Something He Missed
Tony DiNozzo hated Halloween and his reasons had little to do with being a policeman. While it was true that the holiday brought out the worst elements in people and made being a cop suck, Tony’s loathing of Halloween had more to do with his childhood.
He was aware that being rich had given him advantages that he should be grateful for. It was hard, though, when the wealth was accompanied by his family. Mostly what he remembered about Halloween was the loneliness. His parents’ mansion was beautiful, but isolated. As a child, Tony had wistfully listened to classmates talk about Halloween with excitement. When he’d rushed home and asked about going to get a costume, however, he’d been told that the DiNozzos didn’t do anything so crass as to take their child from house to house, begging for candy. Of course, apparently the DiNozzos did do things like dress up themselves in glamorous costumes and go to fancy parties, but that dichotomy wasn’t something a little boy was supposed to notice, let alone point out.
Tony’d spent most of his Halloweens in his room, watching old movies, imagining what it would be like to go trick or treating. That robot costume he’d told Tim about had been his only attempt and he’d done it knowing full well that he’d get into trouble. It was Tony’s first act of rebellion, but hardly his last. He’d hated that ski suit of his father’s and the way the man could spend thousands on his own pleasure, but ignore his son. Destroying the detested garment to turn it into a Halloween costume had been enjoyable on more levels than one, putting his feet on a path that had eventually gotten him disinherited.
Over twenty years later and the pleasure of that act had faded a little. The hurt, however, remained. As soon as he could get away after they’d wrapped up their case, Tony had retreated to his apartment and tried to block out the world. He put on a movie without even looking at what it was and flung himself down on the couch, counting on his favorite pastime helping him forget the time of year and the resulting memories of rejection and isolation.
He groaned when he realized that the DVD he’d popped in was the movie, ‘Terms of Endearment.’
“How’d that get there?” He muttered, rubbing a tired hand across his face. Then he remembered. The movie had been a joke gift from Tim on his last birthday. At the time, Tony’d smirked that chick flicks were real babe magnets, but he hadn’t meant it. Tony’s significant other might just run screaming from the room at the sight of ‘Terms of Endearment.’ Gibbs was more of a ‘Sands of Iwo Jima’ kind of guy.
When someone started banging on his front door, Tony was tempted to ignore it. They’d been in the midst of a case on the actual night of Halloween, so it couldn’t be trick or treaters. Besides, he knew that particular bang anywhere.
Sighing, Tony stood and moved to the door. He knew damn well who it was, but he looked through the peephole anyway. To his surprise, Tony didn’t see anything. He tried again and, this time, could see just a bit of something dark at the bottom of the viewing area. Perplexed, Tony opened the door.
A little boy stood there. The child was wearing a cowboy hat and a vest, which boasted a sheriff’s badge. He appeared to be five or six years old.
“Trick or treat,” the boy called out happily as he held up a pillowcase that was obviously acting as a bag for his candy.
“Um. . . I hate to break this to you, kid, but aren’t you a little late?” Tony asked.
“Oh, I’d say his timing’s impeccable,” a voice drawled from off to the side. “Especially if you were planning on holing up in here all night, feeling sorry for yourself.”
Tony looked again and saw Jethro leaning up against the wall next to the door, where he would have been out of site of the peephole. As he saw the younger man notice him, Gibbs pushed himself off and came to stand behind the child.
Tony’s eyes about bugged from his head. It wasn’t that Gibbs had surprised him; Tony was used to the ex-Marine being able to pretty much sneak up on him anywhere, at any time. It was what Gibbs was wearing that was eyebrow raising. It looked like Gibbs was dressed in a pair of gray pajamas that had been painted with large black stripes. A thin, curling mustache had been penciled onto Jethro’s upper lip and, to complete the outfit, he was wearing a pair of handcuffs that were loosely fastened. Like the child, Gibbs was holding a bag of some sort.
In spite of his confusion, Tony grinned. “What’s the matter, Gibbs, somebody finally nail you for not refilling the break room coffee pot when you’ve taken the last cup?”
Gibbs gave him that one-sided smile that proved he was in a genuinely good mood. “You gonna invite us in or are you gonna to change into your costume out here?”
Tony gaped. “My costume? Gibbs, what the he-. . . .” He looked at the little boy and edited his words. “What the heck are you talking about?”
Even as he questioned Gibbs, Tony moved aside, allowing the older man and his diminutive guest to enter his apartment.
“The lawman here is Timmy,” Gibbs stated as he ushered the boy inside. “His dad is stationed in Iraq.”
“Nice to meet you, Tim,” Tony responded by rote.
“Howdy, pardner,” the little boy drawled, tipping his hat at Tony.
Biting his lip to keep from laughing, Tony nodded back. “Howdy.” He turned to Gibbs and lifted his eyebrows in a silent question.
“The YMCA’s giving a party tonight for all the kids who have parents serving in the war,” Gibbs explained. “And Timmy’s little sister is sick, so his mom can’t take him.”
That pretty much explained it. When it came to kids, Jethro was a giant M&M candy; his hard outer shell hid a sweet center. Tony vaguely remembered Abby mentioning the party and wrangling an invite for Sarah Niles, the kidnapped girl they’d helped rescue.
“O-o-okay,” Tony stated, arms crossed across his chest. “Still doesn’t explain why you’re dressed the way you are.”
Gibbs shrugged. “Everyone’s supposed to be in costume, adults and kids.”
“And me?” Tony persisted.
“The jury’s still out on whether you’re an adult or a kid,” Gibbs answered blandly. Tony rolled his eyes, grimacing when Jethro chuckled and he realized he’d pretty much made the older man’s point for him.
“Agent Gibbs?” Timmy tugged on Jethro’s shirt. “I gotta go potty.”
The ex-Marine crouched so that he was at Timmy’s eye level. “When you’re wearing that outfit, you’re supposed to say that you’ve got to see a man about a horse.”
Timmy was dancing in place. “I gotta see a horse real bad.”
“It’s down the hall,” Tony pointed. “That way.”
They both watched the boy hurry down the hallway. When he was in the bathroom and the door shut behind him, Tony turned back to his lover, question marks in his eyes.
“Tony, you’ve got to let this go,” Gibbs stated quietly. “Every Halloween, you tie yourself up into knots.”
“And every Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter and Flag Day,” Tony admitted with a sigh. “Pretty much any holiday that involves family.”
“Your father is a lonely old man, drinking himself to death in his mansion with only his money to keep him company,” Gibbs commented. “Don’t let him keep having this power over you.”
Tony stared at his feet. He knew Gibbs was right. In fact, they’d had this conversation before
“Somebody I know once said that every kid deserves a happy Halloween,” Jethro commented gently. He stepped close to Tony and kissed him. “Don’t you think it’s about time you did?”
Leaning into Gibbs’ warmth, Tony let the older man support his weight for a moment. Then, resolutely, he shoved memories of his father into a dark corner of his heart, where they belonged.
“You said something about a costume for me?” He asked, lifting his chin to look Gibbs’ in the eye.
Jethro held up a bag. “Every sheriff needs a deputy.”
Tony took the container from him and opened it. Inside were an adult-sized faux leather vest and a cowboy hat. Solemnly, he donned the garments, noting as he did the deputy’s star affixed to the vest.
After his costume was in place, Tony struck a heroic pose. “How do I look?”
Gibbs eyed him up and down. “Good enough to eat.”
The older man leaned forward for another kiss, but Tony waved him off. “Uh-huh. None of that, I don’t fraternize with the prisoners.”
“I’ll fraternize you,” Gibbs growled. With his hands bound, even loosely, he couldn’t grasp both of Tony’s hips. Instead he had to content himself with using his larger bulk to press Tony against the wall.
They kissed again, this time with more heat, but broke off suddenly when they heard the bathroom door open. By the time Timmy had rejoined them, the men were standing a decent couple of feet apart.
“Deputy DiNozzo, reporting for duty,” Tony stated. He remembered at the last minute that cowboys didn’t salute and changed the gesture to a hat tip. Using his best John Wayne voice, he continued. “Glad to be of service, pilgrim.”
Timmy huffed in exasperation. “I’m not a pilgrim, that’s Thanksgiving. I’m a sheriff and you’re my deputy. We’re gonna take this prisoner to the party and put him to work gettin’ candy.”
“Sounds like a plan,” Tony replied enthusiastically. In an undertone, he murmured to Gibbs, “He’s a little mercenary, isn’t he?”
“Yeah, well, I’ll make it worth your while,” Gibbs promised in a hoarse whisper. “After the party and dropping Timmy off with his mom, I’ll use the handcuffs on you.”
Tony smirked. “That’s assuming that I ever let you out of them in the first place.”
“Agent Gibbs?” Timmy piped up, reminding them that he was there. “What happened to your mustache? It’s all messy.”
The boy was right, Gibbs’ penciled on mustache was smudged and partially worn off. No doubt it had happened during their kisses, even as chaste as they were. Stifling a smirk, Tony watched as Gibbs’ checked himself out in the mirror.
“I guess I’ll have to wipe the rest of it off,” Gibbs finally commented.
“But a bad guy’s supposed to have a mustache,” Timmy was close to pouting.
Tony grinned. “You used eyebrow pencil to draw it in, right?”
“Yeah,” Gibbs grunted. Kids like Timmy were suffering enough, with a parent halfway around the world and in grave danger. He hated to disappoint the child, even if for something so trivial. “Abby’s.”
“Then we’ll just redraw it,” Tony suggested, coming to the rescue. “You stay right there, I’ll go get mine.”
Gibbs’ eyebrows shot up. “You have an eyebrow pencil?”
Tony leered over his shoulder as he walked towards the bedroom. “There’s a lot you don’t know about me.”
Thankfully, just the opposite was true of Gibbs’. Jethro knew Tony well enough to know that he’d be brooding about Halloween and that his lover needed to make new memories to displace the importance of the old. Going to a child’s party would allow Tony to experience something he’d missed when he’d been growing up. Better yet, he’d get to experience it with Gibbs at his side and there was also the reward of handcuffs waiting for him when they got home.
Halloween was looking better all the time.
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