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Future Imperfect

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The Airport

Tony sat back in his seat and leaned against the window, gazing out at the dark sky. There was some sort of delay in take-off… of course.

He was glad he was on the opposite side of the plane from where he’d parted from Ziva; not that he likely could have seen her from the plane anyway, but at least this way he wasn’t trying.

His phone buzzed; sighing, he picked it up and looked at the caller ID, then hit the screen to answer.

“Hey, Tim.”

“Hey, Tony… you sound kinda off. You okay?”

“Will be, I guess.”

“Where are you?”

“On a plane… waiting to take off.”

“Ziva?”

“Not coming.”

There was a moment of silence.

“Later, maybe?”

Tony sighed and rubbed at his eyes. “Doubt it.”

Another pause.

“Sorry.”

Tony let out a breath that fell short of being a laugh.

“She’s made her choice… can’t blame her, not really. At least she’s going to reinvent herself rather than eat a gun.”

“Geez… that bad?”

Tony sat back and looked up at the ceiling. “No… maybe. I don’t really know. Asked her to come back… she can’t. Or won’t.”

“I’ll miss her.”

“Yeah.”

“Abby’s going to be upset.”

“No kidding.” Tony stretched his legs a bit. “Listen… if you decide to break the news, tell her Ziva gave me a message for her. I’ll go see her after I get back.”

“That might help… a bit, anyway.”

There was another pause, and Tony grimaced. “She, ah… she didn’t leave one for you… or the boss. I’m hoping she’ll give you a call – I might have convinced her to talk to Gibbs.”

“S’ok, Tony. We had a long talk before she left for Israel, and I had a feeling she might not come back. She said some things… anyway, I know where I stand with her, and it’s a good place.”

Tony exhaled as some of the tension left his body. “Okay… good. I was kinda worried about that.” He reached up to run his hand through his hair. “How’s the bossman?”

Tim snorted. “You saw him in MTAC… he’s acting like someone took his favorite toy away.”

Tony frowned. “Tim…”

“Yeah, I know, sorry.”

“I didn’t tell you so you could… look, I’m not a toy.”

“Is he?”

Tony sat up sharply. “Hey! What the hell, McGee?!” The woman two seats over glanced at him. He waved his hand in apology and turned toward the window.

“I know it’s none of my business, Tony… but you did clue me in.”

“I was drunk.”

“Believe me, I know.” Tim’s sigh echoed over the phone. “Look… Gibbs is – not himself. He’s tense, unhappy… and I think you’re the reason.”

“You think he knew I’d already found Ziva when I talked to you guys in MTAC?”

“You did? Huh... thought something was up. Well, let’s just say someone as skilled undercover as you are really shouldn’t have such shifty eyes.”

“Damn it.”

“I don’t think it’s that, Tony… I think he’s scared of losing you.”

“Gibbs? I’ve never seen Gibbs really scared of anything.”

“Yeah, well… I obviously don’t know him on a personal level like you do, but I’d swear on a stack of bibles that he’s in love with you.”

Tony started to speak, but couldn’t form the words.

“Think about it, Tony. He hasn’t been on a date since before you left. He asks me almost every day if I’ve heard from you – not if I’ve heard from Ziva. And you saw him in –“

“MTAC,” Tony interrupted. “Yeah, I did.”

“So, what are you going to do about it?”

“I’ll go see him as soon as I get back to D.C.”

“You should. Uh, just so you know, he got beaten up by a suspect.”

“He what?!”

The woman two seats over cleared her throat meaningfully.

“He’s okay, just doesn’t look so great.”

The fasten seat belt lights came on, and the flight attendants began moving down the aisle. One stopped at Tony’s row. “I’m sorry, sir, we’re getting ready to take off, so you’ll need to turn off your cell.”

Tony nodded. “Damn it - Tim, plane’s getting ready to move… I gotta go.”

“He really is okay, Tony… have a safe flight.”

“Thanks.” Tony ended the call and shut the phone off. He stretched out again, pleased that the middle seat was empty. The plane lurched just a bit, then began to taxi away from the gate. It swung to the left, and Tony sat up, looking intently out the window and toward the building as it passed, but there was no sign of her.

The Basement

The taxi pulled up in front of Gibbs’ house; Tony paid the driver and got out, hoisting his bag over his shoulder. He stood in the driveway, looking at the house while the car moved off. It was dark except for the light coming dimly from the basement window. Tony shook his head and walked toward the door.

Once inside, he left his bag by the stairs and walked to the refrigerator; there was a case of his favorite beer sitting on the shelf. Tony smiled and grabbed two bottles, then went through the open door to the basement and jogged down the stairs.

Gibbs was sitting on a sawhorse near the workbench, watching him. Tony returned the gaze, then gave the man a careful once-over, noting the black eye and the rest of the damage to his face. He could see some of the tension leave Gibbs’ body as Tony held out one of the bottles; Gibbs took it, popped the cap off, and raised the bottle slightly as Tony grabbed the rickety chair and sat down, lifting his own beer in response.

They both drank deeply; Tony lowered his head to see Gibbs looking at him searchingly. The older man blinked, then ducked his head, staring at the floor for a moment before he looked back up. “Welcome home, Tony.”

Tony nodded. “Thanks.” He gestured toward Gibbs’ face. “Obviously I shouldn’t have left.”

“Not a big deal.”

Tony huffed out a breath. “You usually get hurt when I’m overseas with Ziva.”

Silence.

“She called,” Gibbs said, after a moment.

“Good. Told her she should.”

Gibbs nodded. “It was… good to hear her voice.”

“She’s gonna be okay.”

Gibbs nodded once more, then gave Tony that searching look again. “Thought maybe you’d be with her.”

Tony shook his head. “Asked her to come back… she wouldn’t. Or couldn’t.”

Gibbs shook his head and took another swig of his beer. “Know that. Said you’d be with her, not that she’d be with you.”

Tony tilted his head questioningly.

Gibbs rolled his eyes, grimacing at the flash of pain that caused. “Figured you might stay in Israel.”

Tony blinked at that. “Never really occurred to me to do that.”

Gibbs went still for a moment, then raised both eyebrows. “Why the hell not?”

“What do you mean?”

Gibbs sighed and rubbed at the back of his head. “You’re in love with her, Tony.”

Tony’s eyes widened as he considered that. “Maybe. Maybe not.” He sipped at his beer, thinking. “Could have been, I guess… never told her so.”

“She say it to you?”

“Basically, yeah.”

A longer silence settled into the basement, until Gibbs’ voice broke it.

“You sleep with her?” he asked quietly.

Tony had been gazing at the various tools on the workbench; he turned to look at Gibbs. “No.”

Gibbs blinked and stared at him.

Tony’s lips twitched. “Not lying to you… we didn’t sleep together.” Tony sat back, then shifted as the chair creaked. “Hugged her when I finally found her… at the house where she was born. She wasn’t thrilled to see me, not at first. Think my being there made things harder for her. She cried,” he said, choosing his words carefully. “Guess I gotta admit I did too.”

He glanced at Gibbs. Blue eyes looked back, hints of sympathy in their depths.

“We talked… god, we talked. A lot. I asked her to come back… and maybe if she had, maybe…” Tony sighed. “Kissed her… but not until we were at the airport, and I was leaving.” He didn’t mention that they’d shared a bed for the several nights he’d stayed with her, holding each other… but there’d been nothing sexual about it. She’d cried more than he’d ever have expected to see, and he hadn’t exactly been all that stoic, himself. I’ll tell him if he asks, Tony thought, but not unless he does.

“Look, Jethro…” He paused as he saw Gibbs twitch a bit in response to his name. “Ziva and I… yeah, there was that zing of attraction, and in the past few years, I’ll admit, it was growing into something more… but we never crossed that line. Not here, not in Paris, or in Berlin… and not in Israel either.” He hesitated, then leaned forward and touched the back of Gibbs’ hand with his fingertips. “You’re the only one on the team that I’ve been with.”

Gibbs shifted a bit on the sawhorse, clearing his throat. “I thought…“ His voice trailed off, and Tony waited patiently, Gibbs’ skin warm under his fingertips. “I don’t know what I thought.”

Tony sighed quietly, then stood, placing his beer on the bench and moving his chair closer to Gibbs before sitting back down. He took Gibbs’ hand in his, holding it gently, not speaking until Gibbs returned the slight pressure.

“Look… if I’d truly loved her, maybe I’d have stayed. She didn’t ask, so I can’t say for sure what I’d have done if she had.” He looked down at their joined hands. “Jeanne… I met her because of the job, and the job came between us. Same thing with Ziva, I think. It didn’t occur to me to offer to stay… I went there to bring her back. Didn’t work. So I came home.”

He looked up to see Gibbs also looking at their hands; the other man didn’t look up, so Tony decided to go for broke. “Tim says you’re in love with me.”

Gibbs’ hand closed over his convulsively. Tony watched him take a deep breath, then nod. It was slight, subtle, but Tony hadn’t spent so many years watching Gibbs for nothing.

“I’ll be honest here… I care about you. A lot. I missed you these past four months. This thing we’ve had, on-again, off-again as it’s been all these years… it’s crazy, but it’s ours. I didn’t want to leave that.”

The older man sighed. “You were going to see her, before your place got shot up.”

Tony nodded. “She asked, back then. You were gone. Didn’t know when – or if – you’d be back.”

Gibbs looked up at him. His eyes were red, but Tony couldn’t be sure if that was from the beating he’d taken or not. He gave Gibbs a small smile.

“Maybe I could have been in love with Ziva. But I could be in love with you too.” He took a deep breath. “I’d like to find out, if you’re game. Step it up, see where this could go if we make it more… real.”

Gibbs stared at him, then stood suddenly, pulling him into a hug. They held on tightly, and Tony told himself he would NOT start crying again… he’d done enough of that recently.

They finally moved back from each other; Gibbs reached up to squeeze the back of Tony’s neck and smile gently. He let go, and they both sat back down. Tony grabbed his beer and finished it off, while Gibbs did the same with his.

“So,” Tony said, “what else have you been up to, besides getting your face redecorated?”

Gibbs tilted his head, considering the past few weeks. “Shot Fornell in the ass,” he declared, punctuating the statement with a little nod.

Tony’s jaw dropped. “Damn it, why do I always miss the good stuff?”

End