The first blow was finding out that his family was dead. In a way, Jethro supposed he’d known, on some level, that they were gone, even if he’d forgotten so much else. Grief like that didn’t leave you; it soaked into your bones and became a part of you. That’s why he’d been so frightened in the hospital; he’d instinctively known something was wrong. The returning weight that was the knowledge of what he’d lost had about crushed him. Somehow, he’d survived what amounted to losing them all over again. He wasn’t sure how or why, but something kept him going.
The second blow was finding out about 9/11, especially after having been so flippant. Amnesia or no amnesia, Gibbs loved his country. To find out that a devastating attack had occurred on home soil was a shock. Mike Franks had been oddly gentle when he told him about it. Gibbs wished he hadn’t been. A kick in the gut would have been more appropriate.
The third blow didn’t hit quite as hard as learning of Shannon and Kelly’s deaths, but in some ways, it was more profound. The third blow was finding out that he was gay.
Jethro Gibbs had been surrounded by men his whole life. They’d shared locker rooms and barracks, stood shoulder to shoulder in bars and on battlefields. In all that time, he didn’t recall being attracted to another man. Not even once. When the memories of the last fifteen years came flooding back, however, some of them included recollections of liaisons that he would have thought it impossible for him to enjoy. As much as the memories shocked him, though, it was equally clear that he’d enjoyed those encounters thoroughly. Particularly those encounters with a tall, green-eyed man. His capricious mind eventually supplied a name for this most special of his male lovers. Tony DiNozzo.
Gibbs didn’t have much time to internalize the last fifteen years of his life, including the newfound knowledge of his sexual orientation. There was a terrorist to catch. He shoved it aside as best he could, to deal with the crisis at hand.
And then the crisis blew up. Literally.
If there was one thing Leroy Jethro Gibbs couldn’t stand for, it was stupidity. Not lack of IQ, but the dumbness that came from bureaucracy, covering something up, or arrogance. When all three came together and resulted in deaths that could have been prevented, it was more than he could take.
Gibbs tried to tell himself that his resignation and abrupt departure were only due to his disgust with the agency. That was part of it, but not the whole thing. Gibbs couldn’t stand the look in Tony’s eyes. Without saying a direct word, Tony was pleading with him to be the man he’d been, to be the lover that Tony had shared a bed with. Had loved.
Jethro couldn’t do it, so he ran away.
Mexico had been an easy choice. If it was good enough for his mentor, it was good enough for Gibbs. Besides, Mike Franks was easy company. Not exactly a talker himself, Mike had let Jethro be. They sometimes would spend a whole day fishing together and not say a word. It was easy, a balm of sorts. Mostly, though, it gave Gibbs time to think.
For the first time, Gibbs had sympathy for Suzanne McNeil, the amnesia victim that Kate Todd had become so bonded to. Even when the memories came back, it was like you didn’t belong in your own skin. He learned things about himself as he worked his way through the bank of memories, internalizing them and making them his own again. He really was a bastard, he’d come to discover, but he was a bastard who was blessed with good friends.
And a man who was more than a friend.
“What are you doin’ here, probie?”
Gibbs had been leaning against the dock rail, staring contemplatively out into the ocean. He looked up from studying the rolling waves at Mike Franks’ question, a beer bottle held loosely in his fingers. Gibbs had forgotten how good an investigator the ex-agent was and how skilled he was at cutting straight through the crap.
“I have no idea,” Jethro answered truthfully. “I think it’s time to go home.”
Franks just nodded. “Thought so. Don’t let the door hit you on your way out.”
Just like that, Gibbs was on his way back to DC. Back to Tony.
Jethro was uncharacteristically nervous on his way back to the States. He wasn’t sure what kind of reception he could expect. Or even what kind of reception he deserved. Somewhere between the fishing, the sun and the tequila, Gibbs had realized that being gay took a backseat to being an honorable man. Being gay didn’t make him any less a soldier; any less of a Marine. It had taken him almost a month to figure that out once the memories returned. He supposed he should be grateful. The first time around, that realization had taken years.
He did wonder if he ever would have made that discovery about himself if Shannon had lived and decided he probably wouldn’t have. He’d loved Shannon, just as he hadn’t loved the women he’d married in a vain attempt to try and replace her. Maybe that’s why his relationship worked so well with Tony. There was that same kind of love for DiNozzo that he’d had for Shannon. Now that his brain wasn’t all messed up, Jethro recognized it. He also realized it was that love that had kept him from self-destructing when he’d relearned of Shannon and Kelly’s deaths. On some level, Gibbs had known that his life wasn’t empty, even if he hadn’t remembered Tony yet at that point.
Walking into Tony’s apartment wasn’t the hardest thing Gibbs had ever done; burying his daughter was. But it was hard enough. He was thankful that it was night, so he could skulk in like the intruder he felt himself to be. Tony’s door wasn’t locked and Gibbs reminded himself to scold the younger man about it later. Tony wasn’t Gibbs, the same rules didn’t apply to him about unlocked doors.
The apartment was dark, even the television was off. Gibbs knew Tony was home, though. His keys were on the counter, right where he always left them. Gibbs slipped off his coat and shoes and walked quietly towards the bedroom. When he got there, he stood in the doorway for a few minutes and just looked. It had only been a few weeks since he’d walked out of the NCIS office, but it felt longer. It felt like 15 years, to be exact.
Tony was curled up in the bed, instead of laying across it in his usual possessive sprawl. Huddled under a sheet, Tony looked about five years old. His back was to the door, so Gibbs could only really see the back of his head, his hair messed up as though he’d been restless.
After he’d had his visual fill, Gibbs quietly walked across the room and carefully got on the bed, moving gingerly so the mattress was disturbed as little as possible. He crawled across it and lay directly behind Tony, not quite daring to spoon up to him.
“You know what hurt more than knowing you’d come out of the coma not knowing who I was?” Tony asked quietly. He’d been awake all along.
“What?” Gibbs asked, daring to put one hand on the small of Tony’s back.
“You walking out of the office that day, knowing fully who I was,” Tony finished. He turned around to face Gibbs. With as close as Jethro was, the two men ended up nose to nose. “Don’t ever do that again.”
Gibbs cupped Tony’s face, not surprised to see only one tear running down the younger man’s face. Petty emotions were something DiNozzo spilled all over the place, but the important ones he forced himself to keep in check.
“I’m sorry,” Jethro whispered hoarsely, not really knowing how to explain his apparent abandonment. “I never meant to hurt you.”
Tony closed his eyes and nuzzled into the hand touching his cheek. “I know. Ducky explained.”
Gibbs was startled, not sure how Ducky could give reasons for something that Gibbs barely understood himself. “He did?”
“He said that coming out of the amnesia like that was like living everything all over again,” Tony opened his eyes to gaze at Gibbs. “In the space of a few days, you had to live 15 years and they were pretty damn rough ones. Are you okay?”
Jethro didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. He’d expected to be given the cold shoulder or maybe even a punch to the face. He’d never expect this type of acceptance and concern.
“Am I okay?” He asked, dumbfounded. “After I left like that, you want to know if I’m okay?”
Tony shrugged. “You came back, didn’t you?”
Gibbs took a closer look at the other man. Light from the street was coming in the window and he could see that Tony’s face was both thinner and paler than when he’d left. Dark circles were under those expressive eyes and, for all of Tony’s poise, he could see an undercurrent of fear.
He bent and kissed Tony, trying to convey everything he felt with the gesture. After he pulled back, Gibbs brushed a thumb over Tony’s bottom lip. “Yeah, I came back.”
“And you’re not going anywhere again,” Tony added. It wasn’t quite a question.
“Not unless you go with me,” Gibbs promised.
For the first time since Gibbs walked back into the bedroom, Tony smiled. He kissed Jethro before replying, “Good.”
Tony snuggled in close to Gibbs’ body and Jethro gladly gathered him close. The feelings running through him were too profound for sex. What he wanted was just to hold Tony and was grateful that the other man was allowing him to do that. It was so much more than what he expected or deserved.
“We have a lot of things to figure out,” Gibbs said reluctantly after a few minutes. “I’ve already had all the retirement I can stomach, but I’m not going to just waltz in and take the team away from you.”
“Shhh,” Tony soothed him, reaching up and placing a finger across Gibbs’ lips. “We can talk about that tomorrow. Tonight, nothing exists outside of this bed.”
After what he’d put Tony through, Gibbs wouldn’t allow himself argue with him. Besides, he was more than willing to just spend the night holding Tony in his arms.
“You do have one big problem you’re going to have to deal with,” Tony commented sleepily.
Jethro looked down. Tony had his eyes closed and that half smile that usually was an indicator of mischief was on his face.
“What’s that?” Gibbs asked.
“Abby,” Tony replied succinctly. “She’s not as understanding as I am. You’re going to need one hell of a big cup of Kaff-Pow.”
Gibbs kissed the top of Tony’s head. “Maybe it comes by the keg.”
Tony laughed softly and then sighed. After planting a lazy kiss onto Gibbs’ chest, he closed his eyes. Jethro could tell by the way the younger man’s body relaxed utterly against his own that Tony had fallen asleep. The last few weeks had been hard on him too. Gibbs wasn’t exactly looking forward to finding out how hard, but it needed to be done. He needed to know the damage he’d inflicted, so he could figure out how to fix it.
Amnesia was a bitch, he reflected to himself. There was no doubt about it. It wasn’t enough that there was fear and confusion when you couldn’t remember, but when those memories did come back, remembering all of the bad things was like taking blow after blow. What he’d neglected to consider in the initial shock, though, was that there were good things that he’d forgotten as well. Friends. A job well done. Love.
Most especially love.
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