Tony Dinozzo winced when he remembered saying that to Gibbs. His boss had laughed and Tony couldn’t really say that he blamed him. Best man – what a fucking crock of shit that had turned out to be.
Alone in his apartment, Tony looked down at his glass, decided there wasn’t nearly enough whiskey in it, and poured himself some more. Instead of taking a sip, however, he held the glass to his forehead, as though he could absorb the alcohol directly into his skin.
His apartment, at least, was neat, even if Tony himself was a mess. Why was it neat? Because the singular time that Jethro Gibbs had set foot in his place, to give him a ride to work, it had been a pigsty. One arched eyebrow from the former Gunnery Sergeant meant more to Tony than decades’ worth of nagging from Mamma Dinozzo. He was not about to let there be a repeat performance, even if it looked less and less likely with every day that Gibbs would ever have reason to visit again. Just in case, his maid service was the bill that got paid first every month, even before the rent.
Tony sighed and took a gulp of his whiskey, feeling the burn of the alcohol all the way down his throat. He reminded himself of his father, sitting alone in the dark, drink in hand, using the booze to tune out the remnants of his day. Normally, that thought would be enough to send him to the sink to dump the entire bottle out, but tonight… tonight he understood his old man’s motivation. There were just some days you didn’t want to savor.
He’d told Gibbs that he was worried about him going in to the hostage situation, alone and unarmed. A veritable declaration of love in guy talk. Gibbs had not only not acknowledged it, but then had responded by sending Tony away to cover the terrorist’s escape route. And what had Tony done? Tony had been fooled and let the Bad Guy get away – the same Bad Guy who’d shot Gibbs and Jerald. The terrorist that had tied Kate and Ducky up and put them in cold storage. The criminal mind that had thumbed his nose at all of them, slipping in and out NCIS like it was his personal playground.
And Tony had let him get away.
Some best man he’d turned out to be.
Even before the shootout, Tony couldn’t help but notice how Gibbs was tuning him out. Gibbs was upset at his own lack of familiarity with technology, but whenever Tony had tried to reassure the older man, Gibbs had brushed him off. Obviously, his support wasn’t needed… but whose was?
Ever since Kate had joined their team, Tony had felt something… off… in his rapport with Gibbs. She seemed to taking all the spots with Gibbs that used to be his and it was certain that their boss liked her ballsy nature. Sure, Tony came off as a clown a lot, but that was actually an image he’d cultivated. Sometimes it made him look like an idiot, but it had always been worth it to him to see Gibbs’ smile. Next to Kate, though, Tony felt.. immature? Inadequate? Way too tall?
Even if he couldn’t put into words exactly why he was feeling so threatened by Kate, Tony had to admit that his chance with Gibbs was over, if there even had been one to begin with. All the breezy smiles in the world couldn’t compensate for the fact that he’d screwed up this time and screwed up royally. And Kate was waiting in the wings. The perfect protégé for Gibbs? A more worthy lover?
Tony sighed and raised his glass in a salute to Kate. He’d might act like a fool sometimes but he wasn’t one, really. He knew when he’d been beat and it was time to bow out, before he truly did look foolish. His head knew the truth, even if his heart was having a hard time accepting.
The best man for the job, it turned out, was a woman.
Gibbs stared at the holes he’d just shot into the terrorist’s photograph. It didn’t make him feel any better. He kept hearing the hopeful tone in Tony’s voice when he tried to get Gibbs to admit that he trusted him. Relied on him.
The wounded man sighed and put his gun to the side. He’d do the unthinkable and wait to clean it later. Picking up some sandpaper, he awkwardly started rubbing it against the wooden bones of his boat. With only one arm, he wasn’t doing much good, but he kept at it anyway.
Gibbs didn’t need to be the most sensitive man in the world to know that Tony Dinozzo was attracted to him – the puppy dog looks had started coming his way the first week that Dinozzo was on the job. What had taken longer for him to figure out was that he liked those looks – and more. He liked Tony’s smile; liked the former cop’s exuberance for the job; hell, he even liked how Tony whined that NCIS didn’t get enough acknowledgement for their work.
And that was unacceptable.
Even if it weren’t for Rule #12 about dating a colleague, there was no way that Gibbs was going to embarrass himself by being drawn into a relationship with Tony Dinozzo. Oh, he had no doubt that Tony was sincere and things would go well… for a while. Before long, though, Tony would figure out what all three of Gibbs’ former wives had – being involved to a man married to his work was not a picnic. When said man was also a hard-nosed, uncompromising, son of bitch like himself, any relationship was doomed before it started. He should know; he had three alimony payments as proof.
Tony deserved better.
So, when Kate came along, Gibbs was relieved to find a way to make her part of the team. From the sparks between her and Tony, it looked like he’d found a way to distract Dinozzo. Gibbs’ only task, then, was to train Special Agent Todd as well as he could, to make sure that she could back Tony up when needed. Then he threw them together as much as possible, giving those sparks time to catch fire.
It was the right thing to do, only, why did it feel so rotten?
Gibbs’ sandpaper tore and, with a muttered curse, he threw it to the side. His shoulder ached and it took him a minute to figure out that it was his good shoulder that hurt, not the side that had been shot. Looking down at the wood he’d been sanding, he realized just how hard he’d been rubbing. He ran one finger down the curved surface, smiling as he felt its silky texture. It was just the way he always imagined Tony’s skin would feel, right at the curve of his back…
With a growl, Gibbs gave up working on his boat for the night. Just before he turned out the light and went upstairs, his mind when back to what had started his train of thought.
His best man.
If only he could tell Tony how right he was.
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