Jethro Gibbs was not what most people would consider a trusting man. Oh, once you were in his circle of trust, you were solid. Problem was, there was only room in his circle for about a half dozen people. Given that, it might seem odd to the casual observer that he never locked his door. Those who knew him better, however, knew that the unlocked door had little to do with trust and everything to do with the loaded gun that was usually within arm’s reach. And, perhaps, with the reputation he had in his neighborhood.
No one messed with Leroy Jethro Gibbs.
So, when the NCIS agent heard his door open and close, he wasn’t worried, especially when he recognized the familiar tread of his lover. When Tony didn’t come downstairs as he usually did, though, Gibbs did begin to get concerned. When he realized he was sanding the same board over and over again, ear attuned to any sound coming from the upper level, he gave up on working on the boat. Putting his tools aside, Gibbs headed upstairs.
When he got to the top of the stairs, Jethro cocked his head to listen. Tony was a man with a big presence and Gibbs usually didn’t have any trouble tracking where his lover was. Now, though, the house was almost silent and that didn’t bode well. A faint murmur from the den drew him. When Tony’d become a big part of his life, Gibbs had invested in a larger, color television and signed up for cable. Not that he was trying to lure the younger man into spending more time at his house or anything. Hell, no. It was simply time to join the twenty-first century and become part of the Information Age, that was all. At least, that was his story and he stuck to it.
Gibbs walked to the den and stopped in the doorway. Tony was sitting on the floor only a couple of feet from the TV, cross-legged, and had removed his shoes. The younger man had his chin propped in his hands and was watching the television intently. Even Gibbs had no trouble recognizing that the show playing was Ozzie and Harriet.
Damn. That wasn’t a good sign.
It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Tony’s fascination with old sitcoms that glorified families was probably linked to an unhappy childhood of his own. Just how unhappy Tony’s had been was anybody’s guess because the younger man was oddly reticent on the subject. Still, the pattern was clear. Whenever DiNozzo was unusually stressed or depressed, the television came on and Tony submersed himself into the world of the idealized family.
Not wanting to disturb Tony just yet, Gibbs quietly entered the room and sat on the sofa that was behind him. The younger man’s face was slightly in profile and Jethro watched the flickering light of the television wash over it. No doubt about it. Although DiNozzo’s eyes were glued to the screen, Jethro could see stress lines on his forehead. Tony was trying too hard not to think about something.
Attuned to Tony’s moods like no one else ever in his life, Gibbs waited for a commercial before speaking.
“I like this one,” Jethro said calmly. “That little Ricky reminds me a lot of you.”
Tony shrugged, stretching. “I don’t know about that, but Harriet was hot.”
Gibbs noticed that, as DiNozzo stretched, he managed to wiggle himself a foot or so closer to where Jethro sat and that made Jethro smile. It’d taken Tony a while to realize that he really could show Gibbs that he enjoyed receiving affection; that he wouldn’t be teased about it. Gibbs might be a bastard, but that was mostly at work. At home with just the two of them, he was just a big pussycat.
“I guess you’ve got a thing for housedresses and pearls,” Gibbs teased.
Tony looked over his shoulder at his lover, the motion bringing him a few inches closer. “You offering?” He asked, eyebrows raised in surprise.
Gibbs pretended to think about it. “No. I’ve got this old football injury. Can’t wear a heel higher than an inch.”
Jethro was pleased to see a smile tugging at the corner of Tony’s mouth. No one at NCIS, the FBI or any of the branches of the military would believe it, but he didn’t mind playing the clown. Not when Tony needed him to.
DiNozzo finally gave up with being subtle and moved the rest of the way to the couch, still on the floor but now settled between Gibbs’ legs. He rested his head on Jethro’s knee and let out a big sigh. Gibbs just silently stroked his fingers through Tony’s hair, waiting for his lover to confide in him.
“Tim beat me in target practice,” DiNozzo finally admitted. “In Baltimore, I was always the best in my unit, but the probie beat me.”
Gibbs thought it might be something like that. Normally, he took his agents for shooting practice, but McGee was such a nervous wreck when he was around that he’d asked Tony to take him during off hours.
“I wouldn’t worry too much about it,” the older man said quietly. “Everybody has an off day.”
“He didn’t just beat me,” DiNozzo said forlornly. “He creamed me.”
On the surface, it was a small thing to be worried about. Gibbs knew better. Tony had a tendency to be insecure under the best of circumstances and had already felt threatened by McGee’s addition to the team. Jethro had done his best to reassure Tony of his place, but it was going to take time. Add in the factor that DiNozzo believed his physical prowess to be his best asset AND had a hell of a competitive streak... well, it was no wonder that Tony was feeling down.
All of that was going through Jethro’s mind, but he didn’t mention it. “How much did you lose?”
Tony tilted his head back to look at Jethro. “What do you mean?”
“The bet you had with McGee,” Gibbs explained. “How much did you lose?”
He watched while Tony blushed and looked away quickly, mumbling something.
“What was that?” Jethro prompted. “I didn’t quite hear you.”
DiNozzo shrugged, still not looking at his boss. “I said, I didn’t lose any money.”
“But....” Gibbs demanded, knowing there was more to the story.
“But I can’t call him probie for a week,” Tony finally admitted with a sigh.
Since DiNozzo still wasn’t looking at him, Gibbs risked a grin. “Sorry to hear that. I know how much you enjoy putting Tim in his place.”
Tony sighed and put his head against Jethro’s knee again, rubbing his cheek against the soft fabric of Gibbs’ faded jeans. “It’s not that, it’s just... he beat me and he’s the rookie. I’m supposed to be a better shot than him.”
Gibbs dropped his hands to Tony’s shoulders, rubbing them gently. “Tony, did it ever occur to you that McGee plays a lot of computer games?”
DiNozzo had melted into Jethro’s touch, but still managed to answer. “So?”
“So,” Gibbs said as his fingers attacked a particularly tense muscle, “that’s where McGee gets his coordination. Abby showed me one of those games once. It’s not bad, for a computer simulation.”
Tony was silent as he contemplated Gibbs’ words. Jethro knew him so well, however, that he had no trouble following DiNozzo’s train of thought. When Tony turned around and opened his mouth to say something, Jethro beat him too it.
“No,” he said succinctly.
DiNozzo rolled his eyes. “But you didn’t even hear what I was going to suggest,” he sputtered.
Gibbs bent down and kissed that tempting open mouth. “We’re not gonna get an X-Square or Gamebox or anything like that.”
Tony deflated. “But it might help improve my shot.”
“If you want to improve your shooting,” Gibbs offered, “We could go out to the shooting range on our days off. Just the two of us.”
“Ooooh,” DiNozzo snuggle back against Gibbs. “Just the two of us, I like that.”
Gibbs kissed the top of his head. “Me too.”
At just that moment, the commercials were over and Ozzie and Harriet came back onscreen. Tony’s eyes flickered over to the television for just a moment before looking up at Jethro hopefully. “Hey, you want to watch the rest of the show with me?”
Jethro smiled. “Only if you come up here. I’m too old to watch TV on the floor.”
He counted to three before Tony grumbled the standard response to that comment.
“You’re not old,” DiNozzo protested.
Gibbs stretched out on the couch and let Tony drape himself over him, the younger man’s favorite television watching position. A position which, coincidently, might have been a contributing factor in the purchase of a new television set, no matter what story Jethro liked to tell.
“If you say so,” Gibbs said, welcoming Tony’s warmth.
“I do say so. Emphatically,” DiNozzo murmured. He absently kissed Jethro’s chest, even as his eyes returned to the television screen.
Gibbs didn’t mind. Someday, Tony wouldn’t need old sitcoms. He’d realize that he had his own ideal family, with Gibbs, and wouldn’t rely on them as a crutch anymore. Until then, Gibbs would cheerfully pay the cable bill and snuggle when the need arose.
It was a dirty job, but someone had to do it. Gibbs was only thankful that he was lucky enough that the ‘someone’ got to be him.
~ the end ~
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