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Tony tapped absently at the piano keys, felt their slick, cool surfaces slip beneath his fingertips without paying much heed to the sounds that emerged.

The room around him disappeared. He disappeared. Couldn’t feel anymore, hear anymore, see anymore. Nothing but the memory. Nothing but the taste and smell and-God help him- the feel of the man he could not get out of his brain no matter how hard he tried lately.

Tony didn’t do this. He didn’t pine, or daydream, or shudder at the memory of a firm hand against the base of his spine, of the heat of that splayed palm seeping through his skin. He didn’t do it with women, he certainly didn’t do it with men, and he most decidedly did not do it with Leroy Jethro Gibbs.

Women were a challenge, a game he played when he wanted soft curves and platitudes, gentle caresses and silken skin after the thrill of the chase. Men he fucked- sometimes the other way around depending on his particular appetites-but that was where it ended.

But Gibbs…Gibbs was in a different category. Kind of a ‘No Way in Hell’ category in Tony’s mind. Boss, definitely, respected leader, certainly, trusted friend…after the last few months he was pretty sure he had to slide this one into the affirmative as well, but beyond that, well, it wasn’t even an option.

And yet here he was, drowning in his own melancholia, stewing in his own wretched cowardice and indecision, his seeming inability to let things be as they had been.  It wouldn’t be so frustrating if he could find a way to move backward or forward, to let this thing that had his heart and his head and his stomach all tied in one big knot either unravel or coalesce into whatever it was going to be. But his arms were heavy and his feet were hopelessly stuck to the floor and he couldn’t move anymore for fear of tripping over his own uncertainty.

He wasn’t supposed to be here.

Not tonight.

This was the first Friday evening he had spent in his own apartment in…well, it had been months, certainly. In truth he’d lost track of the whens and hows and whys of the regular ritual he had begun with Gibbs. He couldn’t remember who’d started it, who’d continued it, but he knew that it had become almost as necessary to him as air, as vital as the blood that pumped hard and hot through his veins.

And tonight he was alone. Alone when he wanted to run. Not from something as he had done for the majority of his life, but towards…he didn’t really know what yet. All he knew was that the only thing in the world he wanted was to get in his car and drive, walk through the door that was always open to him, descend into the cool depths of that old, slightly musty house, and fill his lungs with the warm, soothing scent of Gibbs. Of sweat and coffee and Bourbon and varnish and sweet sweet sawdust.

It had been an odd day.

It had started that morning when he’d been woken up by the first wet dream he could remember having since he was a horny teenager. He’d lay panting in the darkness, tangled and trembling in hopelessly soiled sheets, stiff cock still spurting out the echoes of the pleasurable convulsions that had jolted him from a restless slumber where damp flesh moved and writhed beneath his searching hands, soft lips danced across his skin, and a stiff cock-oh, GOD, he was dreaming about the man’s cock-had thrust against his own until…until…

This wasn’t one of those dreams that started out normal and ended up with an alien and a dinosaur sharing pizza with you in your living room. This started and finished with a very naked, very physical Leroy Jethro Gibbs and had felt real from beginning to end.

Too real, it appeared.

Tony had tried to shake it off, had tried to let the memories fade before he went to work but every time he closed his eyes he was there again, back in the throes, back in the firm and desperate embrace of Gibbs’ arms. Shit, he’d had to jack off again in the shower just to make sure he didn’t come in his pants the first time he saw the guy.

He’d felt it coming of course, had tried to ignore the warning signs. But as they spent more and more time together, as their comfortable moments turned into comfortable hours and occasionally whole days, there was no denying it. Despite his best efforts, despite his better judgment, despite every voice in his head screaming at him that THIS WAS NOT SOMETHING HE COULD HAVE, he was falling, and he was falling hard.

It had started so slowly. A few innocent sweeps of the older man’s fingertips when he passed him a beer that sent jolts of electricity up his spine,  a warm hand on his back that lingered familiarly as Jethro pointed out something he’d missed on the project he’d given him, the slow drip of a bead of sweat down Gibbs’ neck, past the hollow of his throat that pulled at Tony’s eyes, made him follow the progress of that tiny drop beneath the frayed edge of a t-shirt, all the while wondering what it would taste like on the tip of his tongue.

And Gibbs was oblivious. At least Tony hoped to hell he was.

But there was something. He didn’t believe it was wholly his imagination.

A few times he’d caught Gibbs studying him. Maybe across the bullpen, or at a scene, more often than not on quiet Sundays in each other’s company after a rough weekend on call while they watched whatever game sounded best over a couple of beers on the couch. But it was happening more frequently lately and in those odd and unexpected moments, Tony had been surprised by the expression on the older man’s face, the furrow of his brow that said he was struggling with something, trying to solve a puzzle he’d never encountered before, and those brief and bare seconds had given him a kind of hope. The kind of hope that was decidedly dangerous to have around a man like Gibbs because Tony was pretty sure he wasn’t going to be able to hide it effectively for very much longer. If he even was now.

The dream had been the clincher for him. The glaring warning beacon that said he needed some space, time to cool off before things really got out of hand, and since he couldn’t just skip out on work, that left him with only one option.

He’d hated to do it really. Since they’d started hanging out regularly he’d never once cancelled. And it wasn’t like they had a formal plan or anything. It was just assumed that it was a Friday night that they weren’t on call and Tony would be over after he’d showered, changed, and grabbed a six pack. What they did didn’t seem to matter to him or to Gibbs, only that they did it together. And the crazy thing about it was that Gibbs had looked disappointed when he’d mentioned that he had other plans for the evening. For the whole weekend, in fact. Tony wanted desperately to believe that he was seeing things but there was really no mistaking it. He’d seen surprise on the older man’s face in the bare instant before he could school his features and hide the reaction. Surprise and…hurt. Both so quick and so sharp that he could almost convince himself they were never there.

After that, Tony had caught Gibbs looking at him a few times during the day. Giving him those few extra searching seconds when he’d come to give a report, the opening to explain why. But Tony had turned away each time, feeling the words, the confession, burning in his throat.

A flash of light out the window brought him back to the present and he realized the room had grown remarkably dark around him. For a moment he was half-convinced he had become lost in thought for hours rather than minutes, but the ticking clock on the wall said that that it was only 7PM, far too early for sunset in late June.

Another flash and he understood, turned full body to watch the angry roiling clouds that seemed to be moving like a low and encroaching wall toward the deeper heart of the city from the southwest.

Tony wasn’t really surprised. He hadn’t bothered to listen to a weather forecast but the air around him today had felt thick and heavy, warm even for early summer, and there was a sense of anticipation hanging over everything. He’d chalked that feeling up to his own mental state but as he pressed his palm to the window, felt it vibrate with the echoes of a deep roll of thunder, he knew he’d been feeling the build of this storm without realizing it.

He had a pretty spectacular view from his 6th floor apartment. There weren’t many high rise buildings between him and the Potomac and its valley spread out below him, allowing him to take in a broad vista of green parks mixed in with various forms of development and watch the storm’s approach from the Southwest.

The color of the light outside was strange and he was half-tempted to go out there, to feel the energy of what appeared to be a pretty nasty storm as it bore down on him, to let the tempest raging  inside him be one with that power. For just a moment he closed his eyes and let it flow through him, felt the tremble and the rush as it moved closer. His skin prickled and twitched, hairs standing on end as the room continued to darken.

Tony jumped as a bolt of lightning struck ground somewhere immediately to his south. Thunder rolled, audible even through triple insulated windows this time. There was suddenly something sharper about it than a gentle spring storm, something more ominous and insistent that forced him back from the glass.

His eyes were drawn to the ground where people scurried by in business suits, carrying brief cases and stopping to glance nervously at the sky above them at every menacing rumble. A group of school children in neatly pressed uniforms were quickly led by a harried looking parent or teacher –he had no idea which-into another apartment building at the end of the block. Something seemed off about the whole scene and Tony noticed that the trees lining his street stood almost unnaturally limp and still in stark contrast to the bustling activity and fast building storm. He immediately had a sense of foreboding he couldn’t explain, a sense he had learned to trust no matter how irrational it seemed. He was about to turn on his television and watch a weather report when his lights flickered and surged, flickered and went out again, plunging the apartment into eerily green darkness.

“Shit,” he muttered, stepping carefully as he waited for his eyes to adjust to the change in illumination. Tony glanced back out the window. A moment ago he’d been able to see lights in apartments and businesses around him, streetlights on earlier than they should be. Now there was only darkness. To his north a faint glow told him there was likely power in other areas but to his south he saw nothing but the grey outlines of lifeless structures.

There was a flashlight and a battery operated radio under his kitchen sink, habits of preparedness instilled in him by Gibbs and maintained by experience. He made his way around the piano by feel and grabbed his cell from where he’d left it, resting on the bench.

He had made it half way across the living room before a flash of light blinded him temporarily. His bare toes met something cold, hard, and heavy and he cursed, nearly losing his balance. Flexing his foot to assure himself that nothing was broken, he continued his journey into the deeper darkness of the kitchen where the almost non-existent light from the windows did not penetrate.

Moving by memory alone, he retrieved the two items he sought without further incident, somehow comforted when the Maglite’s strong beam brought light to the shadows around him.

A sound caught his ear and took a moment to register. The distant wail of a siren pierced the heavily soundproofed building but just barely. Tony’s brain finally lit on the source of the unfamiliar howl and he sprang into action on instinct.

Tornado sirens rang in the city from time to time, once a year or so at least. Most of the time he took note of them, stayed on alert, but didn’t feel the need to take things any further. Now, as his windows began to rattle ominously, it was clear this threat needed to be heeded a bit more seriously than most.

The first thing he did was to turn on the radio and set it on the kitchen table as he moved about other tasks. The receiver was already tuned to the emergency alert station so a droning voice immediately greeted him in the middle of its looping message.

‘…for Southern Fairfax County and all of the Washington D.C. metro area until 8:05PM Eastern Time. National Weather Service radar indicates a line of intense thunderstorm activity moving in a line from the Southwest at 35 miles per hour. At 7:15PM a trained spotter reported a large funnel cloud accompanying this storm system near Springfield. The storms are expected to impact the following areas: Springfield, Falls Church, Alexandria, Arlington, Washington D.C….’

The rest registered in the back of his brain as he crammed his go-bag with extra water, a few protein bars, another flashlight, a more heavy duty first aid kit, all things he hoped he didn’t need. The voice continued to warn of damaging straight line winds, baseball sized hail, and torrential downpours, but he had heard enough. Enough to know that the sixth floor of a building with a solid wall of windows wasn’t necessarily the safest place for him to be when the threat was this certain.

When he’d fit all he could into his bag and grabbed the radio, he made one last sweep of the apartment with the flashlight before heading out. With any luck at all the storm would blow by and this was all for naught, but he had a bad feeling about this one in his gut and he wasn’t willing to wait it out.

Other tenants-he didn’t really think of them as his neighbors since he’d never taken the time to get to know them- were out in the hallway talking to each other, looking nervously between the bank of elevators and the windows at the end of the corridor.

“Use the stairs, everyone to the basement as quickly as you can,” Tony said in a loud, authoritative voice as he moved through them.

The funny thing about people is that, in a crisis, every one of them is looking for someone who will take charge. Today, Tony was that person.

He didn’t have to look back to know that people were following him. He could hear the woman with the yapping dog from 616, the bickering elderly couple from 622, all close on his heels. And Tony wore authority well. Maybe he wasn’t intending to, maybe he didn’t want to, but it was his now whether he liked it or not and he held the heavy stairwell door, waiting for the last of his fellow apartment dwellers to begin their rapid descent before he started down himself.

Tony took a moment to stop on street level and get a look outside as the rest of the group continued down another flight and could easily see that the storm was on them in earnest now. The ground outside the front stoop was white, littered with varying sized chunks of ice that rained down from above and bounced off whatever they struck before settling on the concrete and the noise was like nothing he had ever heard.

Color suddenly caught his eye through the downpour, a battered umbrella clutched by a woman clinging desperately to the trunk of a large tree and trying to take shelter. He immediately ran to the door and pushed it open against the resistance of howling wind, only to have it ripped from his hand by a counter gust. It crashed against the side of the building and shattered, showering the sidewalk with safety glass fragments. Leaves and small branches rained down around him as he beckoned to the petrified woman who appeared too scared to move from her current position. Closer inspection revealed that she was bleeding from a cut on her forehead and that her clothing was torn in a few places.

Cursing his own damn overdeveloped sense of responsibility, Tony dropped his bag in the now-open foyer near the bank of mailboxes, hiked his NCIS slicker up over his head as a completely ineffective shield against the hail, and dashed out into the storm. He half-carried the crying woman back to the shelter of the building and just made it inside as a thick bolt of lightning hit far closer than he was comfortable with and sent them fleeing deeper into the lobby with the sting of ozone in their nostrils and the deafening crash of thunder on their heels.

“You’re gonna have to let go of me, okay?” Tony said calmly to his rescued storm victim who had flung her arms tightly around his neck and was clinging to him desperately while speaking very rapidly in a language he couldn’t understand but which sounded pretty close to Chinese.

With a sigh, he pried damp fingers from around his neck, retrieved his bag and then made a hasty retreat to the stairwell with his new best friend in tow. For the first time he noticed several other tenants milling around the first floor. He didn’t recognize any of them but they were all staring at him in wide-eyed astonishment as he dripped water all over the rich marble.

“Basement. Now,” he said simply, once again holding the door open as at least a dozen people in various states of dress filtered through. Some had flashlights, some carried small pets, but they all went without question as the thunder crashed again over the continued wail of sirens and gusts of wind blew sheets of rain through the now non-existent door.

Tony could feel the weight of the cell phone in his pocket. There was one call he was dying to make, one voice he needed to hear to tell him that his world was okay but it would have to wait.