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The job is harder than Tony thought it would be.

He can’t remember ever feeling this kind bone-deep weariness, can’t remember exactly what it is that keeps him going for days on end, keeps him coming back for more. It might be the row of faces on the wall behind him or the crimes they don’t even have faces for yet. It might be the face across the bullpen. He doesn’t really know anymore. There are nights he can’t sleep, can’t quiet his thoughts or reconcile his idea of what the world is supposed to be like with the shit he’s seen, rebalance the good with the crap.

Being a cop for six years, he’s broken men before. Druggies, thieves, men who killed for revenge, love, money, or less. He’s taken pride in their reduction, in their pleading confessions and sniveling entreaties for the mercy that isn’t his to give. He’s thought himself clever and sharp and quick, patted himself on the back for his own ingenuity, but if he’s honest with himself, he knows one simple truth. A man who crawls on his belly most of the time doesn’t really have far to fall in the end.

This job is different.

It’s hard to feel like he’s done a good thing at the end of the day when the guy locked in the cell, walking in shackles, lying in the morgue with a bullet in his head, is the same man who stands on a wall against a faceless enemy and says, ‘get behind me.’

Especially when it’s his bullet that took that life.

In the beginning he tries to drink away the pain of those days. Cops are cops no matter what kind of badge they carry, and there is always someone willing to hit the bar after a long shift. Some nights he’s found a kind of restless serenity in the bottom of a bottle, but more often than not it leads to a temporary reprieve and more questions than he has answers for.

Tony won’t remember the first time he gets bold enough to trot down the stairs to Gibbs’ basement, but he knows that his boss doesn’t seem a bit surprised to see him there. He’s handed a beer, a stool, and a gritty piece of sanding paper and that is that. Six hours later the sun’s coming up, the farm report’s on, his shoulders hurt like a son of a bitch, but his head is quieter than it has been in a while.

He will remember the first time Gibbs fucks him. Like being fucked in the ass by his boss up against the hard, curved, rib of a boat in the middle of his basement-his fucking basement-is something a man would forget.

Flashes of the case they’d had that week still wake him up in a cold sweat sometimes, heart racing, mouth dry. Chains on the bed, blood on the walls, tiny red footprints in the hallway. He doesn’t think he’ll ever really shake that one off.

Gibbs hands him a bottle that night without a word. Not the cold beer he’s used to, but a half-full bottle of something dark and amber that he doesn’t even bother to read the label on. An hour later and it’s clear the normal routine isn’t going to cut it this time, that a little clean sweat isn’t going to wash away the stink of blood. Tony’s given up sanding, taken up a position in the corner, watching Gibbs watch him over the top of a wood lathe, blue eyes somehow hot and cold, edgy and intent all at the same time. He doesn’t notice his cock going hard until it’s too late to hide it.

Emboldened by strong liquor and the twitchy set of Gibbs’ jaw, Tony puts his glass down and moves closer. Then Gibbs moves closer, comes around the side of the boat until he is a few dangerous inches away. Step by step together until they nearly occupy the same space, breathe the same air.

Tony’s fingers go to the top button of Gibbs’ shirt, to the little white tuft that keeps distracting his eyes. Gibbs’ fingers go straight to Tony’s cock. He holds his breath at the slow bounce of a flat nail over the ridges of denim, fabric stretched tight over his vastly inappropriate erection.  

It’s quick that first night. Fast and hard with Tony pressed up against the smooth body of the boat, gritting his teeth, smiling and gasping at the cold slick against his asshole that says this is more than sheer spontaneity, more than a first time.

In the end when they both stand panting and quaking and reaching for hastily discarded clothing, Tony notices the retreat of the darkness which has been clouding his mind. The pictures aren’t as clear anymore, the stink of death is less sharp, his edges less raw.

“Gibbs…”

“We all need what we need sometimes, Tony. Ya gotta take what works.” Blue eyes meet his steadily, less restless than before.

“Okay.” He knows it’s all he's going to get.

“Hey.” Gibbs’ firm voice catches him as he trots up the stairs, heading for car and bed and the sleep he knows will finally come. “Don’t you even think about running from this, DiNozzo.”

He doesn’t.

After that night they settle into a pattern. They each have their triggers. For Gibbs it’s kids, revenge kills, or the wrongful death of a good Marine. For Tony it’s shit that involves women and pain, fathers and sons, or any sick asshole good enough to get inside his head for even a fraction of a second.

It’s a two-step dance and they both have a role to play, a choice to make each time.

Tony invites or doesn’t, fingertips pressed to Gibbs’ spine just so, a cool hand beneath the fabric of his shirt, right up against his skin.

Gibbs accepts or doesn’t, leans into the touch, pulls his t-shirt, sweatshirt, button-down over his head and lets needy hands roam free.

The kissing is the most recent thing they don’t talk about. Gibbs fucks his mouth with his tongue like he fucks Tony’s ass with his dick. Slow and deep and thorough and possessive and just what he fucking needs.

And when they’re finally naked, the sweep of Gibbs’ hungry mouth against the pulse of his throat, the press of fevered skin against his own, the burn and the stretch and the ache of it all makes the darkness less heavy, makes him feel like he can breathe again beneath the weight of the day.

Fingers curl into the hair on his chest, tug painfully, slide down to splay across the flat of his belly, bite into the flesh of his hip. Another hand trembles around his throat, makes it just that much more edgy and dangerous. He can hear his pulse in his own ears, hard and strong and fast, six beats for every thrust into his body, four, two.

It’s over in a rush of heated breath and stuttering hips, a string of muttered filth against the curve of his ear and the bite of sharp, unforgiving teeth into the flesh of his shoulder. His fingers dance across rough wood, knock glass to the floor in desperation for anything to cling to against the flood of wet heat pulsing inside him. His body goes rigid, spills cum between his knuckles, onto the shelf below him, the sawdust covered floor.

In the beginning, part of him swore every time would be the last. It took him three years to realize he was only kidding himself. He can’t give it up. Won’t give it up. Nothing else he’s tried goes deep enough to touch the ache that sits right between muscle and bone, shaves the edges of it down to where he can tolerate the sting again. If there was a substitute he would take it-Jesus, fuck he would take it. But he’s tried looking in every bar, club, and back alley and it isn’t out there. No one gets inside him like Gibbs. Nothing fucks the pain away like this.

Tonight he gathers his clothes, doesn’t bother putting them on. Tonight he isn’t going home. He walks up the stairs slowly in his bare feet, legs still rubbery, not even minding the cold dribbles of cum down his thigh. He turns at the top, finds blue eyes watching calmly, waiting, curious.

“Don’t you even think about running from this, Gibbs.”

Tony goes upstairs to find a bed.

 He waits.