anything about your recovery?” He asked.

“My… Doctor… said I was doing… better then expected.” McGee answered. “But… But I should not… expect too much… right… now.”

Tony saw the tears form in McGee’s eyes and he reached out and put his hand on McGee’s that lay by his side. “Then take what they said and run with it.” He said with a smile. “If you’re doing better than expected now, just think about how better you’re going to get.” He squeezed the hand beneath his own a little. “It’s only been just over a week, and I don’t even have to guess right now, you are going through hell and you think there isn’t a light at the end of the tunnel, but you have to believe you will see it.”

“But…” McGee uttered.

Tony waved his other hand around the room. “Just remember, you aren’t dead, and you have a lot of people wanting you to get better… And even if you don’t, they will be there for you.”

McGee nodded even as one tear did escape and fall down his cheek.

“Good. Just keep a hold of that… Jet also told me you’re really good with computers?”

McGee nodded again, with a little shrug.

“Then there will always be something you can do, right? Without having to always run after bad guys.”

“But… but I liked it.” McGee uttered brokenly.

“Yeah… me too.” Tony managed another small smile even though he was running his hand over the scar on his own leg.

“Sorry.” McGee whispered.

Tony shook his head. “Hey, I’m still alive too.” He said, then he leaned in conspiratorially. “And if I can have Jet and the FBI trying to offer me a job eventually, there is hope for us both.”

McGee blinked in surprise. “Work… with us… NCIS… I mean.”

“On cold cases, so I wont be doing any running around.” He said with a slight self deprecating grin as he patted McGee’s hand then leaned back in his chair.

“I… I saw what… you did on the… last cold case…” McGee gasped. “Even… Kate was impressed.”

“Really?” Tony grinned; after all, she had seemed a little sharp around the edges even with them only meeting a few times.

McGee nodded, then he was coughing again, but it wasn’t as sever as when Tony had made him laugh and soon the younger man was just gasping a little for air, then he was looking at Tony again with a frown. “Jet?” he finally said.

Tony frowned, not knowing what he was saying; he even looked over his shoulder thinking his partner had maybe come in the room.

“You call… Gibbs… Jet?” McGee clarified.

“Oh… yeah.” He answered with a smile. “I wasn’t going to call him Leroy or Jethro.” He pulled a face. “And he’s not a Lee or a Roy.” He mock shivered.

“Boss.”

“I’m not going to call him that.” Tony chuckled.

“Really? I think it has a nice ring too it.”

“Jet!” Tony scolded as he spun round to actually see the man standing in the doorway, grinning at him. “And, no!” he growled as he tried to calm himself. After all, he knew that’s what he got his minions to call him, even though it was apparently Abby who had started it.

“Shame.” Jet sighed as he came in, then rested a hand on Tony’s shoulder as he looked at McGee. “How are you today?”

“Better.” McGee answered as he was busy trying to wipe his eyes discreetly. “A lot… better.”

“Good to hear.” Jet said. “So, Just a heads up, Abby’s coming in later this afternoon.”

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Tim woke to someone quietly talking about something to do with a movie. At first he didn’t recognise who it was, before he finally remembered Tony had come to see him and then Gibbs had come and they had talked about work… but Tim had fallen asleep not long after.

He opened his eyes a little to see Tony looking over at the TV that was on low, while Gibbs was sat besides him, one arm across the back of Tony’s chair. And just like on the night they finally met Tony for real at the restaurant, Gibbs seemed to have his focus solely on the other man.

If it was possible, he looked soft around the edges. And not the hard taskmaster he was at work. It was kinda nice to see him like that.

Then he turned his quiet observation to Tony.

He had appreciated the other man’s pep talk. After all, Tony had been kinda in his position. Only he guessed Tony knew he was never going back to work.

When they had talked about it one quiet afternoon, Baker had told them that cops usually didn’t cope so well if they were forced to retire so young. And that he wouldn’t have coped so well, if it had happened to him.

And once they learned from Abby some stuff about Tony’s background, they had all known that Tony had downplayed everything that he had told them at the restaurant.

Then he had a thought about Tony. Laying in a hospital room, all alone, knowing his career was over and that he would be disabled for the rest of his life, with maybe only his sister who might have visited. He hoped she had, as it seemed all to depressing if no one had come… but then if someone had, Tony would probably be staying with them, and not with Gibbs. Who he had only met by chance.

At least Tony was right… Tim did have people who cared. Even if his Dad could be difficult, his mom and sister still loved him, and he had friends who would do anything for him, even if it did mean moving back home. He still had people who cared.

“Oh, morning sleepyhead.” Tony was suddenly looking at him, a huge smile on his face. “And just in time. We have to get home for the kids.”

“Sorry.” Tim gasped, hating that he still couldn’t find breath for a full sentence, it was so frustrating.

“Sleeps the best thing for getting better.” Tony said. “Also eases the boredom.” He was grinning. “They don’t have much on TV.”

“Thanks… for coming.” He tried to sit up, but then gave up when he couldn’t find the strength.

“I’ll try and visit again in a few days. Anything you want?”

Tim shook his head. “Thanks.” He said, and meaning it, maybe he could talk a little more by then. “More grapes?” he smiled as he watched Gibbs standing up.

“Sure thing… shit.” Tony swore when Tim saw him try and get up.

Then Tim watched as Gibbs reached out and helped pull Tony to his feet. And he couldn’t help but stair at the white knuckled grip Tony had on the bar at the side of the bed and when Tim looked up. Tony was pale as he was breathing through whatever pain he was in.

“Sat too long.” Tony said to him when he must have noticed Tim watching him.

“Here.” Tim looked over to see Gibbs holding out Tony’s crutches, so he just had to turn to get hold of them to steady himself.

Then he watched as Tony hissed when he started to move, Gibbs’s hand on the small off Tony’s back the whole time.

“See you later.” Tony called over his shoulder with another smile.

“I’ll be by tomorrow.” Gibbs said gruffly.

“Buy.” Tim called as loud as he could manage as he watched them go.

He rolled onto his back and took a deep breath though his nose, he did actually feel a little better. Sure, he still hurt like he had been hit by a truck, but as he thought about it; he knew he was on the mend. And with a guilty pang, he knew at least he still had all his limbs in working order. And if by some miracle he did actually manage to get well enough to still be on Gibbs team after all this… he really wouldn’t mind having Tony in the office too.

 

TBC ->

Chapter Text

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + + [Chapter 10]

 

[3rd of July]

 

“Shit, that’s his right?” Tony muttered as he watched an old truck pull into the driveway with an old man driving it.

All yesterday, he had been franticly trying to clean the whole house from top to bottom, including the garden, while also getting the food ready for tomorrow. He had also sorted out the sleeping arrangements. And even though Eli wasn’t to happy about the boys sleeping in her room, on old camp beds Jet had got out of the attic, so his dad could have the boy’s room to himself. It was going to be a squeeze in Eli’s small room. But the kids were used to sharing space, and it was only for a few days.

“Yeah. Stay here, I’ll send him in while I get his luggage.” Jet said as he went to the door.

Tony went and stood by the door. Watching as Jet’s dad got out of his truck. He couldn’t hear what they were saying, but then the old man was looking over to him, and gave him a huge smile, then started walking towards the house.

“Hi.” Tony said, as Jet’s dad came up the stairs, taking his time, he looked stiff.

“Hello there.” Jet’s dad answered and he was still smiling, a genuine smile that lit up his features, Something Tony had not really expected. “So, you must be Tony?”

“Yup, and you must be Jet’s dad.” Tony said as he reached out his hand to the older man with the kind round face. The only thing that gave him away as being Jet’s farther, was his clear blue eyes.

“Jackson.” The older man said, shaking his hand. “But you can call me Jack.”

“Oh, thanks… Come in.” Tony said as he moved back to let Jack in. “Do you want coffee? Tea?... We also have some iced tea or fresh lemonade… the kids also have some squash…” He was rambling.

“Tea?” Jack said, pausing as he was passing, to look at him and Tony though he had fucked up somehow.

“Real English tea.” Tony said, trying not to be nervous, and failing miserably. “But the coffee is fresh if you would prefer that?”

Jack chuckled and Tony was relieved. “I’m sure I’ll take you up on trying the tea later.” Then he was looking at Tony’s crutches. “But let’s go make coffee and I’ll help.”

“Oh… that’s okay, I can manage.” Tony said as he followed the older man further into the house.

“Nonsense.” Jack said, “I’m old and your hands are full, I’m sure we can make a whole if we do it together.” And he turned and gave Tony a smile.

“Oh… Yeah, I guess… but you’ve driven a long way, you should rest.”

“I’ll have all the time in the world to rest later.” Jack chuckled. “So, where are the mugs?” he said as he looked around the kitchen, Tony assumed that he shouldn’t be surprised that the other man knew his way around the small house, surely he had been here when Jet’s first wife was around.

Tony managed to manoeuvre around Jack to get the mugs out. “Sorry about the mess.” He apologised, finding a clean space among the mess he was making of the kitchen. He had just finished making a cherry pie for tomorrow. Jet had asked why it wasn’t blueberry. Till Danny started to make spluttering noises of disgust and nothing more needed to be said. The other kids didn’t mind, but it wouldn’t be fair to leave Danny out and Tony wasn’t going to ask Victoria to make another pie. Also the Ribs and chicken thighs were defrosting over the sink’s draining board, and he was still in the middle of getting the corn on the cob’s stripped on the dining room table.

“All that going to fit in the oven?” Jack asked as he was looking at the foil covered meat.

“Yeah. We already checked.” Tony said absently as he poured the coffee. “Just have to get my timing right… but it should feed everyone, especially with everything else people are bringing.”

“You inviting an army?”

“Just some people from work.” Jet said from the doorway making Tony spill some of the coffee,

“Christ, Jet!” He swore as he scrabbled for a tea-towel as the coffee started to soak into the flour he hadn’t cleaned up yet before it made a huge sticky brown mess, that would glue itself to the counter and became impossible to remove without power tools.

“Here.” Suddenly Jet was by his side, taking the tea-towel and started cleaning the mess up himself. “I’ll clean the rest up later.”

“If you didn’t sneak up on me, I wouldn’t have spilled.” Tony grumbled, to which Jet just chuckled as he shoved the soggy tea-towel into the rest of the flour then started pouring the rest of the coffee.

“Can you get the cream, dad.” Jet said as he reached for the sugar caddy and started doctoring one of the mugs. “Tony doesn’t like it black.”

Shit… Tony had almost forgotten the other man was there.

“Here.” Jack said, then Tony saw him looking around Jet to him. “I think he’d prefer it if it was a thick as treacle, don’t you think?”

Tony couldn’t help but return the smile at the small joke. “It’s been known.” He said back. Remembering a time Jet poured the last dregs of the coffee pot that had been on for hours and had evaporated most of the water.

“Marines.” Jack chuckled, before he was waving at hand at Jet. “Come on son, carry the mugs for us.”

Jet sighed but he did pick up the mug’s as he turned to his dad. “Age before beauty.” He muttered.

Tony followed them both as Jack was going into the living room to sit down stiffly in the armchair. Jet set the mugs on the coffee table then sat down at the far end, away from his dad.

Tony didn’t know if he should sit down at the other end of the sofa, or in the middle right next to Jet, which was where he normally sat. But the decision was made for him, when Jet patted the cushion next to him, then was holding his arm across the back of the sofa.

So, awkwardly, he made his way past Jets knees and the coffee table, turned. Disentangled himself from his crutches, then he felt one of Jet’s hands on his lower back, the other on his waist as he slowly eased himself down, thankful for the help. He had been stud for too long, and then sat on one of the dining chairs doing the corn for tomorrow and his leg had ceased up a little.

Even though he had started using both crutches since Hicks had tried to brake in, knowing somewhere deep inside it was psychosomatic, and he knew he could cope with one… it was actually helping. He was in less pain and he had only ended up on the floor once when he had tried to get up off the sofa one day. But with all the stress from the prospect of meeting Jet’s dad. The impending 4th of July barbeque, where a lot of almost stranger would be coming into his home. This past week had been hell. To the point where Jet had insisted he take his pain meds last night. Then called it in as a day off work just too look after him and the kids that morning.

When he was finally sat, Jet kept his arm around his shoulders as he took his crutches and propped them up at his side of the sofa with his other hand.

“You can start asking your questions now.” Jet said, and his tone was a little cold. “I know your burning too.”

“How long have you boy’s been together?”

Tony was a little taken aback by the bluntness. But then, he guessed it was farther like son.

“Nine months, give or take.” Jet answered.

“And already?” Jack asked, lifting his left hand and wiggling his own ring finger.

Tony felt himself blushing, damn it, so he distracted himself as he reached for his coffee.

“No point waiting if I don’t plan on letting him go anywhere.” Jet answered.

Tony almost chocked on the little bit of coffee he had managed to sip, then he looked at the man besides him and couldn’t help the shy smile. “Charmer.” He uttered, but his heart warmed at the sentiment.

“Well, you were always stubborn when you wanted something.” Jack was chuckling.

“He didn’t force me... He never…” Tony answered, as he looked back at Jack, feeling a little defensive, he needed to let this man know Jet had never coerced him into this. This was nothing like… like…

“Hey!” Jet was suddenly looking down at him. “Breathe… that’s it… slow, even it out.”

Tony blinked as he watched Jet breathing in then out evenly and he tried to match it, slowly he felt the panic attack he was about to go into fading. But that was when he felt the tears falling down his cheeks.

“That’s it, it’s okay.” Jet smiled softly at him as Tony felt him wiping at his cheeks. “Shhh. Come here.”

Tony was then being pulled against Jet’s side, his arms around him tightly as he rested his head on Jet’s chest. As always, he felt weighted, like he was under something heavy. Then Jet’s fingers were running through his hair and he closed his eyes.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Jack watched at the young man seemed to suddenly have trouble breathing, then his son was trying to talk him down, pulling him into a hug as Leroy petted his hand over Tony’s hair.

He couldn’t say the display of intimate affection wasn’t a little surprising.

From the phone call where he thought he had dialled the wrong number, to Leroy phoning him and vaguely saying he was now shacking up with another man.

He still wasn’t going to believe it on the long drive down here, till he was seeing it with his own eyes.

After all, Leroy had always been secretive. Only with his girls had he seemed more open. Not like Shannon would have given him a choice, and when they had died, Leroy had withdrawn completely. And damn it, he missed his son.

Though it was still a shock to his system to see Leroy now cuddling another man like it was the most natural thing in the world.

It helped that he had liked the younger man on sight. Despite witnessing the other man’s disability, obviously something with his leg, and he moved around on his crutches like he had been doing it for years, so it wasn’t a new injury, or one that was going away anytime soon. But then to see him having a panic attack?

Jack knew how his boy liked to care for others, he wouldn’t have become a marine or a government agent if he didn’t… but with the matching rings the two men before him were sported… this went way beyond just ‘caring’.

Now he just had to find out what was really going on.

“Is he alright?” He asked finally, when the younger man seemed to have calmed.

Leroy shook his head. “He will be.” He answered just as softly.

“What did I say?” He asked, truly concerned.

“Wasn’t what you said…” Leroy hedged, “Was more the implication… that this wasn’t mutual.”

Jack blinked. His son would never force anything on anyone like this, he knew that much about his boy… but then for the younger man to have such a reaction? Then he realised what it just might mean and his heart went out to Tony. “Oh.” He answered, feeling heart sick for the poor young man.

They lapsed into silence for a while, quietly drinking their coffee, which was pleasantly good.

Jack was just about to take his last sip when Tony seemed to be rousing himself.

“Your coffee’s cold.” Leroy said softly with a hint of amusement.

“The kids.” Jack heard Tony mutter.

“Mary said they would bring them by at six… we have another hour yet.”

“Seven then…” Tony was sitting back against the sofa, but Jack saw the hand he still kept on Leroy’s lap. “Sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Jack smiled as he notices how embarrassed the younger man looked. “We all have our moments.”

“Do you need more coffee?” He was asking as he shuffled forwards on the sofa, then he was hissing as he fell back against the sofa, one hand going to his thigh.

“You had it twisted.” Leroy was saying. “Also, I told you to rest.”

Jack frowned, thinking his son was being a bit to mean.

“Fine… I’ll get to rest while you’re doing all the washing up.” Tony shot back. “But now you can get more coffee.” Then Jack found Tony’s attention on him. “Are you hungry?”

“Not at the moment, but more coffee wouldn’t go amiss.” Jack answered.

“Jet?”

Once again, Jack couldn’t help but grin at his son. The fights he would have to break up when Leroy was a kid when people called him that were too many to mention. And now, he was being called it without a complaint.

“Yeah, yeah.” Leroy sighed as he got up and collected all the mugs and wandered into the kitchen.

“Do you like Chinese food?” Tony was asking him.

“Oh… yeah, I don’t mind it.”

“Good. With tomorrow, I didn’t want to think about cooking tonight. And I already promised the kids.”

“I can understand that.” Jack smiled. Then his curiosity got the better of him again. “Kids?”

Tony blinked at him, then turned to shout into the kitchen. “Did you tell him anything?!”

“Told him we had your niece and nephews!” Leroy was shouting back.

“They are with the Spencer sisters down the street.” Tony stated to explain. “They will be spending the holiday with their brother and his family tomorrow, so they wanted to spend some time with the kids today.”

“Oh, they babysitters?”

“More like kidnappers.” Leroy was bemoaning as he was coming back in with more coffee. “Here, made you some tea.” He said, handing Tony a mug. “They don’t have kids of their own, and can’t spend time with their own family much. So they steal the kids whenever they can.”

“The kids love it.” Tony said, picking up the conversation. “Before you sit down. Get the takeout menu. And can you put the corn in the sink. I can finish them later.”

“Yes sir!” Leroy snapped out, before he actually went and did what he was asked, which Jack couldn’t help but find funny.

“I think I can manage to finish the corn, if you don’t mind.” Jack offered.

“I couldn’t ask you to do that.” Tony said hurriedly. “You’re a guest.”

“I hope I’ll be more than just a guest.” Jack smiled back, then watched as Tony blinked at him, then blushed before he smiled such a stunning smile, it was almost blinding.

“Err… The kids… well.” Tony was stuttering over something.

“The kids might want to refer to you as a grandparent.” Leroy said gruffly as he once again sat down next to Tony. “But I recon you would like to meet them first.”

Jack was a little stunned as a lump formed in his throat. He had had kids in Stillwater call him that, and he found it charming. But as he looked at the ring on his son’s hand, maybe he could be called it by someone he though as family again, and he felt his eyes sting with emotion. “I would be honoured.” He answered.

- - -

They spend a little more time just talking, mostly about what trouble the kids would get up to, but at the heart of it. Jack could see true affection by both men, to these children who actually seemed like good kids.

Eventually, Leroy had ordered enough food to feed an army, and as he was about to sit down, he was looking out the window. “Come on. They are coming over.”

Jack wondered what was going on as Leroy was pulling a very stuff and hissing Tony to his feet, then he was handing Tony his crutches.

Jack then watched the younger man go to the door, as Leroy sat down again. So he cast a questioning look at his son.

“The Spencer’s love Tony too.” Leroy shrugged with a wicked grin. Then Jack heard the door open.

“Hello!” Tony was calling.

“Sorry they are late.” Came an elder woman’s voice from a distance.

“It’s okay, foods not here yet.” Tony was saying, then there was a gaggle of children’s voices, all sounding exited.

“They had a snack about two hours ago, so I hope their appetite isn’t ruined.” Came the female voice.

“It’s fine. Have a nice day tomorrow.”

“You too honey. Goodnight my babies.” The woman was gushing as again there was a chorus of childish voices saying goodnight.

“Okay you horror, inside. Shoes and coats off. We have a guest.”

“Jet’s papa?” Came a young girls voice and Jack’s heart broke a little as he remembered Kelly.

“Yup, go on in and say hi.” Tony was saying.

Then Jack found a young girl and a smaller boy staring at him. Jack’s heart eased a little. This young lady looked nothing like the grandchild he missed so much. But both children looked so much like Tony that they could easily pass as his own children.

“Hello there.” He smiled at them.

“You going to be our real grandpa?” The young girl asked.

Jack cast a look at his son, who was just watching him, so he wasn’t going to be getting any cue’s from there. But ‘real’? surly they already had real grandparents?

“I would love to be.” He said to her and he watched her face split into a huge smile, once again, looking so much like her uncle.

“Hello Grandpa.” She said, reaching out her hand. “My name is Eli… oh, err… Elizabeth. But everyone calls me Eli.”

Jack shook her hand feeling his heart swelling.

“I’m Danny! Be my Grandpa too!” The younger boy demanded at his sister’s side, also holding out his hand.

Jack chuckled as he shook his hand too. “Hello, Danny, and I would be proud to be your grandpa.”

“Me… me… me…!” Suddenly, another even younger child came rushing over to him, only this time, Jack found himself with a lap full of child.

“Miki! Go easy!” Tony was saying as he came into the room. “Sorry.”

“Don’t mention it.” Jack told him. “Hello Miki.”

“Ello Gra’pa.” the young boy beamed at him, then he seemed to settle in and cuddle up to him.

“It’s almost his bed time.” Tony was saying.

“No tired!” Miki protested even as Jack found himself holding the young boy to him as he became a dead weight in his arms.

“Sure.” Tony was sighing. “Kids. Come help me get stuff out for dinner. Jet, can you check in with Rodger?”

“Rodger?” Jack asked, wondering who else he had to meet.

“The patrol guy outside.” His son said. “I’ll explain later.” Then Leroy was getting up and going outside.

Jack just wondered how much he was going to learn ‘later’.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Jack couldn’t quite believe what he was hearing from his son and his heart bled for the young man who was now sleeping upstairs and even more so for the poor children who had lost their mother so young, with a farther that didn’t care about them, only wanting to hurt their uncle in some sick form or a relationship.

“So that’s why there are cops outside?”

“Yeah.” Leroy said as he was running his hand over his face, and as Jack looked, he could see how tired his son had looked through the whole story. Even though he had looked so full of life as they had sat eating with the kids. It was a stark contrast.

“But he’s worth it?” He couldn’t help but ask, and he watches as a smile spread across his sons face.

“From the moment he looked at me with distrust in his eyes, over the top of a radicalise muscle car.” Leroy was chuckling.

“That the only thing?” Jack pushed which earned him a sideways look.

“He’s smart, like really smart… If I could, he would be on my team. He’s kind, thoughtful and makes me want to come home each night… and god he makes me laugh.” His son was smiling again.

Jack also couldn’t help but smile. Tony had made them all laugh as they ate dinner, especially the kids. “What about everything else?”

Leroy sat forwards as he sighed deeply. “Apart from his leg… He’s actually a lot better than he was. I just need to find Hicks and make sure he can’t hurt any of them again… The kids used to be so scared of everything, but you can see how happy they are now… I know Tony will get there too… eventually… it’s just taking too long.”

“This Hicks guy always one step ahead?” Jack asked quietly, to which Leroy nodded. “You got a mole somewhere?”

“Not in NCIS… and Fornel in the FBI wouldn’t have anyone.”

“The police then?” he asked, waving his hand out the window.

“We don’t know… Just have to make sure Tony’s never left alone.”

“Well, he wont this weekend… I could stay the week if it helps?” Jack offered. He would call Cal to mind the store, he was sure the young man wouldn’t mind.

For a moment he thought Leroy would refuse, instead his son slumped against the back of the sofa. “What about the store?”

“Doesn’t matter... My family is more important right now.” He said firmly, Cal would understand too.

Leroy looked at him finally, his eyes assessing. “We might have to think about rearranging the sleeping arrangements… it took a lot of bribing to get Eli to agree to the boy’s sleeping in her room.”

“I though I was sleeping with them?” Jack asked. After all, it was what they had discussed on the phone.

“No… but I think after tonight, they won’t mind sleeping in the room with Gran-pa.” Leroy smiled at him, looking a little less warn out.

Jack couldn’t help but grin. “They are charming kids. And they look so much like Tony; I thought he was their dad when I first saw them.”

“Most people do… we usually don’t correct them.”

“What would happen if someone found out that they all have false identities?” Jack wondered allowed.

Leroy shrugged. “Not much. I have friends in high places… might mean I get a transfer and we all move away.”

“You would leave this house?” Jack asked softly… knowing how much these four walls meant to his son and the memory of their girls.

Leroy nodded. “Might have to anyway.” He actually smiled, even though Jack could see the sadness in it as his son’s eyes wandered the room. “Will be cramped when the kids get older… and Tony really could do with somewhere he can get around easier.”

“Well, if you do move, make sure there is a guest room for Gran-pa.” he chuckled.

Leroy laughed too. “We’ll make sure there is.”

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

[The 4th of July]

 

Tony was taking a breath in the kitchen, he had excused himself with the excuse of seeing to the ribs and chicken, as his home and garden became full of people he liked… but hardly knew.

His stress levels had been lessened when everyone did actually turn up with the extra food he had asked them to bring.

Abby had been the first to come bouncing in with most of the salads, coleslaw, bean and pasta salad and her famous brownies, which was something he had forgotten to buy. Tim had bought the hotdogs, burgers and a watermelon, Kate had made a bean salad, pre-baked potatoes and the marinated pork chops. Then Ducky and his mum had brought freshly made blueberry pie, potato salad and marinated pepper and onion salad. But when Tony had got all the cold salads put on the table, Chris had turned up unexpected, carrying a crate of beer and some cans of pop for the kids. He was meant to be spending the holiday with his girlfriend, but she had had to go home the night before on a family emergency apparently, so he had come over. Tony hadn’t minded, but it had done nothing to ease his stress. Especially when they had to find another seat for him.

So far, Jet had got a large enough plank of wood to add an extension to the dining table, using one of his wood horses for legs, so it now stretched into the living room. They had also raided the house for extra seating, the kids would share an old clothes chest, Tim and Abby would be on the lawn chairs that usually sat on the deck out back, Ducky and his mum, along with Jack and Kate would be using the normal dining chairs, while Chris would have to live with another low wood horse as a seat, with himself and Jet taking the last two dining chairs. It was a squeeze, but it would be fine.

He would have preferred it all to be outside, but as predicted, it was scorching outside, and one of the neighbours was having trouble with wasps. So now only the barbeque was outside. And it wasn’t like they had enough furnisher out there anyway for everyone to sit down.

Now though, he just rested his hands against the worksurface with his forehead resting against the high kitchen cabinets as he listened to everyone getting to know each other.

The kids had at first been a little hesitant, but once Ducky and Elizabeth arrived, they had come out of their shells and would talk about their latest topic of interest to anyone who would listen.

He breathed in slowly as he closed his eyes.

He could do this… Once, in another time and place, he had loved being around people, feeling alive, playing with them, being able to be whoever he wanted, whenever he wanted, was great. But now he felt exposed, like he was walking on uneven ground. He wished he could just throw up a mask; something that used to come so easy for him had been cracked and broken for many years now. He also knew that Jet would see right through it and it would confuse the kids. Through he knew they would all let him wear it.

“Hey.” Jet whispered as Tony felt a hand on the small of his back, then Jet fit close to his side. “How you holding up?”

Tony let out a long breath before pulling his head away from the cupboards and giving his lover a small smile. “I’ll be okay.” He whispered back just as softly as Jet had spoken. Then Jet locked gases with him, finally he nodded.

“Come on, sit back and take some air if you need too.” Jet said. “I’ll make the team finish off the rest of the cooking and bring everything in. Everything’s almost cooked on the grill outside. So we are ready.”

“Thanks.” Tony smiled, then leaned forwards for a quick kiss as he wrapped an arm around Jet’s waist as they stood side by side. “Just been a while.”

“Same here. Kinda nice.”

Tony let his smile widen. “Yeah.”

“Everything okay?” Jack suddenly asked softly as he also came into the cramped kitchen.

“Just needed a minute.” Tony answered. “And the ribs and chicken are almost ready to come out.”

“Right, well, you go sit down and I’ll see about herding the troupes to get this all out.” Jack grinned at him as he pulled one of the bottles out of the case Chris had brought and handed it to him. “Here, take this and go relax.”

Tony took it as Jet moved so he could get past on his one crutch, the other ditched for the moment. As getting through everyone with both had proved impossible.

“There are serving dishes in the bottom cupboard by the door and spoons are already out.” He said as he passed, Jet close behind.

He was just going to his chair next to the chest where the kids would be between him and Jack, when he felt an electric shock going straight through his hip and right down his leg. He only had enough time to grunt at the familiar pain and get his arm almost out of his crutch as he was crumpling to the floor in agony.

He growled a sob as his injured leg caught awkwardly on a chair. Then it was being moved and he tried to breathe through the pain, his head low between his shoulders, as he held himself up on his arms.

When he could hear something other than the white noise in his head brought on by the pain, he could hear shock and worry from everyone else that had seen him go down. Then Jet was by his side.

“Come on, roll onto your ass.” Jet was demanding, and with another growl of pain and help from Jet manipulating his left leg, he managed to move so he was sitting on the floor, while Jet straightened out his left leg that was now a useless lump of numb throbbing ache.

“Oh my god, are you okay?” Abby was crouching at his side now.

“Cramp?” Jet asked, ignoring the Goth.

Tony shook his head as he got his breathing under control, just in time as Miki came toddling up and sat in his lap and start trying to hug him.

“Just gave out.” He assured Jet as he hugged Miki and gave Abby a reassuring smile. “Sorry… I’ll be okay in a bit.”

“Did we make you over do it?” Abby asked, seeming genuinely concerned.

“No.” Tony tried to reassure her.

“Yes.” Jet snapped out.

Tony batted a hand at him. “A bit.” He said as Danny and Eli also came over to make sure he was okay. “But I’ll be fine.”

“At least you didn’t spill your beer.” Chris said with approval from somewhere behind him and Tony couldn’t help but chuckle as the pain started to ease up, but he knew his leg wasn’t going to hold him for at least the next thirty minutes.

“Small miracles!” Tony joked, as he tilted his head back to look at Jet’s team behind him. “Now… can a few of you help me into my chair so we can get the hot food on the table?”

It didn’t take long for Chris and Tim to come over and pull him up to his good leg as Jet got his chair, then he was being lowered and pushed to the table. “Thanks guys.”

“It’s fine.” Tim said, then shocked Tony, by actually patting him on the shoulder.

“Everyone, get in the kitchen and go out to the grill and help get everything else ready!” Jack called into the crowd. “Kids, get sat down too.”

Tony sighed in relief as he stopped being the centre of attention as everyone started bustling towards the kitchen and backdoor.

“You really okay?” Eli asked as she helped Miki up next to Tony’s side.

“I will be princess.” He assured her. After all, sadly, it wasn’t the first time they had seen him go down. “And I want you all eating some salad today.” He grinned at the moans.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Abby waved her teatowel about as she waited for Chris to finish scrubbing the pan the ribs had been cooked in, so she could dry it. But she could keep her mouth shut no longer.

“I knew Tony had a bad leg.” She whispered to the room in general as Kate looked at her with a frown. “But did you see the way he went down?” she asked.

“Prolly nerve damage.” Chris said in his usual disinterested tone, like it wasn’t a big deal as he just carried on scrubbing.

“But he’s so young.” She sighed dramatically. “And handsome.” She grinned nudging Kate in the side. “And there isn’t anything wrong with that smile or his hands.”

“He can play.” Chris actually sounded impressed for a moment, which wasn’t something that happened often.

“I remember him saying he serenaded Gibbs.” Kate whispered. “I didn’t think he actually meant it.”

Abby smiled dreamily as she remembered watching Tony’s hands flying across the fake ebony and ivories of the old school piano. She had been mesmerised by it. And sure she had seen Sister Agnes playing, but the petite nun just wasn’t in Tony’s league.

“He could probably play professional.” Chris said as Abby found the pan he’d been scrubbing thrust into her hands.

Kate scoffed. “Really?”

Chris was shrugging as he picked up the next oven pan. “Sure, my mum’s best friend was a pianist, so had to watch him playing a lot… duno if he could play halls though, but he probably could if he wanted to.” He shrugged again. “But I’m not an expert.”

“You can play?” Abby had to ask.

“Nope, bit of guitar is about my lot.” He shrugged a shoulder at her.

They lapsed into silence as they carried on washing and drying.

“Do you think Gibbs is gonna try and get Tony into the office?” She mused out loud. She had been thinking it ever since Gibbs kept taking cold cases home and bringing most of them back with new leads. But they hadn’t really talked about it.

“Hopefully.” Chris answered, and he actually cracked a smile, which Abby couldn’t help but gawp at. “What? He’s smart and he was a cop before he was injured. And not forgetting ‘Rule 5’.”

“Don’t waste good.” Abby grinned.

“He wouldn’t be on Gibbs’s team.” Kate subtly scoffed, to which Abby rolled her eyes at the other woman. Sometimes Kate had a bad way of thinking everyone was beneath her, which Abby tried not to let it rub the wrong way.

“We know that.” Abby drawled out instead. “But Gibbs would find a way.” Abby could tell the other woman was about to try and start arguing that Gibbs couldn’t do everything.

“He could be on cold cases, and be brought in as a consultant on difficult cases.” Chris said as he worked at a hard spot on one of the glass bowls that had been used. “He wouldn’t be allowed in the field, but he could do everything else.”

Kate finally scoffed loudly, “I doubt the agency would pay someone to just sit around in the office all day, he wouldn’t even be able to interrogate perps!”

“I du’no.”

Abby squeaked as she spun on Gibbs who just stepped into the kitchen.

“He seems to have interrogated my best agents expertly without one of you even knowing he was doing it.”

Abby gawked at him, ready to deny it, but then, as she quickly thought over her conversations with Tony, she realized. “He knows more about me, than I do about him!” She gasped.

Gibbs gave her a smile as he began pulling mugs from the cupboard.

“That’s!... He…” Kate was spluttering, trying to deny it all.

“You told him you loved the Lord of the rings cartoon from when you were a child, and had a crush on Legolas.” Gibbs said flatly and Abby chuckled as she turned to look at her friend. She wondered when Kate had confessed that, as she didn’t even know about it.

“Don’t get to happy Ab’s… we all know about your love of Care Bares, the pinker the better?” Gibbs was smirking.

Abby huffed grumpily. But it was true. “Well, if they had a New Romantic bear, I would have loved that!” She answered.

“Prince Charming Stair?” Chris suddenly asked and Abby gawped at him as he grinned at her. Then at the same time, they crossed their wrists over their heads, giving a jut on a hip as they did so.

“Oh, now I wana wear a stripe of white across my nose!” Abby giggled. “I loved Adam and the ants as a kid!”

“Who didn’t?” Chris was chuckling. “But, I need to get going, my other half will be calling soon, and as much as I like you all. I really have to get home.”

Abby pouted, but Ducky had already taken his mom home, and McGee had also taken off early too, mostly he said to go home and sleep off all the food.

“I’ll call it an evening too.” Kate was telling Gibbs. “I have a bath-bomb with my name on it and some wine that needs drinking.”

Abby smiled thinking that might be a good idea; she knew she had some purple ones she had been meaning to try for ages. But as she turned to go back into the living room, she stopped to take in the scene infront of her.

Tony was sat in the middle of the sofa, in the middle of two of its seat cushions; his bad leg was propped up on the coffee table with a pillow, he was leaned back, looking to his right. A smile on his handsome face as he was laughing at something Jack was telling him. Meanwhile, Tony had his right arm around Danny who looked like he was trying to stay awake as he watched the ancient TV in the corner, as he was leaning against Tony’s side. On Tony’s other side, Eli was also resting against Tony’s side, but she was also talking with Jack, her free arm waved around as she replied to something before resting back against Tony’s chest.

When she looked at Jack, he was holding a sleeping Miki against his side, as the toddler slept like the dead. Jack’s bright blue eyes were shinning as he was talking again to Eli.

She still couldn’t quite believe that Jackson was even related to Gibbs. He had a smile that would make anyone love him, and he was funny… not like the boss man couldn’t be funny, but Jack made you want to trust him. But then she had seen how shrewd he was when he was questioning Kate about some off hand mean comment she had made about cops. She had seen the steal come into his eyes, so now she knew where Gibbs got it from.

As she looked at the contented family her heart warmed.

She loved Gibbs, and he deserved this… He deserved to be happy, and he had surrounded himself with people who would make him smile every day, and make him want to come home.

“Abby? We need to get past.” Kate said behind her.

Abby spun as she pushed Kate and Chris out of the way, as she pulled Gibbs around to face her. “Don’t you loose them.” She told him as she pointed into the living room.

“Ab’s?” Gibbs said, and was looking at her a little in shock.

“Don’t fuck it up.” She hissed. Then she felt something crawling down her cheek. Quickly she brushed it away thinking it was a bug, but her fingers came away wet. “Hu…” She didn’t cry. So she looked up at the ceiling to see if it was leaking, to see nothing. Then Gibbs was pulling her into a tight hug, burying her face against his chest.

“I’ll try not too.” She heard him promise softly. Then he was pulling her away, where he chucked her under the chin as he smiled at her. and her heart wanted to explode with affection for him.

“I should go see the nun’s tonight.” She smiled at him. “You take care.” She offered, then leaned up and kissed him on the chin, before she spun away to go say goodnight to everyone else in Gibbs’s home.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

“Well, today went rather well.” Jet was saying.

“At least everyone has leftovers for tomorrow.” Tony agreed as he lay with his head on Jet’s shoulder as they both stared up at the ceiling of their bedroom.

“And you did great.” Jet said, just before he yawned loudly and Tony felt the arm under his neck tense slightly. “Think there will be fallout?” he asked softly.

Tony sighed as he tried not to yawn, and failed. “Not tonight.” He answered honestly. “But apart from needing a bit of space and then falling down… it was a nice day.” He smiled to himself. “It was really nice actually being around people…” he left the ‘and not being scared’ unsaid, knowing Jet would hear it. “I’ve always guarded my own space… but I used to love being out there.” He said lifting a hand in the air and stretching his fingers out. “Watching people, wanting to be with them…” he sighed as he let his arm fall. “Wanting to surround myself with people I could relay on, friends who I could rely on…” he closed his eyes. Maybe he shouldn’t go down that thought path. He hadn’t talked to any of his frat brothers in years.

“They all leave you?” Jet asked softly.

Tony rocked his head from side to side, then he turned on his side stiffly, putting his head on Jet’s chest, purposefully not making eye contact. “I left them.” He whispered. Feeling heartsick again, just remembering. “They tried to help… But I couldn’t face them… told um all to fuck off in no uncertain terms… then I moved in with Mari and they couldn’t find me I guess…”

“Do you think they would have looked?”

Tony shrugged as best he could. “Maybe… probably… Yeah.” He sighed the last part. Knowing three of them would have tried their best.

“Humm…” Gibbs hummed.

“What?” Tony asked, he could feel Jet thinking. So he moved to finally look up at him.

“When you feel up to it…” Jet said looking down at him. “You could reach out to them?... would they understand.” He was wiggling a finger between them.

Tony smiled a little. “I’ve always been Bi. So yeah, they would be more surprised I found someone who managed to tether me with a ring.” He let himself grin.

“Just let me know.” Jet said as Tony leaned into the hand he was running through his hair. “I’ll find their latest contact info.”

“You wouldn’t mind?” Tony asked, feeling a small current of anxiety.

Jet huffed. “Why would I?” He rolled his eyes. “If you think they are good enough to have you back, the more the merrier.”

“I’ll think about it.” Tony promised. After all, he hadnt even thought about going to them for help when he ran, not wanting to drag them into his problems and also… also… because he had cut them out when he was hurting so much, and he didn’t think he could have face it if even one of them rejected him… but he was yawning again. “Humm… tired.” He muttered as he closed his eyes, feeling his own limbs getting heavy from a long hard, but fun day.

“Been a long day.” Jet said softly, mirroring his thoughts as Tony felt him patting his hair gently, and he could feel sleep pulling at him.

 

TBC...

Chapter Text

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + + [Chapter 11]

 

Jack settled down in his chair, putting his coffee on the table, sitting back he turned the volume down on the TV. It was a film he had seen a few times before, so he knew the gist of it.

Then he looked over at Tony who was napping on the sofa, little Miki fast asleep on his chest. Both man and boy were dribbling a little as they breathed heavy on the edge of snoring.

The two older kids were still at school, due home in another hour.

The house smelled of chicken strew that Tony had thrown into an ancient looking slow cooker, he proudly proclaimed he had found for five bucks in a thrift shop. There was even dumplings the young man had made. And they were going to eat it with bread Tony had made fresh yesterday, with the fresh pasta he had also made.

If that was one thing the younger man was good at, it was cooking.

Infect, he never seemed to stop. When he wasn’t cooking, he was looking after the kids, helping them with homework, supervising play, and when he wasn’t doing that, he was tidying up. At least he got the older two to help with that, Eli would use the vac while Danny picked up toy’s or carried empty mugs into the kitchen, while Tony was getting their tea ready.

He ran a tight little ship, and surprisingly, the children didn’t seem to mind their chores, Jack could tell, it was because Tony involved himself with it all, praising them each time with doing a great job.

The only thing Jack had really helped with was washing the clothes. Then helping Tony fold them, or put them on hangers. It was one of the few times Tony really stopped. And then he would ask Jack for stories about Leroy when he was young, or about how his life went back home. The younger man always seemed fascinated and would let him ramble on for hours.

The other times he would see Tony stop, was when Leroy was home and his son would pull Tony against his side while they all drank a beer or just relax for a time.

The only other time was when Tony was in visible pain. Those day’s he would stiffly move around, get the children off to school, then one of the Spencer sisters would come for Miki and Tony would take some of his pain medicine and either pass out on the sofa for hours. Or the one time, where Jack had excused himself to get something from his room, then phoned his son, to which Leroy had chuckled and informed him not to worry and just make Tony tea, feed him and Tony would be fine. So Jack had done just that as Tony giggled to himself, then monologue nearly all the lines to a film they were watching before finally passing out, only waking up when the kids came home. They had got pizza that night, and Leroy had shuffled Tony off to bed the same time as the kids.

So in the nine days Jack had been in his son’s house. He had quickly understood why his son had been so enamoured with this other man and his children.

Jack still suspected it might have started as a charity case his son just couldn’t resist helping with. But it had soon become apparent to Jack that Leroy was in this for the long haul. The way he would look at Tony said it all, and that look was also mirrored in Tony’s eyes as well. They looked at each other like they still couldn’t quite believe that they had found ‘the one’ but they were quite happy they had. It was rather romantic, truth be told.

At the end of the day, Tony seemed like a good and decent man. A man who the world had tried to kick to the ground, but he had gotten up, dusted himself off and tried to get on with life as best he could, and not only for himself.

He had also been surprised when a man called Tobias had come a calling, asking Tony for a cold case he had asked the young man to look into. And Jack had seen the look of surprise and admiration in the FBI agents face when Tony had handed over the manila file, then a sheet of paper with a few new avenues of investigation they could try. Tony had even apologised that he couldn’t crack it with what he had. But the FBI agent had just thanked Tony when he had looked at whatever Tony had written, still seeming a little stunned. Then told Tony if there was anything he needed, to just ask. Tony had joked about a new dining table and chairs. To which the FBI agent had nodded without a word, then finally left.

Jack had also seen him looking into files that Leroy had given him. And when he had asked his son about it. Leroy had just shrugged and said it kept Tony busy and he liked it.

So that had been that. Even though Jack thought Tony should be getting something more from it than just a ‘thank you’.

Now Jack stretched as he thought about getting up and getting more coffee. Or maybe he should think about packing some of his stuff, as he should really get home soon… even if he was reluctant to leave his new grandchildren.

He was just about to get up, when he saw Miki raising his head and blinking at him.

“Evening sleepy head.” He whispered to the little boy. Who grinned at him, then started to slide off Tony.

“Can I haf cookie?” the little boy asked hopefully as he toddled over to him. Surprisingly, he hadn’t woken Tony.

“Only a little one.” Jack grinned back as he got to his feet, holding his hand out to the boy, who took it readily as they made their way to the kitchen.

….

Miki was stuffing his mini cookie into his mouth as Jack poured them both a glass of milk. When a strangled cry came from the living room, then the sound of something hitting the floor and an unmistakable ‘oomf!’

“Unca!” Miki called as he toddled his way toward the sound, Jack hot on his heals, just as fast.

Whatever happened, Tony was now on the floor, trying to push himself up and looking very confused, but before Jack could ask how he was, Tony groaned in pain as he sank back to the floor slowly, till he was resting his forehead on the carpet.

“You go’a gets up!” Miki was saying as he patted the back of Tony’s head.

“I know baby.” Tony sighed. Then he was lifting his head. “Why do you smell of cookies?” he asked the little boy, who blinked, then pointed at Jack, “Gam’pa gave me reeeealy little one.”

Tony reached out one hand and grasped Miki’s hand and waved it up and down. “And where is mine? Did you eat it too?!”

Miki was giggling. “Nooo.!” He was laughing as Jack watched the little boy patting Tony on the head again. “Ge up? You can has cookie too!”

“There anything I can do to help?” Jack asked. Though he wasn’t sure what he could do.

“Can you pull the coffee table away without knocking anything off?” Tony asked.

Jack bent stiffly and did manage to pull the table away, it did jigger a little on the carpet, but thankfully Tony’s tea mug, laptop and stack of files and stationery moved, but didn’t fall off. “That enough?” he asked. Then watched as Tony managed to roll and shuffle onto his back, then with a lot of huffing he managed to sit up and moved awkwardly so his back was to the sofa where he arranged his legs, his left leg straight out as he bent his right up, then put his hands on the sofa cushions and with a grunt of effort, Jack watched the younger man pull himself up so he was sitting on the sofa.

“You got some strength in those arms.” Jack chuckled as he sat down in his chair that Leroy had put blocks under to higher it for him.

Tony chuckled as he was reaching out for Miki, scooping the child up and hugging him tight. “I have to have so I can capture little boys for hugs!” Tony said as Miki was squalling with delight. Then there was a little scuffle as Miki tried to get away but Tony just let him go a little before pulling him back at angles that would make an adult sick, but little boys found greatly amusing as limbs seemed to be flying everywhere. “I won’t let go till you get me a cookie too!”

“NO!” Miki squalled. “w’iw spoil dinner!”

Tony was gasping dramatically. “But you already had one!” he said as he stopped playing and just looked his nephew in the face. “So that means you won’t want dinner.”

“Wa’ for dinner?” Miki was asking, his little face serious from the angle Jack could see.

“Ohh… Chick stew and squashy dumplings?...”

The little boy squalled happily, then remembered he was told he couldn’t have any, and he started to protest. Jack tried to hide his chuckle, but it was proving hard.

“Oh maybe Pancakes?” Tony was contemplating. “But… as your not hungry cos you had a cookie… You can have a boiled spud and a cooked carrot.”

Miki was squalling in protest again as Tony finally let him go, putting him down on his own feet. “Gan’pa!” Miki said as he rushed over to him, and Jack scooped him up. “Can you get Unca cooki too?!” he asked very seriously. “don like them veg’bles!”

“But I saw you eat a raw carrot yesterday.” Jack was joking with him. To which Miki pulled a face.

“No cooked!” He protested.

“None of them like um cooked.” Tony was grinning. “But what they wont eat cooked, they will usually eat raw.” He shrugged. “so long as they eat um, I’m happy.” He grinned.

“Not bro’kwey!” Miki started blowing a raspberry, getting spit everywhere.

“Apart from in rice.” Tony whispered dramatically.

Miki was pulling an annoyed face, “Like not wif.” He pouted.

Jack chuckled as he finally turned to Tony, who was sat back just grinning at them. Jack managed to smile back as a lump formed in his throat.

From the man who had been cautious of him only ten days ago, finally, Tony’s smile was truly mirrored in his eyes, and it humbled Jack, knowing some of what the young man had been through, to finally relax around him was a gift… and again, maybe this was what his son saw.

This kind, brilliant young man, bereft of family other than the three children he protected fiercely. Wounded and wary, whose past should make him jaded and suspicious hadn’t seemed to have closed off his heart. Who was even willing to share his precious children with an old man.

“Do you have to go home tomorrow?” Tony suddenly asked as he was leaning his head back against the sofa as his eyebrows were drawing together a little.

Jack nodded, “I have a delivery coming in, and Cal can’t authorise it for me.”

“He seems like a good kid.” Tony was smiling a little again.

“He is.” Jack agreed, he had already written the kid into his will, knowing Leroy wouldn’t want the shop, maybe not even the house. So he was leaving it to Cal, with the only stipulation that Leroy could collect anything he wanted of a sentimental value, but in his darkest hours, he knew Leroy wouldn’t even care about that… but maybe he would have to start rethinking his will again… especially if Tony and his kids were here to stay. “Not the first time I left the shop with him, and he seems to enjoy the work well enough.”

“Maybe when we have time, perhaps we could come up to you for a visit…” Tony was asking in such a round about way it was quite charming.

“I have the room.” He let his pleasure at such a notion show on his face as he beamed at the younger man. “And if you can’t pull my son away from his work, well, you just come up to see me without him!” he finished, which made Tony actually laugh out loud.

“I will keep you to that.” Tony was grinning back.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Tony bit his lip as he waved back as Jack finally pulled his truck onto the street, waved back, then he was gone all to soon.

Jack had stayed late before setting off. His excuse had been wanting to say goodbye to the kids as they left for school, and then the Spencer sisters as they came to pick Miki up. Finally, Tony had tried not to cry like a little kid as he hugged the older man as they stood on the porch together.

Soon as he saw Jack didn’t really have a problem with Tony dating his son, saw how he doted on the kids and how they fawned all over him. Tony’s heart had melted and he had swiftly come to love the older Gibbs. And the stories Jack told captivated him and, just like with most older people, Tony loved to just sit and listen to their life experiences.

It was probably because, growing up, their grandfather had been the only one who had seemed to give a crap about them, who had stood up to their dad’s abuse and their mothers neglect. He would take them on little trips, just to get them out of the house and away from their parents… but when he passed… well… Tony had missed him terribly.

Tony finally stepped back inside the house.

A house that seemed quiet.

Too quiet.

Tony shivered. It had seemed like months since he was alone in the house… Someone or something was always going on to take him mind off… off... well…

He looked over to the camera in the corner of the room, its little green light on, meaning it was working. He should hate the things, always watching… but right now, he was thankful for them… almost tempted to call Abby and ask her if she was keeping an eye on them. But with a shake of his head. He knew he should just take a breath and calm himself down.

Someone would be keeping an eye on them. There was still a cop car around every hour, and he had his phone in his pocket and all the door’s and windows were locked… or should be… shit! He felt his anxiety jump as he pushed away from the door, cursing when his crutch slipped on a discarded sock, but as he righted himself, he saw the panic button hanging from a coat peg, he had refused to wear it. He growled at the thing… then grabbed it and with a snarl, quickly put the lanyard around his neck, pushing the large button down the neck of his tee to form an ugly lump on his chest. But damn it if his anxiety didn’t reseed a little.

Then he started his way to the back door. They had left it open that morning to let some fresh air in as they ate breakfast. And with Jack leaving, he didn’t know who had shut it. But as he made his way towards the dining room table. Gone was the 70’s monstrosity, replaced with a very nice modern wooden affair, that was a ‘present’ courtesy of the FBI, that could pull out to accommodate four more people, it also came with eight matching chairs, two with arms. Three of the chairs had been stacked and were now next to the piano… He also hadn’t played that in days, he figured once he had cleaned up, maybe got something out of the freezer for dinner, he could play for a few hours; it would calm his nerves he was sure.

Then he saw Jack’s toiletry bag on the table with a small pan of defrosting home made lasagne, Jack was going to have for his supper when he got home, sat besides it.

“Shit.” He said out loud, as he went to reach for his cell, then frowned when he didn’t feel it in his pockets, remembering it was on the nightstand, charging.

“What did I tell you about swearing?”

Tony froze as he felt his heart falter in his chest as a ringing started in his ears and he was finding it heard to catch a breath.

“I don’t want the kids being foul mouthed little bastards.”

Tony moved his head, only to look up at the camera in the dinning room, the one that would now be capturing the image of the man stood in the kitchen doorway.

“Don’t worry about that.” Hicks chuckled.

Tony knew he was slowly moving towards him and his skin was crawling, he wanted to close his eyes, he wanted to throw up, to start screaming and maybe never stop.

“That stupid cop just got called away as he was doing the hourly round.” Hicks said like it was a casual thing to converse about. “And your fuck buddy and all his little pig friends should be busy with a bomb on a boat right about now.”

Tony flinched when a hand was laid on the small of his back.

“So by the time any of your little friends...” He sneered by Tony’s ear. “Figure out I’m here… we will be long gone.” Then the hand was being pushed towards his side possessively.

Tony felt bile rising in his throat. He wanted to push Hicks filthy hands away, to kick him to the ground and never stop kicking… he desperately wanted to start running and never look back… instead, he took in what breath he could, forcing one of his well warn mask down to protect himself…

He had to get out of this…

Preferably alive…

If not intact.

He had something to fight for, something he needed to protect, a family he and his sister had dreamed of having one day… and now he had to protect what was left of her half of that dream as well as his own.

“Gone where?” He managed to ask. His voice was all over the place, but it wasn’t like Hicks had ever cared before.

Hicks chuckled as Tony closed his eyes and tried not to lash out as Hicks was pushing his hips into Tony’s backside, making sure Tony could feel his arousal.

“Oh, somewhere were you wont be running out on me again.”

It took everything in Tony to remain still as he felt Hicks kiss the back of his neck, his hands now firmly on Tony’s hips as he was getting distracted in his own lust.

Tony couldn’t help the whole body flinch, the table blocking his momentum, the feet screeching loudly on the floor as it moved an inch, his thigh banged into the edge making him growl at the pain it caused. He went to push himself back when he found a hand on the back of his neck, and before he could do anything, his head was heading towards the table.

He panicked as his arms were caught in his crutches, just managing to get his right crutch to slide back as he rolled onto that side, just before he was slammed onto the table.

He cried out when his chest hit the edge of the glass dish with the lasagne in. Instinctively he tried to push himself up, only to be slammed back down, feeling something else dig into his chest, then the sound of plastic breaking and it digging painfully into his skin, the panic button was broken?

“Why do you always have to push me!” Hicks was yelling as Tony became aware of Hicks trying to shove a leg between his own… and Tony’s stilled again in panic, his mind trying to shut down like it always did… just let him have his fun… then he would go away… he wouldn’t get hurt… wouldn’t have to explain to the kids were the bruises came from… would make cleaning up the mess in the morning easier or he could at least move without the added pain…

“I’ve let you have your fun, Tonio.” Hicks growled down at him. “I’ve let you run around long enough. Playing families, being the good little fucking whore you are!” Tony grunted when his hair was grabbed and his head was thumped down hard onto the table. “You have no fucking idea what trouble you put me through!” Another painful thump. “The favours I’ve had to promise.” Then he was chuckling to himself as Tony tried to subtly get his left arm out of the cuff of his crutch. “Not like I’ll be letting them get cashed!” Tony tried to brace for the next brutal slam into the table, but he wasn’t successful as he let out a grunt of pain. “You’re not the only one who can disappear, not the only one with friends in high places! Tonio, I’m going to take you so far off the grid. Your fed-fag is going to think you’re in fucking Narnia and I’ll be burning the wardrobe behind us!” He started laughing again at his own joke and Tony just wanted to be sick.

“The kids…” He uttered before he could swallow the words back and regretted it instantly as his head was slammed down again into the hard wood, but this time Hicks was putting his weight on it. But instead of the beating he was expecting, Hicks was pulling off a little, then he was chuckling.

“Fucking brats were more trouble than they were worth.” Hicks said like they were having tea. “Still… sowed my seed, so they can be someone else’s fucking problem now.”

Tony felt his heart stop.

The kids were his world.

Now…

Now… this bastard was going to try and take Tony away from them?

He gritted his teeth against the feel of Hicks getting exited above him, rubbing himself again Tony as his filthy hands were trying to find the waistband of Tony’s jeans.

Why was he going to let this happen? Was he just going to let himself be beaten black and blue? bloodied? Let himself be raped? Because it was the easiest things to do?... because if he didn’t the kids were going to be taken away from him?

Now though… Hicks had just thrown away the last shred of Tony’s compliance.

As he let Hicks start tugging his jeans down, he had manoeuvre his left crutch just under the table and moved his right hand to rest on the table. Then with all the strength he had in his arms he pushed himself up, rearing back into Hicks and surprising the bastard enough that Tony felt him move off of him. Then Tony started a stumbled run for the door as he heard the bastard hit the floor.

He left his right crutch behind as it fell from his arm, stumbling forwards as best he could, his hand on the front door handle when he saw a vehicle pulling into the driveways and his heart sank… Jack had come back… probably realising he had left something behind.

He yanked the door open as the older man was getting out of his truck, and when he saw him, he started smiling.

“He’s here…!” Tony managed to call out weakly as he saw the smile disappear from Jack’s face as he looked over Tony’s shoulder.

Tony was just turning his head to look as hands descended into the fabric at his shoulders, then he was being wrenched backwards with such force his feet almost left the ground as he went flying backwards into the house.

When he hit the floor, he would have yelled out as something crunched in his left arm as his head banged off the floor, but he was incapable of making a sound as he found himself winded and gasping up at the ceiling, desperately trying to catch his breath as dark spots swam in his vision, and as his mind tried to make some sense as to what was happening, he thought he might be having a panic attack, it almost felt the same, and he wanted to laugh at the cruelty of fate as he felt tears running down his face and into his hair.

He became aware quickly of Hicks shouting something, then the door being slammed shut, but he wondered where the click was… wasn’t there supposed to be a click?... what had he told the kids?... no… he couldn’t quite grasp it… thinking was hurting?

Then he wasn’t trying to think as something slammed into his hip, hard, someone was pulling on his shoulder while screaming and Tony’s world rocked as he was being pulled up, but his arm moved and he couldn’t help but let out a grunt as hot pain shot through his shoulder, clearing his head as he was yanked into a sitting position.

“Get up you fucking poof!”

Tony frowned, he didn’t like that word, he didn’t like the person saying that horrible thing either, and something was wrong with his arm as he tried to look down at it. He couldn’t see anything wrong through his shirt, but it was throbbing horribly and he tried moving his fingers that were resting on top of one of Miki’s fire-trucks… he could move his fingers, but the truck looked broken somehow… it had been fine yesterday hadn’t it? And again, his world tilted violently as someone was pulling at him again. His hand fell from the toy and he cried out as it hit the floor.

“I said get up!” Hicks was snarling, his voice low, meaning he was getting angry now and Tony knew he had to do what he was told or there would be more pain… he was so bored of pain… So he tried getting up, but his head began swimming and with his leg and left arm he couldn’t seem to find the right angle to get up, then another shot of pain because he wasn’t quick enough and another kick landed on his right hip, he collapsed back to the ground, but this time he didn’t have the luxury of voicing his pain as he only had enough time to roll to his side on his elbow as he began to throw up his breakfast.

He knew he was crying again as he retched a second time.

Hicks was screaming above him, something about being useless and filthy, more homophobic slurring directed down at him from the man who seemed to like raping other men for fun and at least that thought made Tony smile sardonically before he was throwing up again. But before he could finish he was chocking on his own vomit as he had tried to cry out when Hicks brought his foot down directly onto the scarring on Tony’s leg.

Now his throat seemed to be burning, right down to his lungs as he coughed through his misery. All he could do was try and move himself away from the mess on the floor and away from the man causing him pain. Until he bumped into something and he could just make out the first step on the stairs.

“You discussing sissy!”

Tony winced as he got his elbow on the stair, waiting another attack.

“I’ve got your fucking puke on me now!”

But Hicks was moving away and Tony managed to find the courage to look up, and as he tried to focus, he saw Hicks disappearing towards the kitchen.

Tony paused for only a moment before he began pulling himself up, now able to use the stairs, he shakily got to his feet, even though the world was spinning and everything seemed to hurt and his heart was pounding, knowing he had to do something… then he heard a familiar sound coming from upstairs?... as Hicks was still cursing from the kitchen?

It was his cell!

With energy he didn’t know he possessed, Tony was stumbling up the stairs on hand and feet, as quickly and as quietly as he could… which wasn’t quick or quiet. But he had a goal; he just had to get his cell. He stumbled over the top step, but managed to holt himself as he threw his shoulder against the doorjamb of his bedroom. As he was managing to get his footing again he heard Hicks running up the stairs.

Panicked tore through Tony as he managed to get into his room and throw the old bolt-lock into place as Hicks slammed into the other side and Tony’s leg finally gave out on him and he was going down again, his vision spinning. He only just managed to not knock himself out on the bed frame. But his head still pounded at all the movement, and his stomach threatened to make him sick again.

But he couldn’t rest; the sound of Hicks anger couldn’t hide the distinct sound of wood cracking from the force Hicks was bringing to bare on the other side.

Tony looked up to where his cell was on his nightstand, when he saw the crack in the bed frame, just under the mattress near the head of the bed. And suddenly he was scrabbling at the nightstand, pushing the small bit of furnisher over so he could get access to where Jet had secured a small key. Tony cursed as he struggled to get the key from the little metal brace that was keeping it in place.

Then he was moving to the crack in the bed frame, and one handed he struggled again to get the thin wooden panel off, but it finally fell to the floor, revealing a metal door with a lock. He stuck the key in and turned, relief washing through him when it opened to find the small Glock 26, Jet had insisted on hiding in such an odd place.

Tony had tried to protest, not wanting more guns than Jet’s service weapon in the house and the rifle he kept in his workbench in the basement, but Jet had insisted on installing this one and the one hidden behind the piano for just such occasions, and Tony felt sick that it had actually become a fucking necessity as he struggled one handed to get the gun out of its Velcro fastening, then cursed as he got the clip and just as he was slamming it home, the door gave way and flew open.

Splinters of wood came flying at him as the doorjamb shattered and suddenly he was back in a dingy apartment hallway, pain shooting through his legs as he was covered in splinters. And he started firing in blind panic; his world had been shattered that day, to leave him broken and crippled, all his dreams had been destroyed… where his neverending nightmares had started...

Then there was quiet as he became aware of the only sound being that of clicking as he pulled the trigger of his small gun… he wasn’t sure how many he had fired, but it was now empty. He watched his hand as he let it fall to his side; the gun slipping from his fingers as it did so, then he was bringing his hand up to his head that was pounding, as his world tried to grey out.

Had he fallen out of bed? He wondered… why was the nightstand on its side? He was home… what?... he couldn’t think. Then something in front of him was moving and he looked up in time to see Hicks, like something out of his nightmares, lunging for him, his face contorted in rage, blood dripping down the side of his face.

Then Tony was looking at the wall to his left, he tried to blink, but he was having trouble seeing out of his right eye? He tried to move when something else hit him and his world blacked out.

 

TBC

Chapter Text

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + + [Chapter 12]

 

Abby still couldn’t get her hands away from her mouth as she watched, helpless.

Tony was fighting for his life!

She had been furiously looking up any leads for the bomb threat that was called in. but the call had come from a burner phone that she was still trying to find where the signal had originated.

That was till she got a call from security. It was Bill, asking if she knew the other man, now in Gibbs’s house. At first, she just thought it had been Jack, who she had been thrilled to meet. but when Bill said it was a younger guy, Abby had finally looked over to the other monitor where she had a live feed of Gibbs’s security cameras. And sure enough, there was a man pressed up to Tony’s back… and as she recognised him, her blood ran cold as she told Bill to call the police as she moved the cameras to her main monitors and started recording.

She was out of leads for the time being on the bomb threat, she was now thinking was just that, a threat and not a real bomb.

She was about to call Gibbs, but stopped herself. There was nothing he could do; he and the team were to far away and still investigating. So, with a quick search, she had called Fornell. All she managed to get out, other than who she was, was “Hicks is with Tony right now!... His house.” Then the FBI agent had hung up on her.

Then she called up to Morrow, and informed him what was happening, and without hesitating, he had told her to call Gibbs while he got another team to go out and investigate the threat.

So now she was on the phone with a very focused Gibbs as he kept demanding her to relay what was happening anytime she lapsed into silence.

“Hicks is still trying to kick in the door.” She was saying, feeling so sick and helpless as she had watched one of her new friends getting kicked around. It didn’t help that the cameras wore of such a good quality she could see the fear on Tony’s face, even the moments he seemed to blank out.

/“ABBY!”/ Gibbs barked.

“He’s… oh shit, he got…” Then she saw Hicks flinch back into the hall and fall to the ground. It took her a moment to see small puffs of dust coming from the wall opposite.

/“For heavens sake Abby!”/ Kate was growling as Abby heard a screech of tyres and horns blaring.

“Tony has a gun?!” She asked.

/“He hit the bastard?”/ Gibbs asked. So Abby guessed that was a yes.

“Err…” She saw Hicks getting to his feet, one hand clamped to the side of his head and when he brought it away, Abby could just make out the darkness that could be blood. “I think so… side of his head… ear maybe?”

/“Not dead?”/ Gibbs growled.

“Not even down.” Abby lamented. “Shit… he’s gone into the bedroom! I can’t see!”

/“Is there anyone else there yet?”/ Chris was asking, his tone tense, which was unusual for such a calm guy.

Abby quickly looked at the camera that was facing the street. “Oh.” She sighed with a little relief. “That police man, Samuel? He’s there with Jack! I think they heard the gunshots!” Then she could just see other police men running into shot.

/“Was the front door locked?”/ Tim was asking.

“Yes… I think so; Tony had a time opening it when Jack came back!” She heard Gibbs swearing. Then he was talking to someone in the car.

/”Call Fornell! Get that bastard to get someone to that empty house behind mine!... Kate call Samuel and get him to get some of his lot to block off the back… he came in through the garden!”/

Abby heard confirmations as the others started using their phones. Then he was watching as Hicks was backing out into the hallway. “He’s pulling Tony out of the room!” She shouted, “I think he’s unconscious! Oh… his face.” She gasped, the right side of Tony’s face was dark with blood and from the angle, she could see he wasn’t responding as Hicks pulled him feet first towards the stairs… but she could also see something in Hicks hand. “Did Tony have a Glock 26?” she asked, recognising the small calibre gun.

/“Yes.”/

“Hicks has it!” She said. “Oh, Tony.” She whimpered. “He’s being dragged down the stairs… his head… oh god!” There was nothing protecting the back of Tony’s head, which she was sure he already had a concussion, but this would make it worse!

“Abigail?” Ducky asked as she turned to see him come into her lab.

“Oh, Ducky.” He managed through a lump in her throat. “Tony’s in trouble.”

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Samuel’s heart was beating in his chest hard when he heard the first gun shot, followed in quick succession by seven or nine more.

He had heard the last shift go by the house that morning over the radio, and as Samuel was about to go on a break, he had decided to drive over and see how Tony was doing, remember him saying Jack was leaving today, and that he would be alone in the house.

He really liked the young man, who reminded him of his best friend when he was younger… though he didn’t think Tony was about to take himself out of this world, for loving guys. It also helped the young man had been a cop before his medical retirement, so sharing stories of the job, and even of his lost friend, had been… well.. nice. It helped too that Tony had good coffee and was more than willing to share.

Now he was organising his colleagues to surround the house, getting three of the younger guys, who also knew Tony, to go around back, using the neighbour’s gardens as cover.

Then he was getting more men to block off the street and the rest to try and get the neighbours directly around the Gibbs house, and across the street vacated.

It had taken some convincing for him to get Jackson to go to the house with the women who looked after Tony’s youngest child. But He had finally just asked the older gentlemen if he wanted to explain to Tony why he might have been hurt if there was a gun fight.

Now he was just keeping an eye on the house as his colleagues were moving around him carrying out his orders till someone more superior came along and fucked it all up, like they usually did.

/”Movement at the back door!”/ One of the men he had sent to the back called over the radio.

Then another. /”Think he saw me… he’s gone back in, confirmed firearm.”/

Samuel swore. “Could you see what it was?” he asked.

/”Something small.”/ was the apologetic reply. /”Also no visual on Tony.”/

“Hold position and report any movement… I’m sure the feds will be showing up any minute now.” To which he got back a chorus of affirmatives.

/”Hey, Samuel.”/ Came Loyola’s voice through his radio.

“Yeah?” he asked as he looked around for his old friend, but couldn’t see him.

/”I’m across the street.”/ His friend said. /”I’m on the 2nd floor with direct line of sight into the house.”/

“Can you see anything?” He asked.

/”Yeah, is it Tony?... he’s on the floor, not moving… he’s not looking to good from what I can see.”/

“The stalker?”

/”Pacing… and kicking a man down.”/ Loyola’s was sighing.

“Can you see the gun?”

There was a long pause. /”No… I can’t see anything in his hands.”/

“You sure?” Samuel asked as he pulled his own gun from his holster as he heard ambulance sirens getting closer.

/”Yeah… both his hands are free of weapons… are you about to… oh.. never mind.”/ Loyola was sighing deeply again. /”You know the layout?”/

“Yeah.” Samuel answered as he scooted up the side of the truck in the driveway, making sure he wasn’t in sight of the front door.

/”Tony’s down by what looks like a wide entrance to… there’s a dining table; I can see the bottom of another open door.”/

“And the perp?” He asked as he made his way to the porch and looked up. He could see a bit of movement through the coloured frosted glass. But it looked further back into the house.

/“Still pacing from Tony to… err… there a fireplace?”/ Loyola’s asked.

“Yeah,” Samuel whispered. As he crouched down and made his way up the few stairs to the front door, where he put his hand on the door handle, he knew it was a long shot, but he was guessing Tony couldn’t wait, and the feds always make these things longer than they should be.

/”Wait.”/ Loyola hissed. /”Now!”/

Samuel didn’t even have to turn the handle and almost fell straight into the hall as the door just opened, like it had only been pushed too. He only just caught the door for swinging open fully. When he steadied himself he looked over to the house across the street.

/”You always were a lucky son of a bitch.”/ Loyola had been whispering to him. /”You want a distraction from the back?”/ He asked, to which Samuel nodded as he turned his radio down, only just catching the rest of the radio chatter. Someone was going to throw something at the back door. Apparently, the FBI had shown up just after the ambulance and were already pushing in. but he knew Tony had done some work for them, so he just hoped they wanted the best for the young man too.

He didn’t have to wait long before he heard the distraction as something hard must have hit the back door, sending a boom through the house.

/”He’s turned away!”/ Loyola called into the radio and Samuel didn’t need telling again as he threw the door open, getting to his feet while holding his gun out in front of himself.

“Get down on your knees!” He shouted authoritatively as he stepped forwards.

What he did not expect was the scruffy looking man to turn on him, a gun suddenly in his hands. Without thinking, Samuel fired twice. Double tap right to the chest.

The men crumpled without a word.

Samuel didn’t need to check, he knew the man was dead.

He took a moment to catch his breath. This guy wasn’t the first guy who he had taken down after being drawn on, but it never got easier, knowing he had taken another life, just so he could go home to his wife and kids.

Then he heard Loyola shouting over the radio, asking if he was okay. With a shaky hand he turned his radio up. “Yeah… I’m good.” He took a deep breath. “Send the ambulance in.” and he rushed over to Tony, instantly going to his knees to check the younger mans pulse, he almost sobbed when he found it, strong and steady.

Tony looked like a mess though… he had taken some blows to the right side of his face, and there was a small cut that was still bleeding profusely, as only face wound could.

“Tony? Can you hear me?” He asked, but fighting down his instinct to shake the mans shoulder. To his surprise, Tony eyes actually opened, even moved to try and focus on him, but Samuel could tell he probably had a concussion, if his odd pupil sizes were an indicator. “That’s it, you with me?” the only sign he got was a slow blink and he smiled down at his friend. “You hang in there, you here me?” he told him. “Your biggest headache is over now.” He assured and watched as Tony’s eyes widened. “He wont be bothering anyone anymore.” Then he watched as a tear slipped down Tony’s cheek, but before he could do, or say anything else, the paramedics were followed in two of his colleagues.

“You don’t need to worry about that one.” He told the paramedic who was looking down at Tony’s stalker. “He’s past your care.” He sighed as he got to his feet. “Tony however very much needs your help.”

Then he was stepping back letting the paramedic go to Tony’s side as her colleague was putting down equipment. He was also the one who started asking questions about the young man, and Samuel was answering them as best he could when a fed came in. Samuel was at least placated by the look of worry on the man’s face.

Once the paramedic had finished with him, and gone to help with Tony. The fed had descended on him, Fornell of the FBI, asking him everything that happened. Again, Samuel answered all he could, before he was pointing at the camera’s in the room, After all, they should have captured everything.

Finally, as they were loading Tony onto a stretcher, with a back board. Samuel finally saw Gibbs running down the street, pushing police and feds out of the way with an elbow or a badge thrust in their face.

“Hey.” He called to the paramedics. “Tony’s partner here,” he warned.

Then Gibbs was rushing into the house, as soon as he laid eyes on the younger man, he was at his side, one hand already on the side of Tony’s head. “How is he?” he was demanding of the paramedic.

“Stable.” Lizz, the female paramedic answered, “You are?”

“I’m his partner.” Gibbs barked.

“He’s Tony’s next of kin.” The FBI agent answered calmly as he actually went to Gibbs’s side. Putting a hand on his shoulder.

“We need to get him to hospital, he’s not in danger at the moment, but his concussion is a concern.” She said quickly, and then they were pushing Tony towards the front door. “Will you be coming with us?”

“Yes!” Gibbs snapped. Then Samuel watched him turn to the FBI guy. “Where…?”

“To your right.” Samuel answered and Gibbs glanced at him, giving him a nod of recognition till he was looking down to the floor, where they had laid a sheet over the dead perp. Gibbs swiftly reached down and flicked the sheet back, then Samuel heard him actually snarl at the dead man before he was flicking the sheet back. “Who…”

“Me.” Samuel answered as cold blue eyes settled on him. “Pulled a gun on me.” He shrugged. Then Gibbs was striding towards him, and for a moment, he thought he was going to punch him or something, but instead, Gibbs put a hand on his shoulder, gave him a firm nod. “Thanks.” Then the feds eyes move down to his arm, just below the shoulder where he had been grazed by the stalker when he shot at him.

“Just a band-aid, a new shirt and paperwork.” He shrugged. “Also, your youngest is down the street with your dad and the two lovely ladies.”

“Thanks” Gibbs said again before Samuel watched him walking out the door without so much as a back wards glance.

“He’s like that.” The FBI agent gave him a smile. Then nodded his head at the dead guy on the floor. “But, yeah… thanks for that.”

“You can do my paperwork then.” He tried to joke, knowing he was in for a few sleepless night’s and some therapy.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs watched the paramedics loading Tony into the ambulance, and he wanted to follow but then he looked down the street towards the Spencer’s home. The kids were still at school and he knew he should make them his top priority…

He found himself suddenly bereft of what to do…

He had been so focused on getting here, of shooting the Bastard Hicks in the face himself, of making sure Tony was okay.

By the time he had gotten here it was all over.

And he was feeling a little lost.

Something he did not like, not one bit.

“Gibbs?” Baker’s voice broke him out of his daze.

“Yeah?” He asked as the other agent actually put a hand on his shoulder.

“Go with him.” Baker was saying, tilting his head towards the ambulance, where the paramedics were securing Tony for transport. “Ducky’s going home to prepare for you guys to stay with him. Kate’s going to take Jack and Miki over there after the FBI has a statement from him.” He was saying, in a reassuring tone, Gibbs wasn’t sure he liked right now. “McGee’s going to get Abby and they are going to wait for the kids to finish school before picking them up. Then take them to Ducky’s?”

Gibbs nodded. It was probably for the best till he knew Tony was really going to be okay. They might have seen him bruised before, but he wanted to at least spare them seeing him unconscious.

“Tell them they can say Tony’s got hurt, but I want them calling me as soon as they know… if I can’t take the call, I’ll call back ASAP.” At least he could think clearly now it was coming to the kids.

“Mind if it’s me getting you guys some clothes and stuff for the kids?” Chris Baker asked, to which Gibbs nodded again, after all, it was only Chris on his team that had actually clocked on that Tony was a little over protective of his home and the kids.

“I think he’ll appreciate the fact it’s you.” He told his agent truthfully. “Make sure you grab the games machine and whatever games are there too.”

“Will do.” Chris was smiling at him. “Go, before they leave without you, I’ll try and update you on what’s going on when I knew.”

“Thanks.” Gibbs said again as he saw the female paramedic actually looking at him as she looked ready to close the doors and he ran over.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs stretched in his chair as he wondered if he could ask the nurses to get him another coffee as he sat at Tony’s bedside. But he was loathed to get up, or more rightly, he was loathed to let go of his partner’s hand.

When they had got to the hospital and taken Tony into a treatment room, they had asked him to fill out Tony’s paperwork, which he had. Thankful still to Morrow’s who had let him put Tony and the kids on his insurance as dependants without much trouble. His friend had just looked at him for a while, before nodding, telling him he was mad, but if he was this sure, he would let it happen.

After the paperwork, it had been a waiting game to see if the Doctor’s would come find him first, or the kids would try and phone.

The Doctor’s had won as they came out quicker than he expected. Telling him that Tony had a bad concussion, but he was responding to treatment. He also had a bump on the back of his head with a contusion they had stitched up. He also managed to give himself a hairline fracture in his left arm. So when Gibbs had been allowed in to be with him, Tony was sporting a cast on his left arm and the right side of his face was swollen and purple. But other than that, he looked like he was just sleeping. Much to Gibbs’s relief… he had been expecting wires and machines beeping away and for Tony to look like he was at deaths door.

The doctor was also coming in every hour to wake Tony up and ask him a bunch of questions. When Gibbs had first seen this happen, and they asked him his name, he felt a jolt of apprehension, but Tony had actually looked a little confused before answering ‘Paddington’ which was on his paperwork.

When the doctor and nurse had left, Gibbs had stepped up to Tony’s good side, as there was no way he could see out of his right eye. “Hey.” He had said, to which he got a smile, then Tony had tried to frown, but just ended up in pain. “The kids are safe.” He assured his lover. “They are staying with Ducky.” He had gotten a little nod, then he knew Tony was asleep again, no doubt they had him on the good painkillers, and luckily they were just knocking him out.

When Elli and Danny had finally called, it had been painful. They were both in tears, Danny hiccupped when he tried to talk and Eli wasn’t much better. He had assured them their uncle was a little battered and bruised, but that he was only in the hospital because his head was hurt, but he would be fine, and he would get Tony to call as soon as he could. Eli had asked what had happened, but Gibbs had told her softly, that they had nothing to worry about now, and he would be over as soon as he made sure Tony was tucked in for the night. Which was a promise he wished he didn’t have to keep… it would be very hard for him to walk away.

Now he glanced over to the door and thought about getting up and seeing if he could flag anyone down, but as he was about to get up he felt Tony’s hand tighten in his own.

He quickly stood and bent over the bed. “Hey.” He said smiling when Tony opened his good eye and looked at him.

Tony smiled, then winced as the bruising and swelling would be causing him pain. “Time?”

“Almost ten in the evening.” He answered. “Want a drink?”

Tony smacked his lips a little, then nodded. Gibbs quickly got some of the, probably tepid, water into his lover, who sucked on the straw hungrily till he moved his head away.

“Kids?” Tony then asked, at least sounding a little better.

“Staying with Ducky.” He answered as he crossed his arms and rested them atop the rails on the side of Tony’s bed, so they could look at each other easier. “He even got my guys around to help clean up his mother’s old room for Eli, and I believe the Spencer’s are also over helping to look after them too.”

Tony managed a little chuckle. “We might have to make them honouree grandmothers.”

“I’ll let you tell them.” Gibbs grinned. “They will probably smother you with kisses.”

Tony rolled his eye, then winced. “ugg. I’ll let Ducky do it.” But then Gibbs watched as Tony’s face lost all humour and colour as he asked the question Gibbs had been dreading… especially when he had been told by the doctors not to let Tony get stressed or exited about anything… fat chance of that happening any time soon. “What happened?”

Gibbs reached down and put his hand to the uninjured side of Tony’s face, then whispered. “He’s dead.” He did not expect the tear that slipped from Tony’s eye onto his hand. “Shhh, shhh, it’s okay… You don’t have to look over your shoulder anymore.” He tried to reassure.

It took a while before Tony finally shook his head a little before answering. “How?”

Gibbs rubbed his thumb over Tony’s cheek, the tears still falling. “He had the Glock and turned it on Samuel, who double tapped Hicks when he turned the gun on him.”

Tony nodded once. “I was in our room…?” he whispered, looking confused now. “He came in…?”

“From what I’ve heard.” He said. “I’m guessing he knocked you out.” He moved his eyes to indicate the other side of Tony’s purple and swollen face, which Tony reached up and touched tentatively, then wincing. “Just bruising.” He reassured as Tony turned his attention back to him. “Then he dragged you downstairs…”

“Concussion?” Tony interrupted as he sniffed; no doubt trying to get all mucus from crying out of his nose, but Gibbs was just relieved the tears were slowing down.

“Oh, yeah, a really good one, gonna be feeling it for weeks.”

Tony groaned. “Great… then what?”

“I don’t know, Tobias is still waiting for all the reports to come back… but like I said, Samuel went in to save you, took Hicks out so the ambulance could get to you.”

“And he is dead?” Tony asked, his eye now focused steadily on him.

“Yeah,” He answered softly. After all, he shouldn’t be too surprised by the tears, the bastard had been a part of Tony’s life for a long time, had been the cause of most of his nightmares. So now too be free of the disgusting excuse of a human being, might take a bit of processing. And it didn’t take long for Tony to let out a sigh as his whole body relaxed. But at the moment, he wasn’t going to tell his injured partner that the FBI coroner had been rather clumsy with his liver probe, just to make sure he was down for good. “You want the bad news though?” He asked instead, to which Tony frowned up at him.

Gibbs reached down and gently put one hand under Tony’s cast and the other under his elbow and carefully lifted it up. “At some point you broke your arm.”

“Fuck.” Tony uttered, but he was wiggling his fingers out the top of the cast.

“A hairline fracture, but still six weeks you cant use your normal crutch.” Gibbs said as he lowered Tony’s arm carefully. “Apparently, you might be able to use a forearm crutch in a week.” When he looked back at his partner, Tony was crying again, only this time he could see it was going to turn ugly, and was going to cause more pain to add to the concussion. “Shh, shh.” He said again as he quickly lowered the bed rails so he could, carefully, put his hand under Tony’s neck as he leaned down, wiping the tears away as softly as he could. “What’s wrong?”

“How… How’m I gonna get around?” Tony asked, what skin wasn’t bruised was red and puffy from his emotions and quickly Gibbs realised this might be because of the painkillers they had Tony on. “Am even more of a cripple!”

“Only for six weeks.” He tried to lighten Tony’s mode with a smile, even if he hated when Tony called himself a cripple. Then he tried not to laugh as Tony literally gave him a pet lip that would put the kids to shame. “You can put that away.” He said pocking Tony’s bottom lip lightly. “All you have to do right now is heal.”

“Humm…” Tony hummed, then Gibbs watched as Tony was struggling to keep his eye open.

“Go back to sleep.” He told his world. “I’ll wake you before I have to leave.”

“Kids.” Tony uttered.

“Yeah.” He answered but knew Tony hadn’t heard him as he slept.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Tony wasn’t sure he was up to the kids coming to see him.

He wanted to see them desperately, to hug them, to tell them it was all going to be okay now and nothing would take them away from him. To let them know he was okay, so they wouldn’t worry.

But…

He felt like he was made of paper. One wrong move and he would crumple and disappear. The constant pounding in his head was also making him feel dizzy so much so he couldn’t think straight, and that with any loud noise and he would shatter into pieces.

All he wanted was the smell of tea in the air, Jet’s scent in the sheet’s he lay under and to rest his head on a soft pillow while he just listened to the world softly go by.

For the time he had been awake, which wasn’t much, since last night. He remembered Jet’s words; that Hicks was finally gone, and he believed it, but it still seemed surreal. He didn’t think he wanted him dead… just to leave them alone… But it was done now… and he still didn’t know how he felt, how he should feel? He just hoped that once his headache let up and he could actually walk to the bathroom, his emotions might have sorted themselves out. But as he looked at the new solid cast on his arm, apparently, the swelling had gone down enough for a ‘proper’ one, the nurse said. He poked at the hard pink surface, the guy who put it on had apologised profusely about the colour, but it was all they had in stock till tomorrow… or something. Tony was sure Eli and Miki would love it. So he had told the guy as much… yeah… emotions? Was he sad? Happy?.. maybe just relieved?... he didn’t know and he really didn’t have the energy to even guess at what was going on, his head hurt that much.

With a sigh, he let himself sink back into the pillows of his slightly raised bed, he was just about thinking of closing his eyes when he heard running in the corridor, then Eli and Danny were running at him, Jet hot on their heals as he barked. “What did I say!”

The kids stopped in their tracks as Tony let himself relax with a little pant of pain, he had tensed up, ready for them to jump all over him, and it was making his head pound.

“Tony?” Jet asked.

Tony managed to roll his head to the side a little more, feeling guilty when he saw the tears in his kids eyes, so he held his good arm out to them, as he also tried to hold back his own tears.

They both grabbed at his hand, then Jet was there, sitting Miki down by Tony’s knees, then he was lowering the rail. It was Eli that helped push Danny up so Tony could put his arm around the young boy as he buried his face in the side of Tony’s chest. Then he felt Eli climbing to his other side till she settled down too, holding whatever part of his hospital gown she could get.

“I’m okay.” He reassured them as he first kissed the top of Danny’s head, then Eli’s. “It’s all going to be okay now.” He then looked up at Jet, who was smiling down at him, then gave him a nod. Tony held his hand up and Jet took it and held it tight.

“Nurses said you’re in for another night.” Jet was smiling down at him. “Then I can get you out of here.”

Suddenly Tony was finding it hard to breath, he was taking air in, but it didn’t feel like he could get it out. He needed to get up, needed to stay, needed to be anywhere that wasn’t here! He was stuck in his own throbbing mind, trying desperately to wish he wasn’t stuck in this same loop of fight or flight.

Slowly he was aware of a hand on his forehead, at once keeping his head down while a thumb stroked across his temple. Then he could hear Jet telling him he just had to even out his breathing. Tony wanted to snort at that, to tell Jet to ‘fuck off.’ and ‘it’s not that easy!’. If he could only speak… but the short sharp breathes were getting shallower, it finally felt like he could breath out again. His muscles were finally loosening up as he felt himself sinking into the mattress. He felt the tears on his cheeks as looked up at Jet, who was smiling down at him, and Tony realised he had been holding his hand through the whole thing, and he felt so grateful for that he felt more tears following those he had already shed. “Sorry.” He uttered.

“Don’t be.” Jet said. “I didn’t mean to scare you… We’ll be living with Ducky for a while.”

“Ah…” Tony felt more tears as his eyes kept trying to close, oh, god he was so tired, especially at the news as relief washed through him. “For…” He managed before yawning.

“As long as we need.” Jet answered softly. “Tired?”

Tony nodded.

“Think you can say goodnight to the kids?” Jet asked and Tony’s heart almost beat out of his chest as he tensed up again. But Jet was still holding his head down. “Danny?”

Tony felt a movement by his legs, then Danny was moving on his right side, his eyes looked watery, but he was smiling like the brave little guy he was. “You coming… to Grampa-duckys tomorrow?” he asked.

Tony felt Jet let go of his good hand as he then put it around Danny and hugged the boy tight. “If I could, I would be coming with you now.” He said, kissing Danny’s head. “Sorry for scaring you.”

“It’s okay.” Danny said pushing himself up a little. “Grandmamma promised us fish and… chips tonight for supper.”

Tony smiled at that. “Oh… You have to tell me if it was good! I’m jealous.”

“But chips?” Danny pulled a face.

“She means fat fries.” Eli piped up. To which Danny brightened up.

Tony kissed Danny again, then Jet was pulling the boy from the bed. “Eli?” Tony asked as he reached down when he felt Eli moving as she pushed his cast out of the way carefully then lay at his side, hugging him as tight as she could. “Sorry, princess.” He whispered into her hair too. “Are you doing okay?”

“Is he really gone?” She whispered so softly he almost missed it, and he knew she had started to cry.

He reached over and put his good hand on the side of her face. “Yeah, honey… He can’t hurt us anymore.” He felt her start to shake and he felt his own tears falling again. “Shhh….” He cooed brokenly.

“He was still… Dad.” She sobbed quietly

“I know… I know…” And he did… After all, his own father was out there somewhere, and still didn’t give a shit about how his children were doing. He had been an abusive and neglective parent to both of them after their mother died and he had hated him… but… he was still their father. Even if Senior never seemed to reciprocate that bond. “It’s okay to cry.” He told her. “No matter what you feel, it’s okay and don’t you feel guilty about it.”

He was aware of Jet pulling his arm up, then Danny was once again hugging his right side, also crying, so he told him the same thing.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs wasn’t sure how long he had been stood at Tony’s bedside. Just looking down at his partner and the kids. They had cried themselves asleep. Tony uttering soft assurances, letting them know it was okay to grieve for a man who didn’t seem to care for them at all. That they could be angry or sad and it was all okay to feel them both.

He had been surprised that Tony was capable of even stringing two sentences together, never mind reassuring anyone else… Especially from the pain Gibbs knew the younger man was in, and after the mother of all panic-attacks when he had forgotten to clarify to Tony, they would not be going back to the house… and after that show… deep in his gut… he knew they were never going back there as a family again. And he would have to deal with that…

For the sake of his living world, he would let go of the dead.

He wasn’t going to fool himself it wouldn’t hurt, rip his heart out and stomp all over it, his memories, his lost girls…

As he stroked his hand over Tony’s hair, he couldn’t help but wonder where, or when, his resentment would come… Because of Tony being on that cold lonely road Gibbs was having to give up the one thing he had given a shit about, the home he had shared with his wife and daughter, the home he had never let any of his three ex’s live in, even forced them to sign a pre-nup saying the house was off-limits… and here he was, going to let it go for this man.

He couldn’t help but wonder, and not for the first time, if it was just because of the kids?

Would he have still let that beat up cripple into his home? Trusted him enough with his house of memories? Would he have let the man’s charm turn his head enough to want to risk a same sex relationship?

That was it though… He had looked, wondered and admired other men before, but his career choice had meant he could look but never touch, even being in NCIS meant the homophobia was always going to be an ugly part of his job.

But then he remembered that smile, the one that would light up Tony’s face or the cheeky show of teeth as he told a joke, the way his green eyes would sparkle or be lazar focused when they looked right into Gibbs heart. And gods, his focus when he was working on some dusty cold case was down right hot!

He smiled as he mussed Tony’s hair a little. Yeah… He would have let it all happen, one of his rules had always been, ‘You don’t waist good’. And for all Tony’s medical issues. He was good in so many ways; Gibbs didn’t have enough fingers to count.

So he finally had to admit to himself, that he would have still wanted Tony, even if the kids were not around, or maybe still just with their mother, he would have tried to woo Tony anyway.

He was startled out of his thoughts when his cell went off. He quickly managed to answer it, seeing Eli and Danny looking over to him after being startled from sleep; But Tony still seemed out of it.

“Yeah?” He growled into the phone. Wishing he had remembered to turn the damn thing off.

/”Ah, Jethro. Mother is adamant we start making the children’s supper. Will you be coming back soon?”/ Ducky said on the other end of the line, nonplussed about his harsh growl.

“Yeah, we’ll set off now.” Then he hung up as he went to pick Mili up off Tony’s legs, where he had nodded off, Still to young to really know what was happening, he seemed quite happy to accept everything that was going on around him. “Come on.” He whispered to them all. Supper time.”

He put Miki down then helped the other two get off the bed before he went back to Tony. “Hey, hey?” he whispered loudly, not wanting to shock Tony awake. It worked when green cracked open to look at him. “We gotta go… to Ducky’s.” He only just stopped himself saying home, not wanting to put Tony though another panic attack. “I’ll come round first thing in the morning.” He wanted to come back after the kids were asleep, but he knew it wouldn’t be fare on them if they needed him during the night.

Tony managed a slight nod before Gibbs leaned down and gave him a quick kiss. “Goodnight, sweetheart.” Which got him a slight smile, if nothing else.

The kids chorused their own goodbyes, which Tony did manage to croak out a ‘Sleep tight.’ Before Gibbs watched him relax into sleep again,

 

TBC ^_^

Chapter Text

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + + [Chapter 13]

[one weeks later]

 

Tony sat on the edge of the bed he shared with Jet, in a house they were guests in.

Even though Ducky had assured him, quite emphatically, they were going to stay as long as they needed too.

Tony just didn’t know how long that would be… when did you out stay your welcome when you had a perfect good house to go back too?... a house that now took his breath away, in a bad way, whenever he thought about setting foot back inside it. Even though he knew the reason for all his dread was long gone, cold in some morgue somewhere… though the last image of the man kept haunting his dreams and waking hours… of his snarling face as he rushed into the room, like some monster in a jump scare horror movie, before everything went black.

He had thought about going and seeing the bastard, to actually make sure he was really dead with his own eyes… but he really didn’t want that image in his head as well.

Yet again, his anxiety was crippling him.

He knew the kids wanted to go home.

He knew that he wasn’t being fair on Jet either… it was his house, the home he shared with his wife and daughter…

He also knew he couldn’t even think about going back without shaking.

For heaven sake, Jet had let them into his house, let them stay in his home, finally letting them into his heart… and here Tony was, demanding even more because of dragging his own problems into Jet’s life.

He covered his left eye with his right hand, avoiding all the bruising on the right side of his face, that were only just turning yellow. Then he winced as one of the stitched in the back of his head pulled, making him want to itch the wound there, for the millionth time that morning.

“Hey, hey.” Jet’s voice startled him a little; he hadn’t even heard him open the door. “I told you to take the Ibuprofen.” He was chastising as Tony felt the other man sit down at his side, an arm going around his back. “I take it you lost power before you could pull anything on?” He was saying with a slight chuckle, Tony knew he was just trying to lighten the mood. And he wished he could stop the black mood that had over come him. But it wasn’t going to happen. So instead, he slumped into Jet’s side.

“I cant…” He finally whispered brokenly.

“Get dressed? Take your meds? Or…” Jet was joking, but Tony closed his eyes as Jet had bought his other hand up to stroke through his hair at the side of his head, when he wouldn’t hit bruises or stitches. “… You can’t go back to the house?”

Tony flinched even as he felt tears stinging his eyes, he managed to catch his breath as he brought his right hand up to grab at any bit of Jet he could reach, as he rested his cast forearm on Jet’s let, his fingers scraping at the material of his knee. “I’m… so… rry.” He could feel the panic attack building as his breath started to catch…

“Shhh.” Jet was now rocking him a little, as his hold seemed to get tighter. “You don’t have to be sorry about that.” Jet was whispering. “I’m guessing you also can’t go back to… his… house either.”

Tony couldn’t answer as a tremor went down his back and he almost gagged at just the thought of going back to Hicks house… even though… Oh, Christ… there was his sisters stuff… he still had some of her stuff hidden in his room, photo albums Hicks hadn’t destroyed… the kids would want them, they deserved having something of their mother.

“Hey, Breathe!” Jet demanded and he did keep breathing, as deep as he could, even if they did keep catching. “Fornell said w… I can go in to his house once his forensic team had given it a go over… Breathe… okay… He’s gonna show me photos, to see what state it’s in first… Do you think Eli will be able to cope with helping me get stuff you might want?... there is some stuff the kids have asked for.”

Tony desperately wanted to deny it, if he couldn’t go back… how could he agree for the kids to go back?... but he could see Eli wanting to go back… maybe… if the place was only as bad as they left it… then maybe it would be okay… she was strong enough he knew… but he still didn’t like her to be strong when she was still so young, it just made him feel guilty. Finally he could reply. “If… If she wants too… I have… stuff I want… my room…”

“Okay, you’re okay here; I won’t let anyone bad near you again, not now… not ever again if I can help it…” Jet was saying, as the rocking started again. “When we are ready to go, you can tell me where everything is so I can get it for you, then I’ll have someone put everything else in storage while we figure out what to do with the house…”

“Burn it to the ground.” Tony growled, meaning it… If he could just throw a match on it now, he would, and warm his hands by the flames!

Jet just hummed as his fingers started running through Tony’s hair again. “Fornel said it was his… we could just sell it and put the finds in an account for the kids… or something.”

Tony nodded, feeling a little energised by his bout of anger. “Yeah.” He agreed.

“Today…” Jet was saying a little hesitantly. “I’ll get a realtor for the house… sooner it’s on the market…” Tony felt Jet swallow as his hold tightened again, and he knew they were no longer talking about Hicks house. “I’ll ask them if they had anything more suitable… any preferences on area?”

Tony cleared his throat a little. “I… I wish we could stay in the area… the kids friends… The Spencer’s…”

“Shame the footprint isn’t big enough for a bungalow.” Jet sighed.

Tony grunted in question.

“Thought you might like not having to deal with stairs?” Jet said and Tony couldn’t help but feel a bit of resentment at the implication, but the rest of him was quite behind the idea… After all, getting up and down the stairs in Ducks mention was a once a day occurrence, and no more. Especially now, when he couldn’t get down them without help… unless he crawled up them, or slid down, but then struggled to stand when he reached top or bottom. The elbow crutch’s he had been given because of his broken arm, helped, but could hurt like hell if he lent on it wrong… which seemed to be every time he used it.

“Thanks…” He finally managed, then felt Jet’s fingers under his chin, lifting his head up so they could look at each other.

“Anything for you and the kids.” Jet said firmly. “I have Their memories here…” and Tony watched as Jet put a hand over his own heart, knowing he was talking about his girls. “… But my home is here.” Tony watched as Jet’s hand moved over to his own chest.

Tony quickly put his good hand over Jets and laced their fingers together as he finally could smile, even if it was only a twitch of his lips… but then it spread as he felt a spark of confidence straighten his back as he looked back at his lover. “And mine is with you.” He answered back, even throwing in a wink. It had the desired effect as Jet actually barked out a laugh.

“Too right!” Jet was grinning, then the sneaky ex-assassin leaned in and stole a quick kiss, before he was getting to his feet. “Come on, I’ll help you get dressed, then get you downstairs where you can keep Elizabeth happy for the day while I take dad out on some errands.”

“Oh, you’re my man servant now?” Tony asked. But he really didn’t think he would have the energy to do it all himself right now.

“As My Lord wishes.” Jet said in the worsted British accent Tony had ever heard, but it made them both laugh.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs looked at the stained wood on the floor of his house.

The cleaning crew had taken up the ancient carpet and did what they could on the floor boards, but there really would be no getting the stain out once the blood had soaked into the grain, not to his trained eye anyway. At least, if someone didn’t know what had happened there, it would just look like oil had been spilled.

As he looked around, he could see some things were missing, things that had taken the brunt of the blood staining. Other things have been cleaned within an inch of their lives… but as he had looked around, he knew that they would be keeping very little from the living room, dining room or their bedroom.

The photos, a few sentimental books that had not been damaged, the Piano had also come through unscathed… It was a shame about the very expensive table and chairs that Tobias had gotten Tony, but Gibbs was going to force him to get another.

“You okay son?” His dad asked.

“Yeah.” He answered feeling tired and sad. Knowing he would have to mourn the memorise he had here, even if knowing that what he had now was worth letting the house go and despite what he had told Tony earlier, it would still hurt a little. “Shannon loved this house.”

His dad chuckled behind him. “I remember her showing me around all those years ago. She was so proud.”

“And now I have to give it up.” Gibbs sighed as he looked towards the kitchen, remembering his wife smiling at him as she dried her hands, welcoming him home.

“What?” His dad asked a little shocked. He knew his dad would get how much he loved this house, how his fading memories lived and survived here.

“I know how much it cost Tony to come back after the first time Hicks broke in, even more the second time he tried to get in…” He sighed as he ran a hand over his eyes. “I can’t ask him a third time to come back here, not after talking to him this morning.” He felt his father put a hand on his arm consolingly. “Also… his legs never going to get better and I know sometimes the stairs force him to sleep on the sofa at night if I’m not here to help him… He’s my priority now. Not going to let him live in the place his tormentor was killed in.”

“You do what you have to.” His dad said softly at his side. “I have a feeling Shannon would understand.”

Gibbs nodded, then he turned to his dad and hugged him tight. It took his dad a moment to get over the shock, but he returned the hug quickly. Then Gibbs pulled away before his eyes got too wet. “Come on, can you get the clothes that are in the laundry, and I’ll get them from upstairs?”

“Sure.” His father smiled up at him, his eyes were moist, but he wasn’t shedding the tears. “Go, let’s get back before Tony begin to worry.”

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + + [Six Months Later]

 

Tobias looked over to his passenger.

Tony looked exhausted.

It might have had something to do with the cold case he had just cracked, then he had been pulled in to help bring it all together, over sixteen hours ago. Tony all but dragged out of his bed in the middle of the night. But the case had been blown wide open and the whole of the FBI building was buzzing with excitement.

When Tobias had finally gone to fined Tony, after an angry one sided call from Gibbs, demanding he send his other half home.

After all, Tony was official meant to be on vacation from his fourteen hours a week job with the FBI, solely looking through cold cases and either picking up ones he thought interesting, or on occasion, being asked to look into ones other colleagues knew were big, but they just couldn’t get past a bottle neck in the case… so far, this was Tony’s second such case. And the higher ups who had, at first, looked on this ex-cop/young detective and wondered why the hell they should be paying him, were now rumbling about pay rises and more hours.

Tobias had laughed when he had heard those rumbling, there was no way they would be pulling more of Tony’s time away from his similar roll over at NCIS, not to mention the other organisations in the word salad that were also starting to take a look of interesting at this new brilliant agent, and maybe wanting a piece for themselves.

It was quite amazing what the other man had achieved in his short four month of employment. And Tobias had no doubt, Tony would only get better.

But after Gibbs had hung up on him, not even an hour ago. He had eventually tracked Tony down to the breakroom on the first floor where his office was, with easy access to emergency exits and the evidence / records storerooms. And soon as Tobias had seen how pale he was he knew something was wrong.

~~ “Tony?”

The younger man looked up at him, “Hi Toby.”

“Your worse half just called… I’m guessing I have to tell you to go home.” He said as he came to stand at Tony’s side.

“Would love too.” Tony grinned up at him, even if it looked a little strained. “But my leg gave out. My cell’s in my office, and there’s no way I can drive home in Jet’s truck right now.”

“Why didn’t you get someone to as least call me?!” He asked a little peeved as he looked around to see that Tony had been alone in the room.

“Well, when you crack a case as big as I just have, people seem to get really focused.” He chuckled.

“Okay. So…” He looked down at his watch. “I have time, come on, I can drive you home. Don’t want Gibbs barging in here like a badger with a bee up his ass, screaming about something he’s not going to apologise for.” ~~

Tony had laughed at that, but Tobias had gone to find a wheelchair, helping Tony get his things together, then wheeling him out to his car while Tony was on the phone trying to calm down an enraged NCIS agent.

“Gibbs better not try and take my head off when we get to your place.” Tobias said as they waited at a red light.

“You just better hope the decorators did a good job.”  Tony said, “Or my head will be on the block with yours.” He was chuckling, which was followed by a yawn. “It’s the kids who will probably be more upset with you.”

“I think they will have more important things to do.” He shot back as he started driving again. “Like where to put all their toys.”

Tony made a pfft sound. “Their rooms were the first to get done. They will be sad to leave their great grandmama and her dogs, but it’s about time they had all their own things again in their own rooms.”

“Yeah, you were damn lucky with that house!” Tobias said as he went a very familiar rout to get to Tony’s new home. It was only a few blocks away from Gibbs’s old house, but they didn’t have to pass it to get there. Gibbs had warned him not to even mention going back to the old house; even forced him to buy another ‘thank you’ table that bared no resemblance to the first one. Even Tobias could tell Tony was still a little wild and raw around the edges, even after so long.

Sure, the guy had calmed down a lot, but Gibbs had informed him Tony wasn’t completely over his PTSD. And after he had looked at the notes of the case from the team that had looked into it, he could see why Tony might have come away with a few loose screws.

But they had found out Hicks had an old school friend in the police force, who had looked into the plate of Gibbs’s truck, which is how the crazy bastard had found them, and his opportune attackers were carried out when he wasn’t forced to run drugs for cash, and according to some low hanging fruit, Hicks was swiftly running out of favours, and from the van they had found he was living in, he was planning to kidnap Tony and run, also run from the drug baron who would want him dead soon enough if the word on the street was anything to go by.

He had told all this to Gibbs, who had asked him not to tell Tony, unless he asked. Tobias had agreed, guessing Gibbs would tell him soon enough.

“Yeah.” Tony was answering his statement. “I have a suspicion that the Spencer’s might have had a hand in it being so cheep.”

“They knew the owner?”

“Knew her family, she’s in an elderly care facility now.” Tony was yawning again. “They also didn’t want us to move so far away they couldn’t come over and steal the kids… but at least we didn’t have to do anything about the… err… aids I need.” Then he was chuckling again. “Mid-thirties and here I am, happy about an accessibility ramp to my own front door!”

“Do you have one of them baths with the door?” He joked, then winced when Tony groaned loudly.

“Yes!” The younger man answered. “And I bloody love it!”

They both started laughing then.

 

 + + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Tony just wanted to find a bed, crawl into it and not wake up for at least a week!

Looking for another house had seemed like torture. Any bungalows were either to small or way out of their budged, or the few they had found were just too far away. And then Eli and Danny had cried when the thought of them having to move schools was brought up.

But then the Spencer’s had come over one day and told him about their friend who had gone into care, and that her home was laying empty but the family was willing to sell.

When he had seen the large bungalow with two bedrooms in the attic space and one on the first floor, with an office that could be turned into another bedroom, a large kitchen dinner, two baths a large but cosy living room, a dinning room and another smallish room that they called ‘the snug’. And all the door in the house were large enough to get a wheelchair comfortably through, which, to Tony’s delight had also made getting through with crutches a breeze. Then on the outside, there was a detached double garage, with enough land behind them for a shed for Jet to make his boats and that wouldn’t take up space from the fenced-in largish back garden. The front also had enough space to park another two cars and still had enough room for a little rock garden and some grass.

When he had asked the price. The young woman showing him around with Jet and the Spencer’s had looked at the two sisters, who gave the young woman a nod before she turned to them smiling. Assuring him they would come to a descent arrangement.

It wasn’t at all suspicious that the bungalow came to ten grand below the asking price Jet had set on his old home. Which had, at least, sold fast to a young couple expecting their first kid.

Tony had rumbled his suspicions that maybe the Spencer’s might be supplementing the difference between the two properties, and that he didn’t like the idea, not when they had already refused payment for babysitting the kids all the time, he didn’t like the thought of taking advantage of the sweet old ladies.

Jet had scoffed at the idea, just answering. “Well, it’s gonna be our name on the deeds.” And Tony had wondered if it could be so simple. “Just give them a key and tell them to knock before barging in to steal our kids.” And Tony had let it go then; Jet using the plural had melted his frown into smile. He just wondered if he could invite them around for a proper Sunday dinner each fortnight or something, it might not be much, but they had found him a dream home even if they weren’t putting anything towards it, he was sure as he built his family with Jet, he could start letting the friends he was finding in too.

Especially as he now also had his name back.

He kind of liked being Tony Paddington. But not hiding behind a made up identity was a weight off his shoulders. Sure, he could use and change masks like breathing, but to have one all the time had been arduous.

Unfortunately the kids had not been happy going back to be ‘Hicks’, but Tony had promised, that when they had the time, they would look into maybe getting all their names changed legally this time, which, for the moment, had calmed them down.

After all, it had been harrowing enough just getting official permanent custody of the kids as he also started working for the FBI and NCIS. Then also finding a new home and then getting people in to decorate, something he had no experience in at all, always having rented before. But Jet had mostly dealt with that, only asking about colours or patterns. Which Tony had at least found some joy in, realizing he might actually have a knack for it when he had seen some of the finished rooms.

What he had not expected was when he came across something’s in the boxes that had come from Hick’s house.

He hadn’t wanted a lot of things… but Eli and Danny had gone with Jet to get the things they wanted to keep from their old things and some sentimental stuff, and Jet had got the things Tony had hidden away from Hick’s rage, when he couldn’t go in himself.

But when he had found a box of his sisters clothes…

He had broken down and cried, clutching the material of her favourite clothes to him, sure he could still smell her, knowing she would mock him for being such a baby as she also would pull him into her arms and comfort him till his tears dried up… but it was Jet who found him sobbing his heart out. The man had just sat at his side, pulling him into his arms in the middle of a room filled with paint pots and rolls of wallpaper and just let him cry till he was spent. Then silently started to put the clothes back in the box like they were revered relics. Tony had grabbed a ratty grey cardigan, shaking his head when Jet had given him a questioning look, but Tony had struggled to his feet and hung the precious thing into their new closet on an old hanger that had been forgotten within.

He had seen Eli holding a sleeve of it as she was helping him sort out their clothes one day. He had softly told her if she wanted it she could go put it in her own closet, or look in the box in the corner for any of her mothers other clothes. But Eli had just nodded and given him a watery smile, then her little brave soul had told him it was safer in his care right now. And he had almost broke into tears again, instead he settled for pulling her into a tight hug, before they both cleared their throats and got on with sorting out their clothes, to which most of the kids didn’t fit anymore… but he was sure that he would one day find the cardigan in another closet.

“I see the welcome party is out to greet you.” Tobias’s voice cut through his tired musings.

“Seem so.” Tony grinned as Tobias pulled into the driveway. After all, today was their official ‘Move In Day’.

The decorators should have been and gone, the movers had brought everything they had in storage. Everything should be in its place, bar a few boxes stuffed into closets and cubby-holes. And hopefully his piano had been tuned, but he had been working when the man had come to do it.

Tony opened his door when Tobias stopped. “I’m here.” He called grinning, as the kids came up to him excited, and Tony saw the happy meal toys they were clutching. So he grinned over to Jet who was smiling at him while he held Miki.

“We had time to kill while waiting for you.” Jet shrugged a shoulder at him, the only apology he was going to get for getting the kids fast food on a weekday, and the punishment, cos he knew Jet hadn’t got him a burger, which only made him grin a little harder. Then Jet was putting Miki down as Tony moved his legs out the car, hoping he could actually get on his feet.

He was just about to try and haul himself up, knowing his hip was going to be a bastard when Jet was suddenly there, and holding his hands. “On three.” He said, then counted and they both pulled till Tony was on his feet.

“I got his crutches.” Tobias was saying as he was now around their side of the car.

“Keep a hold of them.” Jet was saying as Tony let him hold him upright with an arm around his waist. “Eli. You got the key?” he was asking.

“Sure do!” Eli was holding up her key with a pokemon on it, with another dangling from the end, her chest puffed out in pride, Danny was doing the same thing with his dinosaurs one. Both kids looked so happy. “Jet let us pick them out!” Danny was grinning like a loon and Tony almost wanted to cry they were so happy.

“Go open the door then.” Jet said as Tony felt Jet shift, then his legs were being hoisted up into the air, he franticly grabbed at Jet’s shoulders.

“What are you doing!” he demanded as Jet started moving, but Jet didn’t answer as they got to the front door. Where Jet paused for a moment till Tony looked down at him.

“I’m carrying you over the threshold.” Jet answered sounding a little strained.

Tony rolled his eyes but he was smiling all the same. “Then get on with it.” He said unromantically, but the smile he got in return was enough to make him all soft inside as Jet actually did carry him through the door.

To whoops of laughing and giggles.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Gibbs gave a little lazy stretch as he spooned up sleepily to his beloveds back in their new bed, it was warm and comfortable as he snuggled his nose into soft hair, he knew he was caught between sleep and waking in a pleasant haze. He was just about to drift off again when he was aware of someone cuddling up to his back, he had a vague notion it was one of the kids, needing a bit of comfort in their new home, before arms came around him, lightly holding him in place.

He didn’t feel any alarm; it was strangely familiar if a little displaced. Then the person at his back spoke softly in his ear, “Keep this one.” It said, “We like him.”

He gasped as he tried to look over his shoulder, but a gentle hand kept his head in place.

“Shhh.” She said and he could feel her breath on his ear. “He makes you smile… I always liked your smile…” Her voice and presence started to fade and he didn’t want it too.

“I loved you…” He whispered out desperately.

“I know.” She said, more distant now, but there was a hint of her laughter in it. “I love you too… now be happy…” Then she was gone.

Gibbs bit his lip hard enough to wake himself up fully as he finally looked over his shoulder, but all he saw was the wall.

“I love you too.” Tony muttered sleepily as he turned in Gibbs’s arm until he was smiling up at him, then leaned up a little to kiss his cheek.

Gibbs was aware of his grief turn a little to guilt, he hadn’t directed those words to Tony. But looking into those sleepy green eyes, he knew he needed to set the balance right.

“I love you.” He breathed; it felt good saying it to the man beneath him, he knew it always would.

This man had give him back feelings he thought he had buried long ago.

“Yeah, you said.” Tony grinned then he yawned loudly. “Time?” he asked as he snuggled down again, his beautiful green eyes closing.

“Too early.” Gibbs whispered as he pulled the other man into his arms properly. “Go back to sleep.”

“hum… K…”

Gibbs felt Tony slip back asleep as the larger man relaxed and became a dead weight.

For a while he just stared down at the other man. After years of trying to find another clone for the woman he had lost, he never thought in a month of Sundays that he would ever be in this position with another guy.

But Tony had given him back everything he thought he could live without. This man had given him back his reason for being.

Gibbs had never thought he would smile again and truly mean it until this man had blundered into his life and Gibbs knew at this very moment, that he wouldn’t have it any other way, and he was thankful to whatever angel smiled upon him that night on the cold dark road.

 

The End

 

Epilogue next! ->

Chapter Text

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

Epilogue: [6 Years later]

 

Fred watched as Gibbs and his new husband swayed on the dance floor as they took their first dance together as an official married couple.

The wedding ceremony had been nice, his wife had even cried as the two men had exchanged vows. The food after had also been great and the after party was actually fun, but Fred guessed the open bar had something to do with that.

He had been a little shocked when Gibbs had called him month ago, telling him about the wedding, and that he had to come as a guest of honour. When he had questioned him about why, that was when he revealed exactly who he was marrying, and it was thanks to Fred that they had met, and they wanted to show him how grateful they were for a traffic stop that had changed both their lives almost eight years ago.

When he had told his wife, she had gushed about how romantic it all seemed and then she had told all of her friends, who also found it all so romantic. He hadn’t added in the bruises or how haunted Tony had looked back on that cold night. But he guessed it would just add to their fantasies, putting Gibbs as the dashing hero, and not the bastard Fred knew he could be,

“Hey, Fred.” Said the man of the hour as he came up to him, followed by another man Gibbs seemed friendly with.

“Nice party.” He greeted with a smile. “But you really didn’t have to go to all this trouble just to buy me a drink.” He said holding up his pint glass, already half empty, and it wasn’t his first of the day.

“The open bar is all for you!” Gibbs chuckled. “And your lovely wife… where is she? I think Tony wanted to talk to her, especially after all the text they keep sending each other.”

“Bathroom.” Fred answered. “I think she’s just waiting for an open opportunity to swoop in and start talking shop… her spare keyboard is in the car.” They had both bonded over their love of the piano, and heaven know what after that. “She’s threatening to get it out.”

“If Tony finds out, it’s going to happen.” Gibbs grinned at him. But I want to introduce you to my friend here. Agent Fornell of the FBI… I believe you were thinking of a career change?”

“Hey!” The other man, Fornell protested. “No shop on your wedding day.”

“I’m not… you two might be though.” Gibbs answered as his attention seemed to be distracted by the dance floor.

So Fred decided that, what the hell, leaping into the unknown seemed to work for Gibbs, so he reached out his hand to the FBI agent. “Hi.” He said.

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

“I still can’t believe he actually went through with it.” Kate was saying as she sipped at her drink.

Abby made a pfft sound at her side. “They already had rings. Kate.” She said with a dismissive wave of her hand.

“Not to mention them officially living together for the past six years.” McGee chimed in.

“That did kind of give it away.” Baker said as he drank some more of his beer.

“But Gibbs still had four wives before this.” She insisted, still not quite believing all this was actually happening.

“Apart from his first wife.” Ducky was saying. “Tony’s the longest to stick around.”

“Maybe he just wanted to make it official to stop Tony running off.” Abby was giggling.

“Tony wouldn’t run.” Baker was saying, before he started laughing. “Pun intended!” he hooted making them all look at him, as he wasn’t one for strong emotions. “He’d also kick Gibbs’s ass from here to Kingdome come first!”

They all looked over to see Gibbs, who was at the other side of the small hall, talking with Fornell and another man she didn’t recognise, while he was watching Tony dancing, as best he could, with his fifteen year old niece, who was growing into a stunning young woman.

Kate felt a shiver go down her spine. She had been there the day Tony had worked with their team on a cold case. She had never really seen anyone stand up to Gibbs before and win. But Tony had gone toe to toe with their Boss, and Tony, or more rightly, Agent DiNozzo, had won. And Gibbs had been a growling monster for the rest of the day and Tony had just ignored it as he got on with directing them all for what to do. She had also seen him do the same with other teams. Just waltz in, take over and once the case was solved he would fade back to his desk, moving on to the next cold case… though now a day’s he was brought in to consult on cases teams were having trouble with finding if they needed a new lead… and from what she had heard, he was doing the same for the FBI.

She had no idea how he had time to even try and raise his kids… but, even to this day, they might not see him for day’s if he was having a ‘bad day’ or ‘week’ and she was sure ‘sick leave’ had no limits for him.

“I almost feel sorry for the bad guys if they had to face them together!” Abby dramatically shivered. “But, right now.” she was saying as Kate watched her bounce out of her chair as the music changed to something more Abby’s style. “I’m not going to let this night go without stealing at lease one dance from Tony!” Then she was running onto the dance floor to Tony and Eli.

“At least they are happy.” Ducky was saying as he sipped at his scotch. “Did I tell you about the first time I met them?”

 

+ + + + ~o0O0o~ + + + +

 

“You look like you’ve had enough.”

Tony looked up at his now official husband and managed to smile, even though his cheeks hurt from doing so all day. “It’s why I’m over here, trying to pretend my leg isn’t a lump of lead.”

“Hurts?” Jet asked as he sat down at his side, then put an arm around his back.

“Tolerable.” Tony admitted as he leaned against Jet a little, his back was also giving him trouble, but knowing a hot salt bath was in his future. “Just been a very long and wonderful day.” He sighed contentedly.

He couldn’t quite believe how many people had wanted to come to their wedding. As they were sending out invites, even more requests had come in requesting inclusion.

They had eventually had to hire a larger venue for everyone that wanted to come see them getting wed, now that it was law that they actually could.

But at least the most important people were with them.

Jack was talking with Gemma and Mary Spencer as they had promised to keep an eye on the boy’s tonight. Eli was dancing with her best friend, and she would be spending the night with her and Abby. Thought he wasn’t so sure what a good idea that would be, but he loved Abby, so he would cope with black nail polish if it made his angel happy.

Then there was lot of their old and new neighbours. Along with almost all of NCIS and the FBI he had ever spoken too, but he had narrowed it down to just those people who he actually talked too.

Most of his frat brothers had turned up, they had forgiven him disappearing on them, and even a few had tried looking for him, which made him a little guilty, as he hadn’t gone to them for help.

Then, when he had seen his cousin and his family had made it he was pleasantly surprised. Though his English family had just sent well wishes, at least it was something.

His dad hadn’t turned up, but then as soon as he managed to call the man, years ago, then tell him about Gibbs. He hadn’t heard from senior again. It had been five years since they had any communication, He didn’t even now if he was dead or not… and at this point in his life. He just didn’t care anymore; he was done trying to love the man who hated him.

The one’s that had surprised him by turning up though was Morrows, Gibbs old boss who had brought SecNav and their respective spouses.

Tony hadn’t wanted to invite Sheppard, but Jet had said they probably should. But to both their relief, she had declined the invite. Tony hadn’t much liked her on sight. Being a red head was bad enough, but then to find out Jet had a fling with her, made him avoid her as much as he possibly could.

But now the night was drawing to a close.

All their family and friends were happy, fed a huge cake and enough alcohol to drown a whale.

“So,” Jet was whispering into his ear. “Are you ready to go home, Mr Gibbs?”

Tony felt a shiver of pleasure settle in his chest as he turned to look into his husbands sparkling eyes as they caught the light from the disco ball at the other side of the hall. “Yes, I am, Mr Gibbs.” He grinned back, his chest warming.

 

The Very END!